With Danica Patrick’s “oops” on Wednesday evening that revealed she would run the 102nd Indianapolis 500 with Ed Carpenter Racing, yet another piece fell into place as this May’s field begins to take shape.
Bolstered by six cars from Andretti Autosport, four entries from the Team Penske camp and the three-car program from Ed Carpenter Racing, the field has come together quickly this offseason. Currently Open-Wheels.com can confirm 31 entries for the Indianapolis 500. The field has come together quickly this offseason and that is a testament to the progress made by Jay Frye, Mark Miles and the development team that brought a new universal aero kit to life.
The series has legitimate momentum currently and that is being reflected in its biggest race. Two and a half months from the first day in May, there are just a couple open spots remaining before the field reaches its traditional 33 cars. With that being said, there are still a handful of possible teams and entries that could show up in May that would result in some qualifications bumping – something that the fans would certainly enjoy.
Rookie designation is noted by Indianapolis 500 rookie status, not Verizon IndyCar Series status.
1. A.J. Foyt Racing No. 4 – Matheus Leist (R)
2. A.J. Foyt Racing No. 14 – Tony Kanaan
3. Carlin Racing No. 59 – Max Chilton
4. Carlin Racing No. 23 – Charlie Kimball
5. Dreyer and Reinbold TBA – To Be Announced
6. Dreyer and Reinbold TBA – To Be Announced
7. Ed Carpenter Racing TBA – Danica Patrick
8. Ed Carpenter Racing No. 20 – Ed Carpenter
9. Ed Carpenter Racing No. 21 – Spencer Pigot
10. Harding Racing No. 88 – Gabby Chaves
11. Juncos Racing No. 32 – Kyle Kaiser (R)
12. Team Penske No. 1 – Josef Newgarden
13. Team Penske No. 3 – Helio Castroneves
14. Team Penske No. 12 – Will Power
15. Team Penske No. 22 – Simon Pagenaud
Adding two full-time entries apiece are A.J. Foyt Racing, Carlin Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing, while Team Penske tosses in their three full-time champions. Harding Racing will contest their second Indianapolis 500 in May after a respectable 9th place finish in 2017, while their driver Gabby Chaves is in line for his fourth Indy 500 start.
Currently, Chevrolet will support five part-time entries at the 102nd Indianapolis 500. Confirmed by team owner Dennis Reinbold on the Don Kay Show, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing has two drivers in place for a two-car effort at Indianapolis this year and they will be announced soon.
Finally finding her landing spot for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, Danica Patrick will call Ed Carpenter Racing home in the second leg of her “Danica Double.” For Juncos Racing, rookie Kyle Kaiser will be in the seat to compete in his first Indianapolis 500 using scholarship money earned by winning the 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire championship.
Last but not least, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves joins the fray as the fourth Team Penske entry. Castroneves will attempt to win Roger Penske’s 17th Indianapolis 500, and in the process become Roger’s second four-time winner.
With each of these entries considered, Chevrolet currently sits at 15 confirmed entries for the Indianapolis 500.
16. Andretti Autosport No. 25 – Stefan Wilson
17. Andretti Autosport No. 26 – Zach Veach
18. Andretti Autosport No. 27 – Alexander Rossi
19. Andretti Autosport No. 28 – Ryan Hunter-Reay
20. Andretti Autosport No. 29 – Carlos Munoz
21. Andretti-Herta Autosport No. 98 – Marco Andretti
22. Chip Ganassi Racing No. 9 – Scott Dixon
23. Chip Ganassi Racing No. 10 – Ed Jones
24. Dale Coyne Racing No. 18 – Sebastien Bourdais
25. Dale Coyne Racing No. 19 – Pietro Fittipaldi (R)
26. Dale Coyne Racing No. 63 – To Be Announced
27. Michael Shank Racing No. 60 – Jack Harvey
28. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing No. 15 – Graham Rahal
29. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing No. 30 – Takuma Sato
30. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports No. 5 – James Hinchcliffe
31. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports No. 6 – Robert Wickens
In the Honda camp, there are twelve full-time entries ready to support the Japanese manufacturer. Four drivers from the Andretti Autosport stable will be represented, as well as two from Chip Ganassi Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
From there, four part-time entries are currently in place for Honda at the Indianapolis 500. For Andretti Autosport, Stefan Wilson will return to the Indianapolis 500 after he graciously granted his ride to two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso in 2017.
