I will admit, I was having trouble filling some seemingly obvious holes in my silly season graph. But thanks to the wonderful work of Marshal Pruett, I feel there is enough information to finally start talking competently about the 2012 driver situation. The following graph contains what I would consider locks or near locks. Question marks denote a car that has been heavily speculated as being an open seat, but with no real confirmation or funding. Asterisk denotes a confirmed entry with other information; driver, sponsor or engine, still up in the air.
My first major question is, will any of these second cars actually materialize? Panther, HVM, SSM, AJ Foyt and Coyne are all one car operations that consistently have a second seat linked to them. I don’t expect any of these teams to be able to find funding on their own to run the mysterious second car. Now HVM, with the help of the Lotus money, could make a second program work, but will it happen? Doubt it.
There are also question marks beside Sato, Viso and Kanaan. I am almost sure that at least Kanaan and Sato have tested the new chassis and engine for their respective engine manufacturers. I am curious as to the hold up for these two drivers; if they have driven the car already wouldn’t you think the deals were signed and sealed?
There are three teams; Conquest, Dragon, and Davey Hamilton Racing, that are not sure as to what type of program, or even if they will contest the 2012 season. I can see Dragon taking a swing at the 500 if the cards fall right for them, same with DHM. Conquest is the real question mark. A confirmed participant in the ALMS; I would hope the team can make an indycar program materialize. As a destination for many rookies and drivers looking to make their first foray into the world of American Open Wheel Racing, Conquest is a very important cog in the series. I would hate to see them go.
With this information, we can start to make some educated guesses about the actual size of the field. Amid early concerns that we would have trouble breaking into the 20’s, it seems like we will have quite the healthy field next year.
3 to 4
1 to 2
1 to 2
1 to 2
1 to 2
From my count, I see a minimum of 25 full season rides. I refuse to believe that Andretti will run anything less than three cars, and I just don’t really see any of those 1 or 2 counts to actually increase above one chassis.
One has to wonder how good of shape ECR, SFHR and Coyne are doing with no engine lease deal signed as of yet. Carpenter’s and Fisher’s teams seem sound having confirmed drivers, sponsors and new homes. But it is Coyne’s operation I fear most in missing the grid. As Dale was recovering from injury, nothing was getting accomplished on the team side. He has no driver, sponsor, or engine and I am starting to fear that Coyne may miss the season. That would be another blow to the series as Coyne has really stepped his game up in recent years. I considered him a strong backmarker last year as opposed to an also-ran. A big improvement.
Finally, there is a healthy contingent of unemployed drivers. I have added the team that said driver seems to be linked to. This is blind speculation, but the way some of these drivers and teams talk they may be all but announced.
Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay seem like the two drivers who are all but announced. I cannot think of a better fit for the Go Daddy #7 than Hinch. And RHR would continue to fit into the advertising campaign of the teams quite well. Andretti could be quite the tough team next year. Past this, things get a bit trickier. Wilson, although a hit commodity, seems to be making some noise in the DRR camp along with Legge. I am unsure what to make of all of this due to the teams ironclad silence.
The Coyne situation, as I laid out earlier, is heavily dependent on funding. I believe that Dale would like to come back with a full ride for Bourdais and Jakes but I really don’t see both programs coming to St Pete. One has to wonder where the Boy Scouts if America is at. I know they were not a sponsor, per say, because they brought next to no money, but it was an awesome program.
Beatriz, Tracy and Legge are the best funded drivers that are left on the list. PT supposedly has two million but no one want to play with him. He burned quite a few bridges so I can’t say I blame teams for their hesitation. A few weeks ago I tough we would hear Legge’s plans for 2012 as she started making some noise, but everything has gone silent on that front.
Unfortunately no word on anything has come from the Servia or Tagliani camp. I would hate to see these two guys, who have toiled around with partial schedules since unification, lose their full time rides they have worked so hard to get. As for the rest of them, Beatriz included, I don’t feel that a full time ride is completely out of the picture quite yet, but a partial schedule is probably the most realistic thing they can hope for.
With nearly three month until the season opener at St Petersburg, there is still a huge amount of time for these seats to shuffle. However, thinking back to years past, I don’t think we have had this clear of a picture of the next season this early in the year. The car counts look healthy and the teams look strong. It will be very interesting to see how it all plays out after the heavy hitters of Servia and Wilson, and the other top-of-list guys; Bourdais, Hinch and Tags finally get seats lined up. I bet there will be quite the mad dash to finish filling seats once February rolls around.
Happy Holidays (yes, a bit late…) from anotherindycarblog