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(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

2017 INDYCAR Silly Season Update

The upcoming Verizon IndyCar Series season doesn’t begin for another three and a half months, but many drivers and teams have already secured their plans for 2018.

Chip Ganassi Racing, which will field two full-time entries, is bringing Ed Jones on board to pilot the No. 10 Honda. He’ll be partnered with four-time champion Scott Dixon.

Ganassi is also rumored to be in the running of the Danica Patrick sweepstakes. Patrick will end her professional racing career in the 102nd Indy 500.

“I have talked to her, and her representatives,” team owner Chip Ganassi confirmed at Homestead-Miami Speedway during NASCAR championship weekend. “I think it’s a fabulous idea, a fabulous marketing idea. It’s a fabulous opportunity.

“I’m a long way from saying I can do it. They were talking about one (either the Daytona 500 or Indy 500) or both. … I need to know more. I need to talk to my people. There are a lot of moving parts.”

Meanwhile, AJ Foyt Racing has brought Mattheus Leist in to drive the No. 4 Chevrolet. He’ll be paired with veteran Tony Kanaan as Foyt will be a two-car operation in 2018. Leist won three races in the Indy Lights series last season, including the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Sébastien Bourdais is expected to return to Dale Coyne Racing, but Jones’ departure leaves a seat open with the team. There’s no word yet if Coyne will run a second car or if he’s looking for a potential replacement.

On Wednesday, Harding Racing, which will compete full-time with Gabby Chaves in the No. 88 Chevrolet, announced former INDYCAR Vice President of Competition and race director Brian Barnhart as the new team president.

“I’m very excited about getting back on the team side and competitive side of things again,” Barnhart told INDYCAR.com. “It’s certainly one of the components that factored in heavily in making the decision.

“I’ve been with INDYCAR for 23-plus years, obviously a huge part of my life, and makes the decision extremely difficult to make because of the opportunities that have been afforded to me by the Hulman-George family, INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They’re an incredibly loyal and supportive group of people in the family, and I feel like a part of the family.”

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will bring in Robert Wickens as the full-time driver of their No. 7 Honda. Wickens previously practiced in the car at Road America in June when Mikhail Aleshin had immigration issues. He couldn’t return to the States in time for the start of the race weekend.

There are 19 confirmed full-time entries so far for 2018, although that number presumably will rise as the season gets closer.

Who remains the sport’s big free agents?

Aleshin, Conor Daly, Carlos Munoz, JR Hildebrand, Max Chilton, and Charlie Kimball are the odd men out at this point. However, there’s still time for them to land a seat before the season opener in St. Petersburg. One of them could be the second driver for Coyne.

Here’s what the field is shaping up to look like as of December.

AJ Foyt Racing

Tony Kanaan

Mattheus Leist

Andretti Autosport

Zach Veach

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Alexander Rossi

Marco Andretti

Stefan Wilson (Indy 500 only)

Chip Ganassi Racing

Scott Dixon

Ed Jones

Danica Patrick (rumored, Indy 500 only)

Dale Coyne Racing

Sébastien Bourdais

Ed Carpenter Racing

Spencer Pigot

Ed Carpenter (ovals only)

Harding Racing

Gabby Chaves

Juncos Racing

Kyle Kaiser (will run at least four races with the team, including Indy 500)

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Graham Rahal

Takuma Sato

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

James Hinchcliffe

Robert Wickens

Tristan Gommendy (Indy 500 only)

Team Penske

Simon Pagenaud

Josef Newgarden

Will Power

Helio Castroneves (Indy 500 only)

About John Haverlin

John Haverlin is Frontstretch’s exclusive IndyCar editor and writer. He has covered American auto racing’s various forms, including NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, Truck, K&N, Whelen Modified, IndyCar, Mazda Road to Indy, USAC, Modified Touring Series, World of Outlaws, ARCA and ACT Tour. He is a graduate of Arizona State University and currently resides in Long Island, New York.

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