Monday, December 5, 2011

Silly Season Roundup, Post-Newman/Haas News

Sometimes silly season feels like some alternate version of Noah's Ark. You're hoping as many folks as possible get on the boat before the rains come.

It's tough at times, because when you get to know even a few of the drivers, it hits home that some are going to get to live the dream, and others are going to be sitting on their couch, waiting for that phone to ring. It's part of the reason tracking silly season developments can become so time-consuming. Yeah, things work themselves out in the end, but it's a cliffhanger until it happens.

The news of Newman/Haas sitting out 2012 certainly kicked up a big cloud of dust in terms of seeing who is going where next season. Here's an attempt to sift through and see what we can tell so far in terms of silly season expectations.

What We Know

-Alex Tagliani (Bryan Herta Autosport), Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan), and Simon Pagenaud (Sam Schmidt Motorsports) are basically locks at the teams indicated. Go ahead and pencil these ones in.

What We Think We Know (For Now)

-James Jakes and Sébastien Bourdais seem very likely to both be back at Dale Coyne Racing.

-Vitor Meira is being looked at for a seat at KV Racing.

-If EJ Viso returns, the best chance right now is that he'll be back with KV Racing as well.

-The Josef Newgarden to Sarah Fisher Racing rumor (which I laughed off last week), seems to actually be picking up steam. Newgarden seems to have something cooking for 2012, and this might be it. Oh, and don't forget the Honda engine deal, which I would anticipate hearing something on sooner rather than later. That's good news for the Little Team That Could if it holds. I'm still not sure where this team stands with sponsorship, but Newgarden's Lights scholarship money and TEAM money for running a full season would sure help.

-Jay Howard seems to have something going for 2012. Just how big of a deal I'm not sure, but I keep wondering about him and that second Rahal seat.

-Bryan Clauson's scholarship deal for 2012 is still working out. While there's a chance it could contain a shot at the Indy 500, the expectancy of road course events lower on the ladder is certainly expected.

-I didn't think Panther would run a second car this year, but with some of the rumblings out that shop, I've got to upgrade it from a Doubtful to a Possible.

What We Don't Know

-SERIOUSLY, JUSTIN WILSON, JUST ANNOUNCE A TEAM ALREADY. We keep hearing Andretti Autosport, but until I hear actually announced, it remains the key missing step in a busy offseason.

-Where Oriol Servia and James Hinchcliffe end up. After last year's season, you'd have to think Servia's being  chatted up by just about any team with hope of a funded seat, and Hinchcliffe seems like a natural fit for the GoDaddy seat at Andretti (although if Wilson goes to AA, that puts Hinch gunning for the fourth car, possibly?).

-Just how many cars we're going to have full-time in 2012. My current guess is 27-28, but we have to see if the 4th Andretti car, 3rd KV car, and items like a potential second car at Foyt or Sam Schmidt to materialize.

-The fate of Alex Lloyd, Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman, Pippa Mann, Tomas Scheckter, Paul Tracy, Wade Cunningham, and many other drivers.

So what next? Well, the expectation is that we see a couple of driver announcements very shortly. Hopefully, with announcements heating up before Christmas, we can fill in a few more blanks before the New Year. Let's hope we get as many on that boat as possible.

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