When the Silly Season Flood Comes, I'll Miss the Boat
When we taped our last podcast episode on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, I joked that as soon as we released the episode the following day there would be a flood of announcements and everything we talked about would be moot. Then, of course, Wednesday morning there was the official announcement that Takuma Sato was going to Rahal Letterman Lannigan Racing. I texted Abby basically acting like an angry Chicken Little that of course now everything would come rushing out. Strangely though, we had that bit of news, and the Chip Ganassi Racing team’s downsizing, and that’s it. But here I am making predictions again — I never learn.
News also recently broke that Chip Ganassi Racing was going from four cars to two cars, and it’s just Scott Dixon in the #9 that’s confirmed (it’s never just Dixon, he is pretty much on his way to becoming an IndyCar GOAT). That’s pretty huge news. That’s half of a team getting cut, maybe 2/3 if Kimball isn’t going to be the remaining driver. That’s half of an operations team being cut, at least. So one of the bigger questions that have emerged now is: who is going to drive the #10? Tony Kanaan all but said at Sonoma it won’t be him. Max Chilton had echoed Kanaan’s statements as well, even more telling is that Max just started talking about driving in European circuits, so the series may be losing him entirely.
Speaking of Kanaan strong speculation has him jumping to A.J. Foyt Racing in the #14 (which was piloted by Carlos Munoz). So then who is staying with Foyt — Daly or Munoz? Daly is the sponsor sweetheart whose seeming to just now find his way through everything (#PlantBasedLifestyleFTW #VeganStrong — I write this as I eat rice, spinach, broccoli and some beans…it’s not a very exotic lifestyle), but is it too little too late? Munoz is…Munoz is a solid driver you just don’t get any real flash out of him and if you want sponsors you’ll want someone who attracts people. This is going to be a hard decision for Foyt. I’ve got the Indiana bias for Conor and I think he’s really stepping into himself as a racer and that’s always fun to watch.
What we’ve not heard, and something that just keeps sitting in the back of my mind is what’s happening with James Hinchcliffe. His contract is up this year, but…well as I’ll explain in a minute I think he waited too long. Schmidt Peterson Motorsport has been the focus of a lot — a LOT — of speculation, especially after they gave Aleshin the boot back in mid-August. Everyone started focusing on that empty car and who was going to drive it. It wasn’t until recently when Sam Schmidt indicated while they’re looking at that empty car, they also want to make sure Hinchcliffe is coming back. And at this point: he has too. Where else can he go? He can’t go to Andretti — with Zach Veach getting the ride they’re full. Penske is full (well maybe they’re either having four cars, or three cars and…Helio is out…either way no room). There is the CGR but unless that brings the promise of more money (and with Dixon being lead driver for that team — I don’t think so) — that’s out. There’s Foyt…and one of the newer teams…but I think there’s just no room at the inn and Hinchcliffe is staying at SPM. He has too. He has too — he’ll be BMOC.
Finally, another announcement I’m waiting for is who will take over the #20 car as Ed Carpenter doesn’t do road courses (Daddy Only Does Ovals). I’m thinking about the way Ed runs, it’ll be an Indy Lights driver and there is quite a damn good crop of them. Zachary Claman DeMelo did a fine job at Sonoma. He may have driven for RLLR, but they’ve got their extra seat buttoned up for a few years. I’m just sad to see J.R. Hildebrand leave, but he’s extremely intelligent and I actually see him switching over to an R&D side of this and completely kicking ass.
What we have are way too many names and way too few of seats. There’s hope with the new aero kits the price of getting a car will drop. That should open up more seats and more teams, but I think it’ll be a trickle and not a deluge. Also, hopefully the new areo kits being somewhat standard should help transition of drivers between engines (the drivers that aren’t married to engines like Sato is married to Honda).
P.S. — I’m going to be pissed if we get a flood of announcements after I push this post out — but so goes my life