In an uncharacteristic turn of events for modern IndyCar racing, all but seven entries in the 2018 Indianapolis 500 are officially confirmed and the calendar has yet to hit January 1.
With Andretti Autosport confirming a sixth entry into the Greatest Spectacle in Racing by welcoming back Carlos Munoz, it continues a wild December of announcements in the IndyCar offseason.
Earlier in the month, Michael Shank announced his plans to run in partnership with Schmidt Peterson Racing for select 2018 events. Competing in three events during 2017, Jack Harvey will return to pilot an MSR entry in at least six races next season.
Shortly after, Carlin Racing made its intentions for 2018 known by hiring drivers Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball to drive their two full-time entries during the 2018 season. The team will be well-funded with backing from Gallagher and Novo Nordisk, a luxury that many newcomers in IndyCar do not get the opportunity to experience.
Harding Racing, a team that appeared in three speedway races during the 2017 season, is expected to announce at least one full-time entry with Gabby Chaves at the helm by February.
As a handful of teams either make their splash or expand on previous abbreviated programs, the current list of announced and confirmed entries for the upcoming 102nd Indianapolis 500 is extensive. At the moment, there have been 26 cars confirmed for the Month of May, which is ahead of schedule when considering the recent track record of Indy 500 announcements.
Here are the confirmed entries to date, separated by manufacturer:
A.J. Foyt Racing – 2 entries with drivers Matheus Leist (No. 4) and Tony Kanaan (No. 14)
Carlin Racing – 2 entries with drivers Max Chilton (No. TBA) and Charlie Kimball (No. TBA)
Ed Carpenter Racing – 2 entries with drivers Ed Carpenter (No. 20) and Spencer Pigot (No. 21)
Juncos Racing – 1 entry with Kyle Kaiser (No. TBA)
Team Penske – 4 entries with drivers Josef Newgarden (No. 1), Helio Castroneves (No. 3), Will Power (No. 12) and Simon Pagenaud (No. TBA)
Andretti Autosport – 6 entries with drivers Stefan Wilson (No. 25), Zach Veach (No. 26), Alexander Rossi (No. 27), Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28), Carlos Munoz (No. 29) and Marco Andretti (No. 98)
Chip Ganassi Racing – 2 entries with drivers Scott Dixon (No. 9) and Ed Jones (No. 10)
Dale Coyne Racing – 2 entries with drivers Sebastien Bourdais (No. 18) and a driver to be announced
Michael Shank Racing – 1 entry with driver Jack Harvey (No. 60)
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – 2 entries with drivers Graham Rahal (No. 15) and Takuma Sato (No. TBA)
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – 2 entries with drivers James Hinchcliffe (No. 5) and Robert Wickens (No. 7)
As it currently stands, the field is composed of 11 confirmed Chevrolet entries and 15 confirmed Honda entries. In years past, the cap for an engine manufacturer at Indianapolis has been 17 engine leases. That would mean that there could only be 34 possible entries for the 33 starting spots in the Indianapolis 500, and it would also signal that Honda only has two leases remaining for May.
With that in mind, let’s now look at the list of entries that are not confirmed as of yet, but expected to be on-track in May:
Expected to Confirm
Dreyer and Reinbold Racing – Following up on the last two years of service with driver Sage Karam, Dreyer and Reinbold is expected to be at the Speedway in May with a similar setup from 2017. It is highly likely that they will have at least one Chevrolet entry at Indianapolis in 2018.
Harding Racing – Penciled in for a full-time program in 2018, Harding Racing is the last team expected to make an announcement this offseason that confirms their permanent intentions within the grid next year.
The group has assembled a fine trio of Brian Barnhart (President of Harding Racing), Al Unser Jr. (Driving Consultant) and Gabby Chaves (Driver) to get the ball rolling after three impressive showings in 2017. It is extremely likely that they will have at least one Chevrolet entry at Indianapolis in 2018.
Juncos Racing – While the Mazda Road to Indy powerhouse is already confirmed for one entry in the 2018 Indianapolis 500 with Indy Lights champion Kyle Kaiser, the team ran two entries at Indy last May and one could expect them to bring two cars this time around as well. Expect team owner Ricardo Juncos to pair the rookie Kaiser with a driver of experience, such as Oriol Servia. It is very likely that this team brings one Chevrolet entry to Indianapolis in addition to their previously announced program with Kaiser.
Lazier Partners Racing – Reported to have purchased an additional Dallara DW-12 chassis for 2018 and beyond, it is widely known that 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier has plans to be in the field for next May’s 500 mile race. Keeping with their alignment over the past two years, expect Lazier and company to enter one Chevrolet entry at Indianapolis in 2018.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – After a lackluster run with Jay Howard in the Schmidt Peterson #77 car last May, look for Sam Schmidt to provide a little more punch for the 2018 edition of this entry. Rumors have connected Juan Pablo Montoya and Danica Patrick to this potential program, and each would be improvements from last year’s effort. It is very likely that SPM will run one Honda entry alongside their full-time entries of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens.
If each of these scenarios play out as they are expected to, that would leave Chevrolet with 15 entries in the Indianapolis 500 field, and the Schmidt Peterson #77 would put Honda at 16 engine leases.
