It was announced today via IndyCar.com that Sam Schmidt had secured AFS as a primary sponsor for a second full time car in the IZOD IndyCar Series. There have been a number of names tossed around looking for a full time effort, so let the speculation begin! Here are a few people with a shot at the ride as well as our pick for the second seat.
Former Champ Car/DTM driver Katherine Legge has been mentioned a few times this year already in her search for a ride. She even turned up in Indianapolis during driver physicals and orientation before the season started. The British female has had some trouble towards the end of her DTM career and a return to open-wheel racing would be a welcome home of sorts, but she has been off the radar lately. No real news to report out of her camp, but she would prove to be a nice addition to any team searching for a driver.
One could assume that Raphael Matos’s name would surface. After all, he did win the Firestone Indy Lights Championship in 2008 with AFS and even drove for AFS earlier in the season. He had a 7th best finish at St. Petersburg and then ran poorly up ot the Indy 500 that he failed to qualify for. Matos has failed to deliver nearly every chance he has had in the ‘big cars’. Matos will aid Bill Auberlen and Turner Racing in the Rolex Grand-Am Series this weekend at Mazda Laguna Seca.
While Tomas proved at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that he still had the gift, it is highly unlikely that he will be the driver for Schmidt. He is currently associated with S&H/KV and the Redline Extreme Energy brand. This second full time ride will be something that Schmidt and AFS look to build on and while brillant, this rules Scheckter out.
Martin Plowman is the man that OpenPaddock assesses with high confidence will finally get his well deserved shot in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Plowman raced with AFS-Andretti last season in the Firestone Indy Lights program and finished third in the championship. Martin has been seen around the paddock nearly every race weekend offering two seat rides and pace car laps.
Given the fact that AFS likes to hire drivers they have worked with in the past, it would make sense that this relationship would move to the next level in the IICS. Plowey has also been quick to tease that news is coming this week via his Twitter account. He will also be participating in a Sam Schmidt charity event in Toronto according to his Twitter. Given no other driver really has anything to announce and the past relationships with AFS, I think we can look forward to an announcement sometime late this week or during the race weekend that Martin will in fact drive the AFS/Schmidt entry through 2011 and beyond.
Keep it here at OpenPaddock.net as we will have the announcement for whomever is announced when it happens.