There’s been a lot to cover these past few days, so if you’ve missed some of the more recent developments, let’s go over them:
-The Takuma Sato/Foyt Racing deal mentioned by Marshall Pruett earlier this week would no doubt result in some hilarity, but I admit, I’d be surprised if that were the choice. I really thought Sato might end up elsewhere, but there is the Honda connection, of course. If Sato’s funds, combined with the ABC Supply money, gets the #41 entry onto the grid, that will be fantastic. Conor Daly’s test with Foyt is cool in and of itself, but there are many drivers we’d all love to see in a seat. Foyt might be one of the best chances to add a seat for next year in a still-stabilizing grid scenario…
Meanwhile, we Sato fans wait. We know--we just know--that one day, some day, Taku will not only finish the race, but win. Laugh at us, scorn us, but one day, on the last lap, he'll have a collision--with victory.
-Tristan Vautier’s seat fitting at Sam Schmidt Motorsports raised some eyebrows, and perhaps even throws further into question Rubens Barrichello’s joining that team. Neither driver seemed to have particularly rosy funding news, at least publicly, so this will remain a wait-and-see until we firmly see something more concrete out there. It would be extremely interesting to see how a 2nd SSM entry would play out, and if it could match anywhere near the strength of Simon Pagenaud’s car this past season.
-I like the basic look of Andretti’s line up for next year, but there remain some question marks. The return of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, and James Hinchcliffe looks great, and I’m happy to see Carlos Munoz return for another year of Lights with the team. Zach Veach should be interesting to watch, to figure out just where he’s at in terms of development, and Shelby Blackstock has been a pleasant surprise as he moves up the ladder to Star Mazda. We’ll still wait and see what’s remaining for their USF2000 slots and their other potential Star Mazda ride, but you have to wonder where Sage Karam fits into all of this. I would like to see him back for one more year of Star Mazda, personally, but I would say that of Zach Veach, as well. There’s also still the possibility we see a smaller team pair with Andretti for some manner of program for next year (ala Conquest this year), so I don’t think the book is closed on their announcements just yet.
-Am I ok with Ryan Hunter-Reay running the #1 car next year? The answer is a resounding yes! The #1 is a fine tradition for a champion, and I'm pleased that Andretti and RHR feel the same way. We’ve haven’t had that since Sebastien Bourdais’s ChampCar run, so it’ll be nice to see it return. The way I look at it, the team and driver have earned it. It’s a proud symbol of that accomplishment. Hopefully, the trend will continue in 2014—whether RHR or another driver wins it all.
-As for Marco Andretti moving to the #25 from the #26, perhaps it'll do him some good, and put the demons of this past season(s) to bed.
-Let's state the obvious: Fuzzy's Vodka has been a very, very good partner so far in IndyCar. Their sponsoring of the Triple Crown for next season is another great sign that they continue to increase their involvement. They've already been in Victory Circle once with their driver; now they'll have even more airtime.
-Here’s some fun trivia for you: assuming he drives the entire 2013 campaign for Panther/DRR, this will be the first time Oriol Servia has driven two consecutive complete seasons for the same team since he ran in Indy Lights. He’s done 1 season, even 1.5 seasons with just one team, but never two full seasons. (We’ll count his time with DRR before the merger as the same team). Hopefully, the quintessential veteran journeyman driver has found a home.
-Finally, I wanted to make a brief comment on the upcoming change of ownership at Star Mazda: USF2000 owner Dan Andersen looks to take over, and I’d call that about as close to a best-case scenario as I can conceive for the junior open wheel ladder. Andersen has done a fine, conscientious job with USF2000, and I’d look forward to that same level of expertise and excellence once the ink is dry and he assumes control there. It was disconcerting to hear of the Star Mazda upheaval, but it sounds as if it will all end well. Thank goodness—racing as good as that needs a stable platform and stage.