In the second Indy-only entry for Andretti, Carlos Munoz will attempt to break through at Indianapolis after a long record of success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a reunion with his old team.
While it can’t be officially announced, Open-Wheels can confirm that Dale Coyne Racing will roll out their No. 63 entry seen in year’s past, and Jack Harvey will be in the field as part of his partial schedule with Michael Shank Racing.
Accounting for each of these entries, that puts Honda at 16 confirmed engine leases for the month of May, and the field at 31 drivers as of February 15. Last year, Honda supported 19 entries at the race while Chevrolet pitched in 14 separate engine plans.
As we are already past that mark for Chevrolet (15 currently), don’t expect Honda to reach 19 again in 2018. It is possible, though, that Honda supplies 18 entries while Chevrolet reaches 17 engine leases if teams with available Dallara IR-12 chassis show up as they have in the past.
There are a few prime candidates for additional Indianapolis 500 entries. Here are the teams that are not confirmed, but likely given the current car count and track records.
Dale Coyne Racing
Currently slotted for three cars at Indianapolis, the Dale Coyne Racing stable is in the running for a fourth month of May entry in an attempt to get a driver from the pool of Zachary Claman de Melo, Conor Daly, James Davison and Tristan Vautier in the race.
While the disgruntled IndyCar fan base pushes hard for Conor Daly, it will be interesting to see if or where he lands a ride for Indianapolis. It seems unlikely that the series would let the race pass without his participation after the incredible job he has done on CBS’ The Amazing Race with fellow driver (and former roommate) Alexander Rossi, but this is the era of motorsport that we live in and money talks more than talent at times.
While Daly is a fan favorite for the seat, he is not yet the leader so expect Claman de Melo to be nipping at his heels. The Canadian driver brought his primary partner Paysafe over to Dale Coyne Racing to fund a partial schedule in the 2018 IndyCar championship, and upon their arrival to DCR, Paysafe was impressed enough with rookie Pietro Fittipaldi that they have stepped up to partially fund his races in the No. 19 car.
Paysafe will most likely be pushing hard for Claman de Melo to be rewarded with the fourth Dale Coyne Racing entry given their investment in the team, and if Daly cannot uncover sufficient funding (winning The Amazing Race would help with that), the seat will likely go to Claman de Melo.
While Tristain Vautier’s name has been thrown around along with James Davison, these drivers are most likely on the outside looking in without a substantial backer in their court currently.
Returning for their second year at Indianapolis, Juncos Racing is already confirmed to bring rookie Kyle Kaiser to the fray in his partially-funded No. 32 entry. Supported by his scholarship from winning the 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship, Kaiser is in line to run four races in 2018 including both events at Indianapolis during the month of May.
If teammate Rene Binder, who will contest his own four-race schedule, can find additional funding to support an Indy 500 program then he is in a great position with Juncos Racing. The team has enough Dallara IR-12 chassis on-hand to support two cars in the Indianapolis 500, as they ran Spencer Pigot alongside Sebastian Saavedra in their maiden IndyCar appearance last May.
A man with his hat in many circles for an Indianapolis 500 ride, Conor Daly is in consideration for the second Juncos Racing seat. He won the 2010 Pro Mazda (formerly Star Mazda) championship with the Juncos stable and has nurtured his relationship with team owner Ricardo Juncos since their seven-win season that year.
Sebastian Saavedra could be in the mix as well if AFS Racing funding resurfaces, though it is unclear whether or not they will return after a fairly fine showing at the Speedway in their 2017 run with Juncos.
