7 February 2012
2012 IndyCar grid taking shape
Many of the race seats for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series have now been snapped up, leaving those drivers without a deal scrambling for the few remaining openings.
With more driver signings being confirmed by the week, the remaining openings on the starting grid for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar season are the focus of increasingly desperate attempts to land a race seat for those still lacking a contract - including several big names.
Here's how the starting grid is looking early in February:
Fully confirmed line-ups
Ganassi: The Ganassi line-up remains the same as it did in 2011, with Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti returning to the 'top tier' Target Chip Ganassi #9 and #10 cars, Graham Rahal back in the #38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing car and Charlie Kimball once more back in the #83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing seat. All four cars will be running Honda engines.
Team Penske: Penske will also be fielding an unchanged line-up, despite some uncertainty toward the end of 2011 that a lack of sponsorship might force them to slim down to a two-car line-up that might have forced Ryan Briscoe out of the squad. Instead, Briscoe is now confirmed back in the #2 with Helio Castroneves in the #3 Penske car and Will Power running the #12. All three cars will be powered by Chevrolet engines.
Bryan Herta Autosport: After the team's shock victory in the 2011 Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon, BHA will be hoping Alex Tagliani will be able to pick up the driver's baton in the #98 in their first full season back in IndyCar. They have the edge of having been involved in the summer testing of the new Dallara DW12 chassis and will be relying on Lotus engine power for its single-car line-up.
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing: Sarah Fisher's team has found a new co-owner to replace the backing of departed long-time sponsor Dollar General, and celebrates with new talent behind the wheel in the form of Firestone Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden in the sole #67 car. The team says that an engine agreement is in place, but it has not yet been announced.
Ed Carpenter Racing: Sarah Fisher Racing's 2011 driver Ed Carpenter gifted the team their maiden win in the final completed race last season at Kentucky, but then confirmed he was leaving to set up his own squad co-owned with former IRL chairman Tony George. Unsurprisingly, Carpenter will be at the wheel of the team's sole #20 entry, but the make of engine is still to be confirmed.
All seats filled, possible extra seats to be added
Andretti Autosport: Despite a disappointing 2011 season as a whole for the team, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay both claimed race wins and are back in the line-up for 2012 in the #26 and #28 cars. Danica Patrick and Mike Conway have both departed, leaving the mantle of the "Go Daddy Driver" now in the hands of Canada's James Hinchcliffe in the #27 car. A fourth car is possible, with team boss Michael Andretti putting the odds at 60%. The team are switching to Chevrolet engines for the upcoming season.
Sam Schmidt Motorsports: After working hard in 2011 in test sessions and as a "super-sub" stand-in, French supercars star Simon Pagenaud is finally ready to start a full season in IndyCar with the Honda-powered Sam Schmidt squad. Pagenaud will be in the #77 car; SSM were initially optimistic about putting together a second car to partner Pagenaud for the year, but the odds on that are said to be declining by the day.
AJ Foyt Enterprises: Mike Conway claimed his first race win in IndyCar in 2011 at Long Beach, but after that the season at Andretti Autosport proved something of a damp squib. He'll be hoping that a change of scene and the support of racing legend AJ Foyt will get him back to the podium now he's in charge of the #14 ABC Supply car powered by Honda. It's currently the team's only entry in 2012, although a second car has been mooted.
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