This is where it gets tricky! In judging by track records and rumors floating across the industry this offseason, there are more options available than engine leases for the taking. If Danica Patrick does not align herself with Schmidt Peterson Racing at the 2018 Indianapolis 500, then her ride will likely come from a ride featured in our next section – entries that are up in the air, but certainly possible.
It is actually probable, barring any unforeseen circumstances such as McLaren entering last year’s Indy 500, that there will be at least two cars in this next category that will make the field for next May’s 500 Mile Race. Let’s handicap who those teams may be:
Not Confirmed, But Possible
A.J. Foyt Racing – For each year since 2015, Foyt has run a third car at Indianapolis. Last year the team featured Zach Veach in their No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship entry, finishing 26th after mechanical problems troubled the team all day.
With the possibilities of two cars from Dreyer and Reinbold Racing as well as Harding Racing, it is not as necessary for Foyt to run a third car at Indianapolis in 2018. They still have the equipment to do so, but look for Foyt to stay out of the three-car circus next May.
Chip Ganassi Racing – Team owner Chip Ganassi has stayed true to form during the Danica Patrick sweepstakes, repeating the fact that a deal with that 35-year-old Patrick must make business sense and that to this point, it hasn’t.
When considering the fact that Patrick is looking to make starts in both the Daytona 500 in February and the Indianapolis 500 next May, a deal with Ganassi is favored as it would satisfy her needs in both ventures. While we initially reported that the #77 Schmidt Peterson entry would be Patrick’s best and most logical fit, it is hard to see Ganassi running just two cars at Indianapolis in 2018. It is likely that they will have one additional Honda entry at Indianapolis in 2018.
Dale Coyne Racing – While Coyne is in a familiar situation – looking for a 2nd full-time driver to pair with Sebastien Bourdais – that does not seem to be dramatically affecting their prospects for a third Indianapolis 500 car just yet. Pippa Mann has been the pilot for DCR’s third Indy entry in recent years, but she still has some progress to make in securing funding for next May’s festivities.
If Danica Patrick ends up at Chip Ganassi Racing as a third CGR entry, this would most likely put Honda at the limit for engine leases and Coyne could be on the outside looking in. It is somewhat likely that they will have one additional Honda entry at Indianapolis in 2018.
Dreyer and Reinbold Racing – Mentioned briefly in the Danica Patrick rumor mill, Dreyer and Reinbold racing could be Patrick’s third option behind Chip Ganassi Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Patrick’s father, T.J. Patrick, mentioned in November that the former full-time IndyCar operation is exploring the options of a second car at Indianapolis alongside Sage Karam.
If it is not Patrick in a second Dreyer and Reinbold seat this May, then a two-car effort from this team is unlikely.
Ed Carpenter Racing – After running three team cars in the 2016 Indianapolis 500, Ed Carpenter Racing scaled back operations by running two entries at Indy this past May.
Not heavily involved in Danica Patrick’s search for a ride, it is unlikely that ECR runs a third car at Indianapolis in 2018 due to the fact that the team lost a Dallara DW-12 tub in Josef Newgarden’s savage crash at Texas in 2016.
Harding Racing – As the team prepares to field its first full-time entry with Gabby Chaves in 2018, team owner Mike Harding has been vocal in reporting his possession of one Leader’s Circle entry and the pursuit for a second.
Funding is what will determine whether or not the team can field a second car full-time, or at Indianapolis for that matter, but don’t discount this team. They are moving into the former home of Ed Carpenter Racing as we speak, and the previously mentioned additions of Barnhart and Unser Jr. create a formidable group of leaders for this young operation. It is likely that they will have one additional Chevrolet entry at Indianapolis in 2018.
As the current entries shake out, it seems most likely that the field reaches 33 entries with Danica Patrick joining Chip Ganassi Racing and Harding Racing bringing a second car to Indianapolis. In our current scenario, that would place Honda with a full 17 engine leases, and Chevrolet steady with 16.
Additionally, that would mean that either Schmidt Peterson Motorsports signs Juan Pablo Montoya and they run a third car as expected, or Dale Coyne Racing beats them to the punch with Pippa Mann and they sneak in and grab that final Honda engine lease. It will be very interesting to see how this shakes out, as both teams have been keen to running three cars at Indianapolis lately and that could come to a head this spring.
An alternative scenario that works best for the series would include Montoya driving for Schmidt Peterson in the #77, Pippa Mann racing for Dale Coyne Racing and Honda reaching the 17 engine lease cap in that fashion.
In that universe Chip Ganassi would not run a third car at Indianapolis, relegating Patrick to a second Dreyer and Reinbold Racing entry.
These developments are not likely to affect Harding Racing’s plan to bring a second car to Indianapolis, and if they followed through with that notion then all available engine leases would be accounted for.
Chevrolet and Honda would both reach 17 entries in the 500 Mile Race, and one driver would not make the field.
That is the best drama that Indianapolis 500 qualifying can provide at this moment, as thin as it may be.
It is easy to see that there is a lot to sort out between now and the first week in May, so let’s sit back and enjoy the entries that are confirmed while we dream of warmer weather.