The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season is coming to a dramatic climax on track with just five races remaining, however off track it could be just as dramatic with the ‘silly season’ kicking straight after last weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto.
This is what we know for certain. Scott Dixon who drives the No.9 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing is on a long term contract with the team and will remain in the No.9 for 2018, with sponsorship potentially from NTT DATA.
Tony Kanaan wants to remain in the Verizon IndyCar Series full-time in 2018 but it is unclear whether or not he will be back in the No.10 Honda, Paddock Eye understands that the Brazilian will be back in the car but nothing is official.
Charlie Kimball stated over the Honda Indy Toronto that he would like to stay at Ganassi next season but we shall see. I understand that the American is being considered by Trevor Carlin, who is potentially moving up from Indy Lights with Max Chilton also a possible fit for the team as his father is a part owner in Carlin.
Team Penske will have three full-time cars next season with Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Josef Newgarden all returning next season, what is unclear however is the fate of Helio Castroneves who has been repeatedly linked with a move to Roger Penske’s newly announced IMSA Sports Car programme with Juan Pablo Montoya. Paddock Eye understands however that Penske will run five cars at the Indianapolis 500 once again.
Speaking in Toronto, Castroneves said that nothing has been decided yet but he knows he will be a Team Penske driver in 2018.
Andretti Autosport have Ryan Hunter Reay locked into the No.28 DHL for 2018 with Marco Andretti also expected to return. What is uncertain however is what engines the team will use with Michael Andretti reportedly in talks with Chevrolet.
If Chevrolet return to Chevrolet that would bring to an end to Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato’s time with the outfit after just one season with the outfit having joined the team from AJ Foyt Racing.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will have Graham Rahal back in the No.15 Honda with an as yet unidentified team mate with Bobby Rahal confirming earlier this week that the team are exploring their options for a second full-time driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018.
Ed Carpenter Racing are set to retain JR Hildebrand in the No.21 Chevrolet with the American having been extremely impressive for the Indianapolis based outfit having replaced Josef Newgarden in a full-time seat.
It is also expected that Ed Carpenter will return to the cock-pit to continue his oval programme for next season sharing the No.20 Chevrolet with Spencer Pigot or another driver, possibly whoever wins the Indy Lights championship as that driver will step up to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018.
Sebastien Bourdais is expected to return to Dale Coyne Racing for a second season, with Ed Jones certainly showing that he deserves a second season with Coyne.
Harding Racing will run Gabby Chaves full-time in a Chevrolet powered car in 2018.
At Schmidt Peterson Motorsports the situation is unclear with James Hinchcliffe a free agent he is the key to the driver market with most of the top teams interested in the Mayor of HinchTown’s services for next season.
Paddock Eye understands that Chip Ganassi Racing’s managing director Mike Hull is a fan of Hinch’s which could mean that they make a move the Canadian. Hinch could chose to remain at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, however Bobby Rahal has also expressed an interest in his services if he is available.
Hinch could also be on the radar at Andretti Autosport with whom the Mayor won three races with during their time with Chevrolet and with that partnership set to be back next season that is a real possibility.
The next few weeks and months are going to be extremely interesting to see what happens when the driver market plays out.