INDYCAR has a few reasons to celebrate the 2017 holiday season.
It has two new full-time teams entering the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series campaign, with Harding Racing taking on a full season next year after running three races with 2014 Indy Lights champion Gabby Chaves; Colombian/American Chaves continues with the team in 2018 in a Chevrolet-powered Indy car. They are based in Indianapolis and have secured the managerial talents of Brian Barnhart, Larry Curry and Al Unser Jr.
Joining them on the grid is Trevor Carlin’s team, which will field two Chevrolets for two drivers returning to the squad who have been teammates the past two years at Chip Ganassi Racing: Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball. Mega-team Carlin, which has its successful tentacles in a variety of European-based ladder series, comes to INDYCAR from the Indy Lights series, where it spent the 2015-2017 seasons, earning the 2016 title with new Chip Ganassi Racing hire Ed Jones. Carlin, based in Delray Beach, Fla. will have an Indianapolis satellite shop, as does A.J. Foyt Racing.
In addition, Juncos Racing, which prepped two cars last year for the 101st Indianapolis 500, has promoted 2017 Indy Lights champ Kyle Kaiser to drive their Indy car, also powered by Chevrolet, for at minimum a four-event campaign, including the 102nd Indy 500. Ricardo Juncos, who came to this country with nearly nothing, earned both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights championships last year and will continue with those programs, making for a very busy Speedway, Ind. shop.
Finally, Michael Shank Racing, which ran for the first time at Indianapolis last year with Jack Harvey after trying to put together a program when the new DW12 chassis entered competition in 2012, has upped for six contests in coordination with technical partner Schmidt Peterson Racing. Driver Harvey, also an Indy Lights graduate, will drive the colorful No. 60 Honda-powered Indy car for Shank, who continues to run IMSA’s WeatherTech series with an NSX GT3 program. He, too, will be a busy guy throughout this coming year, racing both sports cars and Indy cars.
With the advent of a new, single Dallara-built aero kit for all teams, INDYCAR removed the onus for Chevrolet and Honda of competing with both their engines and aero kits. At most races, the 2015-2017 Chevy aero kits flummoxed Honda, but the Japanese manufacturer did manage to whip the BowTie brand at Indianapolis the past two years.
The change makes for a level playing field, even for new entries like Carlin, Harding, Juncos and Shank. While two of these four teams won’t be racing the entire season, they’ll at least be able to get the lay of the land and plot their moves forward in the Verizon IndyCar Series. As the number of distinct full-time entries increases from eight to 10, there should be at minimum 22 cars for the 17-race campaign.