PRUETT: Piecing together the 2020 IndyCar grid

Image by LePage/LAT

PRUETT: Piecing together the 2020 IndyCar grid

Insights & Analysis

PRUETT: Piecing together the 2020 IndyCar grid

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Most of the part- and full-time seats have been filled for the upcoming NTT IndyCar Series season, but that doesn’t mean the silly season is over.

A.J. Foyt Racing, Carlin Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, DragonSpeed, and Juncos Racing sit on a list of teams whose entries await formal confirmation of who’ll drive, and in some cases, how many pilots will rotate through the same cockpit between St. Petersburg and Laguna Seca.

Starting at the top, when the Foyt team emerges next month for Spring Training at Circuit of The Americas, it will have a different look in almost every regard. Its year will involve two cars, at least four drivers, and has the signs of rebuilding season as the team looks to perform an engineering makeover.

Tony Kanaan, who joined the outfit in 2018, has been consistent in saying he’ll be back with Foyt, and there’s no reason to doubt the 2013 Indy 500 winner. Although the team has been reluctant to speak on the topic, it’s believed former Chip Ganassi Racing and Carlin Racing driver Charlie Kimball is in the frame for at least a partial season, if not the full calendar with Foyt.

And after Kanaan and Kimball, two more drivers are rumored to be part of a ride-sharing plan that could span the Nos. 4 and 14 Chevys.

Dalton Kellett, who completed more than 100 Road To Indy races from 2012-2019, is expected to make his IndyCar debut with Foyt along with ex-Dale Coyne Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais, who is the latest name to emerge in the conversation. But with a full season of IMSA racing on the docket with JDC-Miller Motorsports, it’s unclear where the four-time Champ Car champion would fit in the rotation. Will it be one full-time driver and three sharing the other car, or an even split with two in each entry?

Has a door back onto the IndyCar grid opened for Bourdais? Image by Cantrall/LAT

Former Foyt race engineer Mike Colliver, who helped the Meyer Shank Racing team look rather impressive with Jack Harvey on a number of occasions last season, is expected to return to Foyt. Series veteran Mike Pawlowski, who spent the last five years with Andretti Autosport, is another name mentioned in Foyt’s race engineering reboot.

Kanaan, Kimball, and Kellett, plus Bourdais, and Colliver, and Pawlowski. That’s a lot of change to consider if it all comes together for the team in its first season since 2005 without ABC Supply as the primary sponsor.

Carlin Racing has been the subject of heavy rumors and intrigue during the off-season. The latest speculation includes the Florida-based team looking to sell its cars and exit the series, which was quickly dispelled in a call this week.

Although there’s no indicator as to who will drive its pair of Chevy-powered entries, a team spokesperson confirmed those cars will be participating at the February 11-12 Spring Training event, and the full season afterwards. Everyone from Max Chilton to Formula 2 race winner Sette Camara to former Williams Formula 1 driver Sergey Sirotkin have been suggested as options for the team.

Another interesting development we’ve been tracking is an initiative from longtime IndyCar mechanic and team manager Mitch Davis. Davis, who worked for Chip Ganassi Racing for many years and ran its ‘G2’ IndyCar division, joined Carlin at Toronto last year and is known to be exploring options to secure an ownership stake in Carlin’s IndyCar program and join its leadership group.

Dale Coyne Racing announced its new rookie driver Alex Palou in partnership with a new co-entrant, which gives us Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh for its No. 19 Honda. Former Foyt race engineer Eric Cowdin, who served as Kanaan’s first race engineer when he came to America, will do the same with Palou during his rookie campaign.

By the end of the month, we should also have its second entry, the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan Honda, confirmed with Santino Ferrucci in place for his sophomore year. Outside of the season-long championship, DCR’s third entry for the Indy 500 could become a source of interest.

Would the Mayor of Hinchtown be a good fit for a combined Indy Grand Prix/Indy 500 program? Considering the relative inexperience of DCR’s full-time duo, a veteran voice and former Indy polesitter would be an invaluable resource for the team to have, provided Hinchcliffe is unable to land a ride with a front-running operation.

Hinchcliffe’s experience could be an asset to DCR at Indy. Image by Levitt/LAT

DragonSpeed has committed to a six-round campaign, and continues to draw interest from a variety of drivers. Ben Hanley steered the car during the Chevy-powered team’s rookie season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Briton return for more. Whether he’d also tackle the ovals is a different question, as new DragonSpeed IMSA LMP2 driver Colin Braun, whose oval expertise is well known, continues to search for funding to make his IndyCar debut.

Juncos Racing is the last team of note with question marks hanging over its season. Talk of progress being made late in December towards a significant return in 2020 – following a steep downturn in appearances last year, where only two outings were recorded – was heard recently. If negotiations continue in the right direction, the scrappy team owner and his Chevy-powered squad could push St. Pete’s entry list to the high 20s for the season opener.

Factor in Fernando Alonso’s anticipated Indy 500 return with Andretti Autosport that could turn into a part-time gig after he’s done at the Speedway, along with the green light NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Busch has to try and make the show with a Chevy-powered team, and the first year of NTT IndyCar Series competition under the guidance of Roger Penske could be a memorable one.

Penske Racing president Tim Cindric told RACER’s Robin Miller there’s zero chance of Busch driving a fifth car for The Captain, so maybe the silly season has a few more miles left to go before the fun comes to an end.

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