IndyCar 2015 Silly Season underway

Don't look now. But in 47 days, the Verizon IndyCar Series will conclude its 2014 season at Auto Club Speedway. Granted, there are still 6 races to run in what will no doubt be a grueling stretch run for the drivers and teams.

Still, with the end of the 2014 season fast approaching in this condensed season, it's not too early to start talking 2015. Today, AutoRacing1 will take a look at the 2015 IndyCar Silly Season.

Of course, scuttlebutt and reports have and will continue to surface regarding possible destinations of drivers. The information presented below is a product of numerous factors, such as the nuts-and-bolts info from team press releases and official announcements regarding the contractual status of drivers, and discussions AR1 has had with team personnel. While there is speculation/opinion interwoven into what is below, we've gone to great lengths to be clear on what is ‘official status' and what is speculative in nature.

Hopefully, this can serve as something of a guide, as we get ready for a Silly Season that has come earlier than usual.

A.J. Foyt Racing

Car Driver NAT Latest Report 2015 Status AR1 Rating
14 Takuma Sato JPN Sato was signed for 2014 in December (Source) Unsigned for 2015 Strong

Analysis: Despite two pole positions in 2014, the race results have left something to be desired. Whether Sato returns for a third season with the Foyt team probably won't be determined until the off-season, and will be dependent on sponsorship, Honda, and how well Taku performs during the second half of 2014.

And despite the unintended comedy the pairing of Sato and A.J. Foyt provided, we do know that the chemistry between Sato and the team is good. And one thing you have to say is that it's been a long time since someone has made an A.J. Foyt Racing car look as fast as Sato has in his season-and-a-half with the team.

Andretti Autosport

Car Driver NAT Latest Report 2015 Status AR1 Rating
25 Marco Andretti USA Andretti signed two year extension at end of 2013 (Source) Signed for 2015 Fact
26? Simon Pagenaud FRA Michael Andretti and Pagenaud have had discussions about a race seat for 2015. Pagenaud is unsigned for 2015 Speculation
27 James Hinchcliffe CAN Team has option on Hinchcliffe for 2015 (Source) Team has yet to exercise option Strong
28 Ryan Hunter-Reay USA RHR is unsigned as of yet for 2015 (Source) Free Agent Strong
34 Carlos Munoz COL Munoz is under contract with Andretti for 2015 (Source) Signed for 2015 Fact

Analysis: Half of the current Andretti lineup is set for 2015. While reports surfaced after the Indy 500 that Hunter-Reay was nearing an extension to stay with the team, there has been no formal announcement. Also, reports suggested that once Hunter-Reay's deal was complete, formalizing Hinchcliffe's plans for 2015 would be the next item on the agenda. However, throwing a bit of a curveball into things was the recent report that Andretti was speaking to Simon Pagenaud about a possible 2015 seat.

Is the report an indication Andretti is having difficulty resigning RHR? RHR has on many occasions, cited the desire for stability and noted that he has found a permanent home at Andretti Autosport. The 2014 Indy 500 winner, of course, spurned the advances of Roger Penske two years ago to stay with Andretti. One would imagine RHR will do the same this time around.

Further, what would a potential Pagenaud-to-Andretti scenario mean for the very popular Mayor of Hinchtown? Hinchcliffe's arrival at Andretti in 2012 is often cited as a key factor in the harmony that has characterized the unit over the past three seasons. Would Michael Andretti consider adding a fifth full-time car to his already vast racing empire? He did say the team has the capability to run five cars last summer when he pursuing Juan Pablo Montoya.

These questions and others should make the next few weeks interesting ones at Andretti Autosport.

Bryan Herta Autosport

Car Driver NAT Latest Report 2015 Status AR1 Rating
98 Jack Hawksworth ENG Hawksworth was signed for 2014 in March. (Source) Unsigned for 2015. Strong
?? Ryan Phinny USA Recently signed deal with team. (Source) Working towards IndyCar in 2015 Speculation

Analysis: Hawksworth was a surprise signing by the team prior to the 2014 season. The likable Brit, however, has made the most of his opportunity in the 98 car, showing speed on more than a few occasions.

While one never knows how exactly these deals come together, Hawksworth has displayed the talents in and out of the car to be someone to build a team around. And surely, Hawksworth's running at the front end of the field helped the team secure sponsorship for 2014 from Integrity Energee drink. Logic says these two will do what it takes to stay together in 2015.

As for Phinny, the release was somewhat vague. But we imagine he is working to some full or partial deal in the big cars for 2015.

