By: Tanner Watkins
December 18, 2018 | 9:00 AM
Following the addition of DragonSpeed to IndyCar’s list of part-time teams in 2019, now is as good a time as ever to update the entry list for next May’s 103rd Indianapolis 500.
When we last visited the entry list on November 10 there were 29 entries confirmed with some question marks still hovering over teams such as McLaren, Harding Steinbrenner Racing and Dale Coyne Racing.
Those hazy situations have found clarity in the last month and help paint a more defined picture for May. The prospect of bumping is alive and well while projections show that there will be more than the 35 entries we saw at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2018 Indianapolis 500.
At present, there are 30 confirmed entries for the 2019 Indianapolis 500. These are teams that have announced their intentions to be at Indianapolis in May and their cars are accounted for. Broken down by engine manufacturer, this includes:
The Chevrolet camp – once barren – is now seemingly growing by the week. General Motors’ open-wheel brand was always going to host the full-time players such as Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing and A.J. Foyt Racing, but recent announcements have seen McLaren and the newly-announced DragonSpeed program join the Bowtie Brigade.
For full-time efforts, Chevrolet will represent two A.J. Foyt Racing drivers in Brazilians Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist, Ed Carpenter Racing with the trio of Ed Carpenter, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones, and the four Team Penske entries of Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, and 2018’s race winner in Will Power.
As for the part-time teams, DragonSpeed will indeed go with Chevy power for their maiden Indianapolis 500 run with veteran endurance racer Ben Hanley and McLaren will return to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing with two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso sporting the Bowtie.
Unfortunately, given the recent
The biggest question mark for Chevrolet is the status of Carlin. The British-backed team competed in each event in 2018 with drivers Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball, finishing 19th and 17th respectively in the IndyCar Series championship.
It seems as if Chilton is safe to return to Carlin for 2019, though Kimball’s foothold is shaky at the moment. Nonetheless, rumors of a third full-time entry for Carlin surfaced in August and considering their investment back into Indy Lights next season, Carlin is here to stay. Whoever the driver is, mark them down for two month of May entries.
In total, there are 14 entries locked towards Chevrolet power at the Indy 500 in 2019.
Race fans of Honda will have no shortage of drivers to cheer for at the Indianapolis 500 on May 26. The Japanese brand has held the numbers advantage over Chevrolet for much of the last half-decade and that trend will continue in 2019.
The powerhouse of Andretti Autosport kicks off the Honda party with four entries already in the books as full-timers in 2019: Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi
Two-car teams representing Honda include Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist), Dale Coyne Racing (Sebastien Bourdais and Santino Ferrucci), Harding Steinbrenner Racing (Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward) and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson).
An additional Honda entry locked into place for 2019 includes the Meyer Shank Racing machine that was driven by Jack Harvey this past season. It appears that Harvey will be back with the Michael Shank-owned team next year after running six races in partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Taking all of those teams into account, Honda has already racked up 16 entries for the 2019 Indianapolis 500.
All things considered, this is a fantastic turnout for IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 with 30 entries locked in by Christmas. Fear of a growing Bump Day on qualifying weekend has done little to squash the interest of new and existing team owners as car counts continue to rise.
Now the fun part begins – here are our expected entries still yet to be announced for 2019’s month of May.
Unannounced (Expected) Entries
After speaking with Dreyer & Reinbold driver Sage Karam over the weekend, the five-time Indy 500 starter expressed confidence in the team’s return to Indianapolis in 2019 – with two cars. This falls in line with DRR’s commitment to not only the month of May, but Dennis Reinbold’s ambitions to become a full-time team again.
Look for the Indianapolis-based team to return with Karam and another experienced driver for 2019.
Furthermore, it looks as if David Byrd and his family’s racing team is interested in locking James Davison into another Indianapolis 500 run for 2019. Last year’s multi-team effort placed Davison in a Foyt chassis while the Australian driver squeaked into the field on Bump Day.
A decision on Byrd’s plans with Davison for 2019 should provide clarity by February, though Davison’s presence on the grid seems certain.
Finally, we track back to Andretti Autosport. With four cars already confirmed, one would think the Andretti camp could feel comfortable with a quartet of reliable pilots in their stable. While that could be the case, history tells us Michael Andretti isn’t done yet.