AFS has stepped up to fund Saavedra’s sports car racing efforts in 2018 and while that may be a greater investment to keep him sharp for the Indy 500, it could also mean they are reallocating their resources away from IndyCar racing.
In less likely scenarios, Dale Coyne Racing’s Zachary Claman de Melo is currently available to run the Indianapolis 500 with another team until he is confirmed for a DCR ride in May, so he could potentially be in the mix if additional funding is secured.
Time and time again Indy Lights driver Santiago Urrutia has teased an IndyCar deal for 2018 (he first mentioned negotiations with IndyCar teams in August), but nothing has really changed and he shouldn’t be considered a viable option at this point.
R.C. Enerson and Esteban Gutierrez are also a couple of long shots, though not off the table.
Lazier Partners Racing
While 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier has shown up to compete at Indy with his own team each of the last five years, the once-expected attendance by Lazier Partners Racing at the 2018 Indy 500 now seems somewhat less likely.
The plan previously in place featured Buddy racing at Indianapolis again in 2018 and potentially 2019, before handing the reigns to his son Flynn Lazier and his own chance at Indianapolis 500 immortality. Unfortunately, given the team’s performance and short engine lease programs the last few years, many think that their presence at the Indy 500 has hinged solely on the series effort to get the field to 33 cars.
I don’t particularly buy the notion that Lazier has been at the Speedway recently just to fill the field, as he was bumped from the Indianapolis 500 in 2015 and then came back to qualify for 2016’s 100th running of the race. Even if there are already 33 confirmed entries by the time Lazier wants to pony up for this year’s edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, that won’t scare them away if the equipment and personnel are in place for another month of May program.
A Chevrolet-backed team for each year since their formation in 2013, the General Motors company would have enough resources on hand for another short engine program for the Lazier’s if they want to be there.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
After removing themselves from the Didier Calmels/Tristan Gommendy deal that received mass amounts of poor publicity in 2017, Sam Schmidt has continued with a plan to race a third car at Indianapolis.
Last year, the Schmidt Peterson stable added the No. 77 car in a partnership with Marotti Racing to put Jay Howard in the Indianapolis 500 field. Marotti Racing has been active in their campaign for representation at Indy in 2018, most likely in another joint partnership with an existing team. In speaking to Open-Wheels in January, team principal Will Marotti stated that “we have a team, still looking for sponsor (money).”
In the running for a third Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry at Indianapolis, Oriol Servia would be a spectacular fit to return to SPM after his experience leading IndyCar’s universal aero kit testing program. He ran under the Schmidt Peterson banner for 2016’s 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Jay Howard wants to be back at Indianapolis in 2018 and re-upping with the team he drove with at Indianapolis last year would be preferable, but it seems unlikely at this time that Howard teams up with SPM this May.
Picking from the Indy Lights ranks, don’t expect a reunion with R.C. Enerson after a rocky break-up but the previously-mentioned Santiago Urrutia is a possibility as is Jack Hawksworth with his Honda support.
In the end, where could we expect additional entries to get the field to 33? Will there be bumping?
I expect that Dale Coyne Racing will be back with a fourth car given the momentum and optimism surrounding that ride, and it is likely that Juncos Racing supports a second Indianapolis entry as they did in 2017. That would get the field to 33 cars, and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is in line to once again roll their No. 77 entry onto the grid to make them car number 34.
That leaves the Lazier family at the 35th possible entry, and a high level of risk involved for them to qualify for the race if indeed there were two teams to be bumped from the field. Again, if Lazier has the staff and resources in place to make another Indianapolis 500 run then expect them to be there with or without the guaranteed starting spot they had last year.
This, along with renewed excitement over the race’s attendance growth year-over-year and the new universal aero kit, builds even more excitement for the month of May as we prepare for another exciting Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 27.
Images courtesy of INDYCAR Media.