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IndyCar’s final five seats still to play for over next few weeks

Feb 7, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT

Sao Paulo Indy 300 - Day 3 Getty Images

There’s been little to no movement on the IndyCar driver front since the start of the new year. But at this point in the winter, if you haven’t got your program set, you’re likely to start the 2014 season off on the back foot with limited testing before the March 30 St. Petersburg season opener.

As it stands, there are five full-time seats remaining to be filled. They are:

  • Bryan Herta Autosport’s first seat
  • Panther Racing’s first seat
  • Second seats at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, KV Racing and Dale Coyne Racing

Those seats, when they are filled, would push the projected full-season number of cars to 24. So far, 19 seats have been filled, with only Ed Carpenter’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet operating under a ride-share format between Carpenter and Mike Conway.

We last updated the IndyCar silly season roster and free agent pool in December … and we could pretty much write the same thing now.

The biggest difference since that point is seeing which drivers took the opportunity to race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, opening round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season. Those who raced there included: E.J. Viso, Tristan Vautier, Sebastian Saavedra, Alex Tagliani, James Davison, Conor Daly, Townsend Bell, Katherine Legge, Sam Bird and Sage Karam.

Of the above list, Saavedra, Tagliani, Daly and perhaps Bird could still be in play for full-time IndyCar seats. Karam’s hopes seem to be more aligned with whatever Chip Ganassi opts to do with him in a development-type program. Viso could still spring a surprise after speaking with him in Daytona.

Veterans Oriol Servia and James Jakes are likely to be in play for the “final five”; JR Hildebrand could be, although he just revealed a partial move to Colorado this week; and Simona de Silvestro’s name has fallen off the radar a bit since the dawn of the new year. She was not in Indianapolis for the series’ winter meetings, but did resurface as a guest instructor for the SAFEisFAST online driving tutorial series.

Herta’s and Panther’s seats have been linked to just one driver over the winter, Luca Filippi (Herta) and Carlos Huertas (Panther) respectively. But despite the overtones each team has made to the driver, or vice versa, nothing is set in stone there yet for either single-car operation. Both, additionally, have had PR rep changes over the winter with longtime team veterans moving onto other opportunities.

Which leaves the second cars at the other teams. RLL has a strong engineering base, but has yet to confirm the commercial partners on its second car. KV is still in the process of determining whether its second car will be run as a sole KV or joint KVSH entry, with team partner James “Sulli” Sullivan. Coyne’s second car, as always, remains a question mark.

This post may not answer any questions, but the read at this juncture is that there’s perhaps eight or nine drivers in contention for the final five seats on the IndyCar grid. It’s certainly a smaller list than earlier this winter; however, there’s still no telling who will gather the budgets necessary to fill the field, at what team and at what time.

  1. testover6370 - Feb 7, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    I hope Karam’s development deal with Ganassi works out. I used to root against Ganassi, but developed a big respect for Dario, love TK, growing respect for Kimble, can’t argue against Dixon’s talent, and really think Karam could be great for the future of Indycar.

    My wife’s pretty upset that Simona seems to be out of the running for any seats. It doesn’t make much sense to me right now. She closed the year strong and seemed to be in talks with multiple teams. Each time those broke down, the word I got was that she was the one who pulled out of the negotiations. I would love to know more about what is going on there. I know her management is unique, I wonder how they are factoring into this.

    • indycarseries500 - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      I’ve heard that about her management and other than them taking part ownership in the car, which really is just kind of a sponsorship, what would those issues would be?

      • testover6370 - Feb 7, 2014 at 2:32 PM

        I have heard her manager is very particular in her image and how she’s portrayed. He wants her to be the anti-Danica, marketed on her talent and not on looks or just the fact that she’s a woman or anything else like that. Be a very positive role model for other female racers. That’s a great a noble goal that I totally agree with, but how that comes across in practice may play a role in this. For example, maybe he felt that those seats that she was negotiating for wouldn’t market her image in the desired fashion, and thus they backed out of it. I have no idea if that actually is the case or not, but it could be a possibility.

      • testover6370 - Feb 7, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        Also he seems to be pretty hands on in that ownership role and I think that camp didn’t mesh well with the rest of the KV camp, including TK’s side of things. So it goes beyond just sponsorship into a more active, assertive role.

  2. spa67 - Feb 7, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    The sad thing is that it’s about how much money these drivers can bring to the team, not talent.

    To most racing has always been a mix of hired hands and sportsmen, but getting and Indy car ride used to really be about talent.

    Does anyone know how many of the guys on the grid are genuinely professional? If your not getting PAID to drive a race car then you are an amateur.

  3. bigdcart - Feb 8, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    It’s hard to get excited about any of this. Except for Filippi and perhaps Bird, the rest of the names are field filler. Having the same old pasty-faced drivers who gather 0.1 TV ratings in the front won’t do this Series any good. Maybe Formula E will have some excitement to offer.

    • indycarseries500 - Feb 8, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      Aren’t they just recycling drivers too? I don’t see any excitement in Formula E for the general public, sure there are big companies getting involved but it won’t draw much of a crowd.

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