In every year since 2010, Andretti Autosport has brought at least five drivers to the Indianapolis 500 while for the past two May’s the team has featured six drivers. For those 47 entries (over nine years) only two cars failed to qualify: Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2010).
It is highly likely that Andretti brings a fifth car to Indianapolis in 2019. Carlos Munoz is once again available as a worthy option with the Colombian driver showcasing one of the best one-off resumes among free agents.
If each of those two likely scenarios come to fruition, we reach the magical number of 33 entries – and go one over at 34 in total. With 134 days left until May 1, there is still much to be settled. That is where the (educated) speculation comes into play in our section below.
As we peek deeper into that crystal ball, let’s take a look at what still remains for driver and team possibilities at next year’s Indianapolis 500.
If McLaren truly wants to venture off on its own with an internally-employed team for next May, the European racing team would be wise to pair Fernando Alonso with an experienced Indianapolis 500 starter.
Fellow countryman Oriol Servia is available after Jordan King took his spot as Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s one-off car and the expertise of Servia would seem to bode well in the McLaren camp.
Other possibilities for 2019 include extra entries from Honda teams such as Dale Coyne Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
In each of the past six seasons, Dale Coyne has entered at least three cars in the Indianapolis 500. Last May, Coyne was a partner or owner for four drivers attempting to qualify for the race: Sebastien Bourdais, Zachary Claman De Melo, Conor Daly and Pippa Mann. Of the four, Mann was the only driver to not qualify for the race.
The other team to have a driver bumped from last year’s field was indeed Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. SPM has brought three or more cars to the “500” in each of the last six years as well, just like Dale Coyne Racing. In 2018, Sam Schmidt oversaw the entries of James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
By 5:50 p.m. on Bump Day, Hinchcliffe joined Mann as the two drivers bumped from the 33-car field in a stunning turn of events.
Even with those circumstances from last May, it is a relatively safe bet that Dale Coyne Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will each run a third car in 2019 for the sake of additional data cultivation. More emphasis will be placed on getting the full-time entries in the field with anything after that being icing on the cake.
But wait – there’s more! In less likely scenarios, here are a couple of possibilities on the table for existing teams such as Michael Shank Racing, Carlin and Juncos Racing.
After Michael Shank bought a new chassis for Jack Harvey to run at Indy in 2019, that opened the door for a potential two-car effort next May. Shank himself has stated in recent months that the purchase is more for longevity than the near future, but if a deal presented itself then the Ohio native has an option to run a lean two-car team in 2019.
Additionally, those three-car rumors from Carlin’s camp are more likely at Indianapolis than any other race. It is possible Carlin brings a third car to the fray at Indy, possibly giving a driver like R.C. Enerson a shot after a couple years away from the IndyCar community.
Finally we arrive at Juncos Racing. The team has admittedly had its share of struggles since becoming (nearly) full-time in 2018 and that appears to have poured over into 2019. With that being said, Ricardo Juncos has run two cars at Indianapolis before (2017) and could assemble the equipment and personnel necessary to run two cars next May for an added data advantage.
Juncos could look towards a driver with funding such as Rinus VeeKay – one of its 2019 Road to Indy drivers – to create an exciting Freedom 100/Indy 500 doubleheader next May.
If we factor in realistic and probable extra entries from McLaren, Dale
Consider the following list of free agents yet to be confirmed that we haven’t even mentioned yet: J.R. Hildebrand, Conor Daly, Stefan Wilson, Pippa Mann, Gabby Chaves, Zachary Claman De Melo, Sebastien Saavedra, Tristian Vautier
If any of those drivers were announced for Indy 500 rides this spring it wouldn’t be a surprise, and that shows how deep next year’s field could be. It also shows that there is still a lot to settle with drivers like Aaron Telitz, Pietro Fittipaldi and Santiago Urrutia still angling for their first starts at Indy while they search for additional funding.
The future is bright for the Indianapolis 500, but the near future is even more exciting with the continued buy-in from team owners towards 2019.
It will be exciting to watch the events shake out, and Open-Wheels will follow things every step of the way. Stay tuned for continued coverage on the IndyCar Series and the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Header image by John Cote/INDYCAR.