The 2016 Verizon Indycar Series Season went out with a bang. Simon Pagenaud finally claimed his first Indycar Series Championship by 127 points over Will Power. 2016 also saw the 100th running of the greatest spectacle in racing, the Indianapolis 500 mile race. Young rookie and former Manor F1 driver Alexander Rossi claimed victory in the historic race, and will be back to defend his Indy 500 title. 2017 will see a massive shake up in drivers, sponsors, and schedule. With the biggest announcement being sponsor Target leaving Chip Ganassi Racing after 27 years of involvement. Target’s announcement stunned the Indycar world and will be leaving Scott Dixon without a primary sponsor -a replacement has yet to be announced.
Plenty of Changes Arise for the 2017 Verizon Indycar Series Season
The biggest schedule change of 2017 is the return of Gateway Motorsports Park to the schedule. Gateway last hosted a race in 2003 that was won by Helio Castroneves. Another major change is that the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix will move to last weekend of April due to conflict with the nearby University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona hosting the NCAA Men’s basketball Final Four. The final big change is the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis which will be rebranded to just the Grand Prix of Indianapolis as sponsor Angie’s List will not be returning.
There were two big manufacturer changes coming into 2017. The first being that Chip Ganassi Racing – who ran Chevrolet engines for the past three season – announced that they will be switching back to Honda power. The team ran Honda engines from 1996-1999 and 2006-2013. The other change will be coming from A.J Foyt Enterprises who announced that they are working on a deal to switch from Honda to Chevrolet for 2017. The deal has yet to be officially finalized.
Driver Changes/ Lineups
A.J Foyt Enterprises
The team announced that 2016 drivers Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth would not be returning in 2017. The team opted however to hire American Conor Daly and Colombian Carlos Munoz. Daly, who has experience in both GP3 and GP2, made his Indycar debut in 2013. Since then, the has amassed four top ten finishes, one top five finish and a podium from a second place finish at the 2016 Duel at Detroit Race 1. Munoz on the other came up short at the 100th Indy 500 just missing out on the historic win. Munoz made his debut in 97th running of the Indy 500 where he won rookie of the year and finished runner up to Tony Kanaan. Since then, he has amassed 11 top tens, four top fives, six podiums and one career win at the 2015 Duel at Detroit Race 1.
A few things will stay the same at Andretti Autosport. #27 car will continue to be piloted by Marco Andretti who looks for his first win since 2011. #28 car will be piloted by its long time driver and 2012 Indycar Series Champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay. Finally, the #98 car which is run in conjunction with Bryan Herta and Curb- Agajanian Motorsports, will be piloted by defending Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi. The only change at Andretti Autosport for 2017 is addition of the former BAR F1 driver from Japan, Takuma Sato. Sato made the transition to Indycar from F1 in 2010 after leaving F1 in 2008. He scored his first career win at the 2013 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and since then, has tallied 20 top ten finishes, seven top fives and four podium finishes. Sato will look to end his winless streak in 2017.
Chip Ganassi Racing
CGR’s 2017 line up will remain the same. The 2017 roster will consist of former Marussia F1 driver Max Chilton in the #8, New Zealander, Scott Dixon will be back in the #9, Tony Kanaan will be back in the #10, and American racer Charlie Kimball will return in the #83 with backing from Novo Nordisk.
Dale Coyne Racing
Dale Coyne Racing had opted not to resign any of the drivers who raced with them in 2016. That means that Luca Filippi, Gabby Chaves, Pippa Mann and RC Enerson would not return. However this opens the door for two new racers. The first is Emirati racing driver Ed Jones. Jones won the 2016 Indy Lights championship by 3 points over Santiago Urrutia. Jones will be behind the wheel of the #18 Honda. The other driver joining Dale Coyne will be former Toro Rosso F1 racer, Sebastien Bourdais. Bourdais makes the move over from KVSH Racing Technology. Bourdais has 31 Champ Car wins with four series titles. Moving over to Indycar in 2011 he tallied four more wins in the series.
