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.
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
Stefan Wilson (Indy 500 only)
Chip Ganassi Racing
Danica Patrick (rumored, Indy 500 only)
Dale Coyne Racing
Ed Carpenter Racing
Ed Carpenter (ovals only)
Kyle Kaiser (will run at least four races with the team, including Indy 500)
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Tristan Gommendy (Indy 500 only)
Helio Castroneves (Indy 500 only)