Overheard at Pocono

Esteban Gutierrez
Esteban Gutierrez

It's been a mostly quiet day here at Pocono Raceway. The Verizon IndyCar Series is on-track for final practice before tomorrow's ABC Supply Co. 500 at Pocono Raceway.

Of course, this time of year, one of the big subjects on everyone's mind is Silly Season. As James Hinchcliffe told us following qualifying, in speaking about not only himself but the series in general, "there are a lot of balls in the air," regarding next season. Hinchcliffe is of course, one of the major dominoes in 2018 Silly Season, but if he knows where he's going following this year, well, he wasn't telling us.

One driver, who was a little more forthcoming and will also be a player in the IndyCar Musical Chairs, is Dale Coyne Racing's Esteban Gutierrez. The Mexican, of course, joined DCR after Sebastien Bourdais was injured at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.

While Gutierrez did not outright say he will be back in IndyCar next season, as you can see from this interview he did with AR1 President Mark Cipolloni on the AR1 YouTube channel, Gutierrez sounds very much like a man who will be driving Indy cars in 2018 and likely beyond. Whether that will be with Dale Coyne Racing, remains to be seen. Also, take note of Gutierrez's comments (interview below) of the rumored race in Mexico next season.

AR1 is hearing Santi Urrutia will very much factor into the 2018 IndyCar Silly Season
AR1 is hearing Santi Urrutia will very much factor into the 2018 IndyCar Silly Season

Another driver we hear is a big player in the 2018 Silly Season is Indy Lights driver Santi Urrutia. Word has it, the 20-year-old Uruguayan has much of the necessary budget already in place necessary to make the jump to the big cars; and this is even if he does not win the $1 million scholarship from the Lights title. Urrutia currently sits 42 points behind Indy Lights championship leader Kyle Kaiser – another very well-funded driver who will likely be in play for an IndyCar ride.

Someone who hopes to be a player in this year's Silly Season is Matthew Brabham. The grandson of three-time Formula One World Champion Jack Brabham won the 2012 U.S. F2000 and 2013 Pro Mazda Series championships and made two Verizon IndyCar Series starts last season, with a best finish 16th at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Brabham also made two Formula E starts for Andretti Autosport in 2014-2015 and has more recently competed in the Stadium Super Trucks Series.

While Brabham seemed more optimistic than previous times I've spoken with him, he essentially said that, wait, wait, wait…funding is the hold-up. No huge surprise there.

Another thing we heard is that the rumored 2nd Harding Racing entry (presuming the first comes to fruition) is likely to be Indy-only, and not full-time. Nonetheless, there is nothing really dampening the spirits over at the Harding Racing hauler this weekend. The Harding people, known throughout the paddock to enjoy a bit of a good time, are out in full force this weekend with their Nike Dry Fit Harding Racing hats and team shirts. And they've had plenty to cheer about, as Gabby Chaves qualified 8th for tomorrow's race.

One item of discussion in the paddock today was the idea of knockout-style qualifying, which IndyCar uses on road courses, for ovals. We polled a few of the drivers on the matter, and they were largely opposed to it, noting that different drivers vying for a tow would create unwanted randomness and undue shenanigans. "Absolutely, not!" was the reaction of one driver.

Anyway, we imagine that may be the last we hear of this for awhile.

We noticed here today that there are a lot of campers out by the exit of the Tunnel Turn; at least, going off the eye test more than we've seen in the previous five years. Could this forecast a better crowd tomorrow? We'll see. But talking to a few of the locals, promotion in and around the area has been stronger than in years past.

We'll have more tomorrow.

Brian C. reporting for AutoRacing1

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