EMBURY: Indy 500 Silly Season Update
As previously rumored, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ entry with backing from Tony Stewart has confirmed Jay Howard as its driver. The Englishman, who has experience in both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Series and the Verizon IndyCar Series has had a checkered past at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Howard has appeared in one previous Indy 500 in 2011, but also suffered through multiple qualifying failures and the inability to secure funding for other opportunities. The Schmidt deal, however, could represent his most competitive ride at the Brickyard, as three cars from SPM qualified in the top ten for last year’s race.
Also in the rumor mill looking ahead to the 101st running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, is the revelation of the remaining assets from the now-defunct KV Racing team being up for auction later this month. Reportedly, Juncos Racing has acquired some of the assets in preparation for its attempt to compete at the Indy 500 for the first time. The auction could create an opportunity for yet another new team to join the IndyCar ranks in advance of the month of May.
With the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach a scene for multiple Indy 500-only confirmations in years past, here’s a look at the possible scenarios to reach to fill the field of 33.
Team Penske: Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya
The Captain will enter five cars at the Speedway for the first time, and all drivers have been confirmed.
Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball
Four full-time runners on the Verizon IndyCar Series circuit and nothing is expected to change that for the Indy 500.
Andretti Autosport: Takuma Sato, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, TBA
Andretti has yet to confirm its fifth driver for Indy at this point. While Townsend Bell remains the favorite for the seat, Alex Tagliani could also join the picture. Like Bell, Tagliani may have personal sponsorship to offer the team, something he has not had access to during his two Indy-only efforts for A.J. Foyt.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin, Jay Howard, TBA?
As mentioned above, the team has signed Jay Howard to drive its Tony Stewart-backed entry. While the team seems set to run just three entries, there is one scenario that could create a fourth car.
That possibility is Will Marotti’s God Bless America Racing group. Marotti paired up with Schmidt last year to field Oriol Servia in the Indy 500 and is interested in returning for a second year with Schmidt being his preferred partner. More funding is needed to secure a deal with Schmidt or another team at this point.
Dale Coyne Racing: Sebastien Bourdais, Ed Jones, Pippa Mann, TBA?
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winners are expected to run at least three cars for the Indy 500, with Pippa Mann likely to join full-time drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Ed Jones. The team entered four cars in last year’s and could do so again if Jonathan Byrd’s Racing or another group comes forward.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Graham Rahal, Oriol Servia
The Ohio-based runners are set for May with a two-car entry, as has often been the case since its return to the full IndyCar circuit in 2012.
Ed Carpenter Racing: Ed Carpenter, J.R. Hildebrand, Spencer Pigot
Expect a confirmation on Pigot’s third entry for the Indy 500 to come soon. Beyond that, everything appears to be status quo for the 2013 and 2014 Indy 500 pole winners.
A.J. Foyt Racing: Conor Daly, Carlos Munoz
The Foyt operation is in an unusual formation of having one team based in its original home base of Texas and the other at its new base in Indianapolis. This re-organization is the likely reason a third car will not be made available this year.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: Sage Karam
The Indianapolis car dealership magnate will once again participate in the Indy 500 with Sage Karam behind the wheel.
Juncos Racing: Kyle Kaiser?, TBA?
Ricardo Juncos recently announced his intention to enter the 101st Indy 500 in preparation for a possible full-time IndyCar Series effort in 2018. Juncos’ Indy Lights pilot Kyle Kaiser is expected to be one driver, and Zach Veach has been rumored as another possibility if the team elects to run two cars.
Lazier Partners Racing: Buddy Lazier
Bob Lazier says plans are to return in some form at Indy this May. His son, 1996 Indy 500 champion Buddy Lazier is likely to handle the driving duties once again.
The Indy Lights regulars have shown an interest to move up to the IndyCar Series at some point eventually. That could come this May as the circuit needs more entries to ensure a full field.
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