Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Examining Indy’s Free Agent List

Last night, I was doodling around, trying to figure out some car count numbers for Indianapolis and the overall Month of May this year. There’s still way too many moving pieces for me to get a decent count (BREAKING: We will have at least 33), but it did get me really looking at the number of free agent drivers for this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Even if we’re just looking at folks with experience in the DW12, it’s quite a list. Excluding Simona de Silvestro, EJ Viso, Jean Alesi, and AJ Allmendinger, who are either done or seem as if they’ll be elsewhere come May, here’s the list:

Rubens Barrichello
Townsend Bell
Ana Beatriz
Bryan Clauson
Wade Cunningham
Conor Daly
JR Hildebrand
James Jakes
Michel Jourdain
Katherine Legge
Pippa Mann
Alex Tagliani
Tristan Vautier

Of course, some of these drivers might be pretty long shots to return back to the Indy 500, but I suppose you never know—I didn’t expect to see Jacques Villeneuve again, after all. Still, even discounting the unlikely returnees, what’s left is a pretty intriguing list. There’s at least a few of these drivers that appear to be sniffing around with some funding for May, and we might see a few (such as James Jakes) full-time when all is said and done.

Who will join the Indy field for 2014?
(Courtesy IndyCar Media. Image by Forrest Mellott).
But if you’re an owner, and you have some of these drivers with right around the same amount of money, who do you go with to fill your ride? Drivers like Alex Tagliani and Townsend Bell have shown what they can do for you at Indianapolis, of course, and they’d have to be towards to the top of the list. J.R. Hildebrand, Indy disappointments notwithstanding, has shown he can be as quick as anyone at IMS. Can a deal get put together for him. What about drivers like Michel Jourdain, who fell victim to a bizarre car issue last year, but ran a respectable race in 2012?

Conor Daly would be an intriguing one—he clearly has talent, but had some bad moments last May in his rookie outing (he's also mentioned elsewhere he thinks he'll have something for Indy). There are fan favorites like Pippa Mann, who’d be going for her third overall Indy try, and ciphers such as Tristan Vautier, who had a rough rookie season, but was +12 on positions moved up at the 500.

Of course, you don’t need a driver with ample DW12 experience to finish strong at Indy; AJ Allmendinger showed that in his rookie foray last season. But assume budgets can be put together, there’s a pretty wide variety of drivers out there with at least one DW12 Indy 500 under their belt that will be looking for a place to land this May. It’s hard for a any driver to pull an Al Unser, Sr. or Dan Wheldon and win as a one-off or part-timer, but part of the magic of the 500 is that it has and can happen.

(Update: Even though his last 500 was 2011, I'd be remiss in not mentioning this bit of speculation on Paul Tracy. Interesting to consider!).


  1. Rubens Barrichello is out of contention. He became F1 analyst for Brazilian TV and will be on Monaco GP broadcast in the very same day.

    And the IndyCar fans should consider themselves lucky for that.

  2. Buddy Rice too. Apparently Robby Gordon and Jay Howard are also interested. Bia's in a full season for Stock Car Brasil so I doubt she will be there.

  3. Yeah, I doubt very much Rubens or Bia will be there. Buddy Rice would be an interesting add, as well.