Monday, September 12, 2011

Vegas IndyCar: A Full Field Getting Fuller?

We'll have plenty to discuss for Japan this week, but I wanted to take a quick look at how the Las Vegas season finale is shaping up for IndyCar. This race has long intrigued me, and not just because of the points battles that it looks like it'll be deciding. This is the last time the current Dallara chassis will be run for the IZOD IndyCar Series, and it's a bit of a "smoke 'em if you got 'em" scenario. We're getting to see all sorts of part-timers and names that aren't regulars in the series.

Outside of the full-time rides, Vegas will bring Ed Carpenter (Sarah Fisher), Wade Cunningham (Sam Schmidt), Davy Hamilton (DRR), and Pippa Mann (Rahal Letterman Lanigan). Buddy Rice is confirmed as a second Panther car. Townsend Bell returns in a second/third car for Sam Schmidt. Paul Tracy will be subbing in the #22 car for Dreyer and Reinbold.

There are, of course, some other possibilities, which really have the potential to bump us past the 30-31 car threshold we're currently expecting. AFS Racing has long been expected to name a driver for the last two races of the year, with Katherine Legge's name being thrown around, along with a couple of others (although Legge would need to obtain her oval license). Jay Howard has hinted at having a deal on Twitter. Bryan Herta Autosport and Dan Wheldon have been thrown about as a possibility, though there doesn't seem to be much substantial there yet. Scott Speed was originally penciled in for Dragon Racing, though it looks as if that deal might be dead and gone. As usual, Tomas Scheckter's name has come up as a possibility, this time if Team Redline decides to give it one more go this year.
Might Jay Howard "Pop In" At Vegas?
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)

Additionally, there have been rumors that AJ Foyt might field an extra car for the finale. Along with this, there's always plenty of underlying buzz and noise--it's just a matter of waiting for the picture to become more clear as the wishful thinkers are separated from the concrete deals. Of course, one has to remember that it's just not a matter of having a chassis lying about; there's the budget to race and having an engine as well. Additionally, teams will still want a warmup in case of a practice or qualifying issue. Point being, although you might see a lot of cars out there, don't expect every Dallara chassis made since '03 to make an appearance.

Even though there's no $5 million challenger, I really feel watching the World Championship event take form over the last weeks of the season is going to be a lot of fun. It's a unique opportunity with a chassis seeing its sunset. Of course, as fans, we all have drivers we want to see again this year, whether it's Simon Pagenaud, Bruno Junqueira, Martin Plowman, or Bertrand Baguette. Others have expressed interest in giving Bryan Clauson his first IICS start. Ask a dozen IndyCar fans, and you'll get a dozen or more names.

We'll probably see a couple of drivers get their first and/or last shot at driving in this series, and I'm betting on at least one surprise deal that's announced in the next month. How it all comes together, and how the one-shots and part-timers compete with the full-time drivers, will be a big part of the intrigue to come. So while you're enjoying Japan and Kentucky over the next few weeks, keep your ear to the ground for Las Vegas rumors-they're only going to get louder.

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