The IZOD IndyCar Series opened its 2013 season at St. Petersburg with a better-than-expected turnout of 25 cars. Engine manufacturers Chevy and Honda did their best to split the field, with the Bowtie powering 13 cars and the Japanese brand propelling 12 entries, and it appears a similar number of cars could be on the grid at St. Pete this year.
An active off-season has seen most IndyCar seats filled before the New Year, but a few cars and at least one team have yet to fall into the category of confirmed programs. RACER spoke with the two men responsible for providing the paddock with engines to get an accurate count on what the March 30 season opener will look like.
“We’re basically at 10 and expect it to be 11 when we’re done, but we’ll have to wait for the team to announce the 11th,” said Chevy IndyCar program manager Chris Berube. “We have Penske and Ganassi; those are known. That’s seven cars. We have Ed Carpenter Racing on a split season with Ed and Mike Conway.
“Panther Racing is still figuring out what they’re going to do, so that’s one I’m not able to confirm, and KV’s confirmed Sebastien Bourdais, but they’re still working on a second car so that’s not in place yet.”
Honda Performance Development technical director Roger Griffiths has a few more cars solidified at this point and, like Berube, is waiting on one or two final seats to be filled.
“I’m expecting our total count will be 13,” he said. “We’re at 11 right now, and the two that are outstanding is the second cars with Dale Coyne and Bobby Rahal. Andretti is set, Herta is set, Sarah [Fisher] is set, Schmidt is set, A.J. Foyt, too. It’s really down to Dale and Bobby to get their second cars sorted.”
“We’ve always planned on 13, so all of our parts ordering, all of our technical support staff; it’s all based on that number. That’s what we’re geared up for, and expect that come May, another four or so will come out of the woodwork for us to look after, and that will be it.”
Given the number of confirmed entries and the deals being discussed, 24 cars for Round 1 would be a safe bet.
“We have some manufacturer tests planned where we’ll have a subset running the new engine,” said Berube. “We’ll look to have everyone out on new engines before the Open Test at Barber.”
“Right now, we’ve given pretty much the opportunity to test the new engine,” added Griffiths. “Coyne and Bryan Herta were the only ones who hadn’t run it before the break, I believe. The rest have had an opportunity to run with twin-turbo power.”
Griffiths also said HPD will wait until it has locked in its final engine spec before pushing those units out to its teams, leaving their entrants to test on development motors for as long as possible.
“One of the challenges for us in this switchover is the cost of prototype [twin-turbo IndyCar] race engines is very, very high,” he explained. “We’re trying to share the pool of prototype engines around while we’re finalizing every aspect of the engines before homologation, and that’s expensive. We’re doing that because what we don’t want to do is have our teams go and buy [2014 engine] install kits and then make a change a few weeks later that requires purchasing new parts. We don’t want them to spend money until we’re at the final spec.”
Testing continues this week at Sebring, then moves to the Fontana oval and the road course at Sonoma Raceway late next week.
Chip Ganassi Racing
Drivers: Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball.
Notes: Fifth car for Indy a possibility. Alex Tagliani would be a natural fit for the seat.
Ed Carpenter Racing
Driver: Ed Carpenter, Mike Conway
KV Racing Technology
Drivers: Sebastien Bourdais, TBD
Notes: Team co-owner Jimmy Vasser has mentioned a number of options for their second car, including Alex Tagliani, Sebastian Saavedra and others. Once the right budget number is hit, the car will be confirmed.
Notes: The team tested Colombian driver Carlos Huertas in January and has him listed for more testing this month. The seat has also been offered to a few IndyCar veterans for a reasonable sum, and maintains the matter of retaining National Guard sponsorship has not been settled.
Drivers: Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Will Power
A.J. Foyt Enterprises
Driver: Takuma Sato
Notes: Possible second car later in the year.
Drivers: Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz.
Notes: Fifth car for Indy a strong possibility.
Notes: Luca Filippi continues to lead the race to earn the seat, although a few funded drivers have been mentioned as possibilities.
Dale Coyne Racing
Drivers: Justin Wilson, TBD.
Notes: Coyne’s second seat could go to former driver James Jakes, among others. It’s believed Simona de Silvestro, who was once a leading candidate to sign with the team, has stepped away from the table.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Drivers: Graham Rahal, TBD
Notes: RLLR’s second seat continues to draw heavy interest from veterans and young guns. Bobby Rahal is a known fan of Oriol Servia, who could stand the best chance of landing the ride, but Conor Daly, who ranks as one of Graham Rahal’s closest friends, is said to have his stock rising within the team. GP2 runner-up Sam Bird met with RLLR at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and Alex Tagliani is also in the mix. Watch this space.
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
Driver: Josef Newgarden
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Drivers: Simon Pagenaud, Mikhail Aleshin