The upcoming 17-race Verizon IndyCar Series season will have a new look for its 2018 campaign.
The cars look different than before, now that the series has opted for a universal aero kit, letting the three-year experiment with Chevrolet and Honda body styles go by the wayside.
There are changes to teams competing, with Team Penske dropping back to three cars from four, as popular star Helio Castroneves joins the Captain’s IMSA Acura squad, leaving behind three of the four most recent series champs: Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden.
Chip Ganassi Racing has opted to continue as a two-car team, with Scott Dixon and newcomer (to the team, anyway) Ed Jones. Jones comes to CGR from Dale Coyne Racing, which retains the services of Sebastien Bourdais for another year of racing. As is his custom, Dale will announce his second driver when he’s good and ready. In previous years, that’s often been on the first day of practice at the first race of the year.
There will be new teams to follow, including Carlin, who move up from Indy Lights to the Big Show with Chevrolet power. The versatile team led by Trevor Carlin is utilizing the talents of two drivers with whom they’ve worked in the past, who are both CGR veterans: Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball. Having the services of racers with a good deal of experience on the the series’ venues will be helpful to Carlin, as will the fact that both drivers are familiar with the team’s procedures.
There will be part-timers working their way into the Indy car series, with Juncos Racing taking a pair of rookies to four races each – this even as the team continues to field entries in INDYCAR’s Mazda Road to Indy ladder series. Juncos’ 2017 Indy Lights champ Kyle Kaiser gets four opportunities to race a Chevy-powered Indy car, as does Austrian Rene Binder.
Kaiser makes his debut at ISM (formerly called Phoenix International Raceway), races at Long Beach the following week and takes up his third and fourth contests at Indianapolis, contesting the Indianapolis Grand Prix and the 102nd Indianapolis 500. Binder’s all-road-course campaign begins with the series opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., then continues to Barber Motorsports Park, on the streets of Toronto and at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Another part-timer is Michael Shank Racing. Shank, who won the 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona GrandAm race, has been attempting to join INDYCAR since 2011, when he purchased new DW12 chassis in the hopes of finding an engine deal for 2012. That never happened, so he continued to run sports car races in IMSA, as he will in 2018.
Last year Shank entered the 101st Indy 500 with two-time Indy Lights runner-up Jack Harvey; they qualified 27th but were taken out in contact with Conor Daly. The pair will race together four times this year, using a technical partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, who ran Harvey’s Lights program. The Honda-powered team intends to race on the St. Petersburg and Long Beach street circuits, the 102nd Indy 500 and season-closing contest on the Sonoma Raceway permanent road course.
It looks like INDYCAR will have a solid 22 entries for much of the year, and additions from time to time that should create even more interest in the series. The season doesn’t get underway in St Petersburg, Fla. until the second weekend of March; pre-season testing takes place in early February on the ISM (Phoenix) mile oval.