Chip Ganassi Racing

Car Driver NAT Latest Report 2015 Status AR1 Rating
8 Ryan Briscoe AUS Briscoe and team announced a multi-year deal in November (Source) Signed for 2015 Fact
9 Scott Dixon NZL Dixon and Ganassi announced an extension through 2015 last summer (Source) Signed for 2015 Fact
10 Tony Kanaan BRA Kanaan and the team announced a multi-year agreement last fall (Source) Signed for 2015 Fact
83 Charlie Kimball USA We've seen nothing indicating Kimball is signed beyond this season (Source) Unsigned for 2015. Speculation
? Sage Karam USA Karam signed development deal with Ganassi in April (Source) Signed a long-term deal with Ganassi Racing but will Karam move to IndyCar? Speculation

Analysis: Remember, the #8 entry is a non-Leaders' Circle deal for 2014. Mike Hull told me at Iowa, that the team had gotten back up to 4 cars this season, and the “intent," is to continue that way is 2015.

Well, three drivers are at the very least, signed for 2015, with Kimball the only current driver unsigned. Could that be a spot for 2013 Indy Lights Sage Karam? Or will Kimball continue with Ganassi for a fifth season?

Dale Coyne Racing

Car Driver NAT Latest Report 2015 Status AR1 Rating
18 Carlos Huertas COL Last official announcement we heard was Huertas confirmed for St. Pete (Source) Officially, Huertas has yet to be confirmed for Toronto this weekend, much less 2015. Strong
19 Justin Wilson ENG DCR and Wilson agreed to a three-year extension in March of 2013 (Source) DCR has an option on Wilson for 2015. Incredibly Strong
63 Pippa Mann ENG AR1 reported at Pocono that Pippa and Coyne were talking about (Source) Undetermined Strong for a partial schedule
?? Gabby Chaves COL AR1 confirmed at Iowa that Chaves has spoken with team (Source) Undetermined Speculation

Analysis: Coyne has told us on numerous occasions that he is happy with the tandem of Wilson and Huertas, and believes that if they can sort out their qualifying woes, stronger runs are forthcoming.

For 2015, one would think this tandem would return intact with the potential of Mann and/or Chaves running a partial schedule. Or would Coyne consider expanding to three cars?

You never know.

Ed Carpenter Racing

Car Driver NAT Latest Report 2015 Status AR1 Rating
20 Mike Conway ENG Conway was confirmed to drive road and street courses for 2014 in November (Source) Unsigned Strong
20 Ed Carpenter USA Carpenter drives the ovals for the team he owns. No official word, but Carpenter does own the team. Fact
21 J.R. Hildebrand USA Hildebrand had a good month at Indy, and team has said they'd like to add J.R. full-time if possible. Unsigned Speculation

Analysis: This would fall into the category of unique situation, if there ever was one. Although Conway has not been officially announced, the team has expressed the desire to keep the current scenario intact going forward. And who could blame them.

Hildebrand, we suspect, will be a simple matter of sponsorship.

Fan Force United

Car Driver NAT Latest Report 2015 Status AR1 Rating
? Stefan Wilson ENG Wilson was recently announced to drive an FFU entry in 2015 (Source) Confirmed for 2015 Fact

Analysis: Wilson will drive a full season Fan Force United. No word on an engine supplier.

KV Racing Technology (KVSH Racing and KV/AFS Racing)

Car Driver NAT Latest Report 2015 Status AR1 Rating
11 Sebastien Bourdais FRA Bourdais signed a two-year deal with KVSH Racing last fall (Source) Signed for 2015 Fact
17 Sebastian Saavedra COL Saavedra was announced for 2014 only in February (Source) Not signed for 2015. Strong
? Bryan Clauson USA Running Indy in conjunction with Jonathan Byrd's racing (Source) Will run Indy 500 Indy 500 only
? Mikael Grenier CAN Signed as an affiliate driver prior to 2014 (Source) Not signed for 2015 Speculation

Analysis: Bourdais is a lock. We spoke to Jimmy Vasser at Iowa and he said they intend to keep the partnership with Saavedra and Gary Peterson going, so we'll rate that as strong. Vasser did also remind us the team does have the capacity to run three cars.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Car Driver NAT Latest Report 2015 Status AR1 Rating
15 Graham Rahal USA Rahal signed a two-year deal with RLL in 2012 (Source) As far as we know, Rahal is unsigned for 2015 Strong
16 Luca Filippi/Oriol Servia ITA/ESP Filippi ran at Houston and is running Toronto. Servia ran four races earlier this season No word on whether team will expand Total Speculation

Analysis: We imagine Graham Rahal will be back with his father's team. One has to wonder about the National Guard deal, and whether they will return.

