The last time we convened to discuss the remaining full-time NTT IndyCar Series seats waiting to be filled, three teams held the keys to those vacant entries. And since our last update in early December where numerous confirmations were said to be imminent, there’s been a limited amount of movement.
But January could bring fulfillment for those who are keen to see Andretti Autosport, Carlin Racing, and Dale Coyne Racing confirm their plans for the upcoming season.
Andretti’s two open seats await formal announcements, with Ryan Hunter-Reay on pole position to be confirmed with a new extension. Encouraging for fans of James Hinchcliffe, The Mayor is said to be close to reaching his fundraising goals to make a full-season return to Andretti. At least one of the two could be announced this week, and I’ve heard nothing to suggest the two close friends will race anywhere other than Andretti Autosport in 2021.
Carlin Racing continues to prepare for a full-time effort with Max Chilton taking the road and street courses, and the Indy 500, for the second consecutive season. The team says an announcement on the entirety of its plans is forthcoming.
Which leaves us with the perennial kings of the silly season. As we’d written for months, Santino Ferrucci wasn’t returning to Coyne’s team in the co-entry that includes Jimmy Vasser and James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan, and it was formalized last week when the oval ace confirmed his transition to NASCAR.
Following our last update where the need to fill the Coyne-Vasser-Sullivan entry and Coyne’s second car was highlighted, some of the same names—and a few interesting additions—have been attached to the team’s effort. It’s purely guesswork to try and attach drivers to either entry, so of the drivers who are known to be orbiting Coyne’s Illinois shop, Formula 1 veteran Romain Grosjean remains in play along with Pietro Fittipaldi. Ex-Foyt driver Charlie Kimball is in the conversation, and in recent weeks, Coyne’s rookie standout from 2017, Ed Jones, has surfaced as a rumored throwback (throwforward?) option.
Jones, the 2016 Indy Lights champion, was thoroughly impressive during his rookie season with Coyne, placing third at the Indy 500 and capturing four additional top 10 finishes. A move to Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018 wasn’t kind to the Dubai-born Briton, and in a shift to Ed Carpenter Racing for road and street courses in 2019 also struggled to flatter the promise that was shown in Coyne’s camp.
Could two of the four drivers mentioned end up as teammates in 2021? And if so, which combination would give Coyne, and Coyne-Vasser-Sullivan the best odds of finding success?
The Coyne team says at least one driver could be confirmed next week.