Pre-season testing has finished it’s time for the talking to stop as the teams pack up their haulers and head to Florida for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg which takes place next weekend.
In 2018, the Verizon IndyCar Series will have plenty of fresh faces and new beginning with the introduction of the all new universal aero kit.
There have been driver changes, personnel changes and two brand new teams will make their full-time Verizon IndyCar Series race debut next weekend. Trevor Carlin’s Carlin Racing make the step up from the Indy Lights championship with Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton joining the new Chevrolet powered team from Chip Ganassi Racing.
Gabby Chaves will make his full-time return to the Verizon IndyCar Series with Harding Racing making their full-time debut in the series next weekend following a a number of strong races last season.
The team have brought in former Verizon IndyCar Series race director Bryan Bernhardt who is team president. The team also have owner Mike Harding and Larry Curry along with Verizon IndyCar Series legend Al Unser as part of the team. The one car operation should be a strong contender from the green flag at St Pete.
Jimmy Vasser and James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan return to the Verizon IndyCar Series in partnership with Dale Coyne Racing and will run Sebastien Bourdais in the SealMaster.net No.18 Honda.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing return to a two car full-time entrant for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season with reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato returning to the team alongside Graham Rahal in the No.15 Honda. The Brownsburg, Indiana based outfit look like they will be a force to be reckoned with having made multiple changes over the off-season.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will also be a a force from the green flag at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg as the team led by Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson have made some pretty big changes over the winter, the biggest being that they have brought in former Audi LeMans winning race engineer Leena Gade as James Hinchcliffe’s chief race engineer.
Gade, a native of England will make Verizon IndyCar Series history next weekend as she becomes the first female lead race engineer in the series.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have also brought in Robert Wickens who will make his full-time Verizon IndyCar Series debut next weekend driving the No.6 Lucas Oil Honda alongside fellow Canadian and his good friend, the Mayor of HinchTown.
Chip Ganassi Racing have made big changes over the winter of 2017 as they have down-sized from a four to a two car full-time team with Ed Jones joining Scott Dixon in the No.10 NTT DATA Honda.
Scot Dixon, the four time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner will have a new primary sponsor in 2018 with PNC Bank filling the void left by Target’s departure from the Verizon IndyCar Series at the end of the 2016 season.
Ed Carpenter Racing have moved Spencer Pigot across the full-time No.21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and his joined at the team by rookie, England’s Jordan King who will share the No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet with team owner Ed Carpenter who will continue to race oval events in 2018. ECR have also confirmed that former Verizon IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick will drive for the team in the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May.
AJ Foyt Racing enter into their second year with Chevrolet power with a completely new driver line up with Verizon IndyCar Series veteran Tony Kanaan joining the team from Chip Ganassi Racing while rookie Matheus Leist will make his Verizon IndyCar Series race debut next weekend.
Rene Binder joins Dale Coyne Racing for 2018 and will share the No.19 PaySafe Honda with Pietro Fittipaldi, the grandson of Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi.
Team Penske head into the 2018 season opening Firestone Grand Prix looking to return to victory lane at the season opening event. The Captain’s last race win at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg came in 2016 when Juan Pablo Montoya lead home a Team Penske 1-2.
Penske will run three full-time drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018 with champion, Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud continuing with the team. Helio Castroneves will return to the No.3 Chevrolet for the month of May, competing in both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Andretti Autosport will have a new driver in Zach Veach who will drive the No.26 Group One Thousand One Honda who will make his full-time Verizon IndyCar Series debut next weekend.
Zeach joins 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi who takes his NAPA Auto Parts sponsorship to the No.27 Honda. Ryan Hunter Reay continues in the No.28 DHL Honda while Marco Andretti moves over to Bryan Herta Autosport in the No.98 US Concrete Honda.
For more information on the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg visit http://gpstpete.com/ follow @GPSTPETE on Twitter using the hashtag #FirestoneGP you can also follow the action live on ABC and via and by following the official IndyCar Twitter and Facebook accounts.