Otherwise, no word.

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

Car Driver NAT Latest Report 2015 Status AR1 Rating
67 Josef Newgarden USA Newgarden signed a three-year deal prior to 2012 season (Source) Unsigned Strong/Speculation

Analysis: You can't help but root for Newgarden and the never-say-die SFHR team. But you get the sense that if young Josef is ever going to take that next step and become a regular contender for race wins, either SFHR will have to expand, or the Tennessee-native will need to move to a bigger team.

Although you have to think SFHR will do what it takes to resign Newgarden, the wildcard here is Newgarden himself.

For the first time in his young career, Newgarden is a free agent. It will be intriguing to see a) what interest is shown from elsewhere in the paddock and b) how determined Newgarden is to explore his options.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Car Driver NAT Latest Report 2015 Status AR1 Rating
7 Mikhail Aleshin RUS Aleshin signed a one-year deal in November (Source) Not signed Speculation
77 Simon Pagenaud FRA Pagenaud was confirmed in February for 2014 (Source) Not signed Speculation

Analysis: We don't have a whole lot of information here. We will say that Pagenaud looks to be the main domino in Silly Season 2015, not only for the team but the series.

Now, if the French-ace does make a move, what does that mean for SPM? Do they look at Newgarden, who won the 2011 Indy Lights title for Schmidt? Hard to say.

As for Aleshin, the rookie has been impressive at times, but we don't know the status of his funding.

Team Penske

Car Driver NAT Latest Report 2015 Status AR1 Rating
2 Juan Pablo Montoya COL Montoya signed with Penske in September. Nothing beyond this season was confirmed (Source) Unsigned to our knowledge Strong
3 Helio Castroneves BRA Castroneves was confirmed for 2014 with Montoya Unsigned to our knowledge Strong
12 Will Power AUS Same as Castroneves Unsigned to our knowledge Strong

Analysis: The press releases we've seen were not specific as to the number of years each driver is signed for. However Mark C. reported at Pocono that the Penske drivers are likely on one-year deals.

One the one hand, it's hard to see any major change at the team with all three drivers having won races, and Castroneves leading the points. One the other hand, this is Roger Penske we're talking about. Whatever tricks and guiles The Captain has up his sleeve, he has yet to ask for my input.

But I do know here are drivers he has been rumored to show interest in before (I'm thinking RHR, Newgarden and Pagenaud) that are as of this article on the market.

So while I can see him keeping the status quo, I am going to leave a little wiggle room for a potential Penske surprise.

To Review:

The following drivers and teams have contracts for 2015:

Car Driver Team
8 Ryan Briscoe NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing
9 Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi Racing
10 Tony Kanaan Target Chip Ganassi Racing
11 Sebastien Bourdais KVSH Racing
20 Ed Carpenter**** Ed Carpenter Racing
25 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport
34 Carlos Munoz Andretti Autosport
? Stefan Wilson Fan Force United

***For oval races

Their respective teams hold ‘options' on the following drivers for 2015:

Car Driver Team
19 Justin Wilson Dale Coyne Racing
27 James Hinchcliffe Andretti Autosport

In regards to other drivers, while there are varying chances of them returning with their respective teams, we have heard nothing official.

So what happens?

While I've spoken with some teams and have a general picture, I have not spoken with all. So, I want to be clear, that most of what remains is speculative.

That said, one has to believe the first domino in all this is Hunter-Reay. While the Indy 500 winner's inevitable resigning with Andretti has been assumed a formality, said formality has yet to occur. If/when RHR does sign with Andretti, one has to imagine that will bring the status of Pagenaud/Hinchcliffe and the potential of a fifth Andretti car into focus.

Following Pagenaud/Hinchcliffe, the next question to me becomes Newgarden. Like stated earlier the 23-year old American likely becomes an appealing option to SPM should Pagenaud move. Also, we have no precedent as to how Young Josef and SFHR are going to approach a Silly Season. Further, we'll probably gain a window into how the rest of the paddock rates the at-times electric Newgarden, who brings no apparent financial backing to the table.

Other driver/team combinations will surely be determined in the coming weeks. I just think the first items of business are likely the ones outlined above

Anyway, hopefully the above helps bring some clarity to Silly Season 2015. It should be an enjoyable one.

Brian Carroccio is a columnist for AutoRacing1. He can be contacted at

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