Ed Carpenter Racing
ECR will see the return of Ed Carpenter for rounds four, six, nine, 11, 14-15 of the season. The other driver filling in during the remaining races will be Spencer Pigot. Pigot won the 2015 Indy Lights Championship, and made his Indycar debut at the 2016 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. His best finish is a seventh place coming at Mid-Ohio. The team will also see the departure of Josef Newgarden, he will be replaced by JR Hildebrand. Hildebrand is most famous for his last corner crash at the 2011 Indy 500. Hildebrand won the 2009 Indy Lights Championship and scored his best Indycar Finish at the fateful 2011 Indy 500. Hildebrand will look for his redemption in 2017.
Rahal- Letterman- Lanigan Racing
Graham Rahal will return to drive the #15 Honda. Rahal will be looking for his first championship in 2017. Spaniard Oriol Servia will also be with the team for rounds six-eight in the #16 car. Servia will be looking for his first win since 2005.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
2017 marks no changes at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Canadian James Hinchcliffe and Russian Mikhail Aleshin will be manning the #5 and the #7 cars respectively.
There are a few changes over at Team Penske but things will mostly be the same. Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Helio Castroneves will be returning to the team. Juan Pablo Montoya will be downgraded to a part time ride for 2017. Montoya will be only running the 101st Indy 500 in the #22 car. The newest addition to the Team Penske organization is Josef Newgarden. Newgarden will be moving over from Ed Carpenter Racing and will look to win his first championship title in 2017.
Teams with unannounced plans for 2017
KVSH Racing Technology
With the departure of Sebastien Bourdais, the team has not yet announced their 2017 plans. Stefan Wilson raced for the team last season, but has not announced a return.
Dreyer Kleinbold Racing
Sage Karam raced for Dyreyer Kleinbold Racing last year. Karam’s plans as well as the plans of the team are yet to be announced
Lazier Burns Racing
It is most likely that this team will return at Indianapolis with driver Buddy Lazier. No formal announcement has been made however as of yet.
Johnathan Byrd’s Racing
It is unknown what will happen to this team after the unfortunate death of their driver Bryan Clauson. The team has yet to make a formal announcement for 2017.
Pirtek Team Murray
Driver Matthew Brabham ran rounds five-six last season for this team. It is unknown if the team or Brabham will return.
Drivers with unknown plans for 2017
Alex Tagliani – Ran the Indy Weekend last season with A.J Foyt Enterprises.
Townsend Bell – Usually runs the Indy 500. Ran it last season with Andretti Autosport.
Sage Karam – Ran the Indy 500 last season with Dreyer and Kleinbold Racing.
Luca Filippi- Let go from Dale Coyne Racing.
Pippa Mann- Let go from Dale Coyne Racing.
RC Enerson- Let go from Dale Coyne Racing
Gabby Chaves- Let go from Dale Coyne Racing.
Jack Hawksworth- Let go from A.J Foyt Enterprises.
Matthew Brabham- Ran the Indy 500 with Pirteck Team Murray. Plans Unknown.
Buddy Lazier- Usually runs the Indy 500 with his own race team. No formal announcement as of yet.
Stefan Wilson- Ran the Indy 500 last season with KVSH Racing Technology. Plans Unknown.
The 2017 IndyCar Season is set to see the debuts of new faces and the returns of some old ones, for an exciting mix of talent. The 101st running of the Indy 500 will take place and the amount of competitive drivers is higher that it’s ever been. Sadly though, the Indycar Series will say goodbye to one of its own.
Bryan Clauson was killed in a Sprint Car accident in last August, and his death was a shock to the community. The 2017 season will go on in his memory, Clauson won the 2016 Indycar Fan Favourite driver award posthumously.
The 2017 Verizon Indycar Series season will kick off when the drivers thunder into St. Petersburg, Florida for the first race of the season. The green flag for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will wave March 12th 2017.