Silly Season 2013: Who goes where and why — a look back

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on January 14, 2013 10:23 am

Back before the 2012 season finale at Auto Club Speedway, I made a number of  predictions on what I thought the extremely long IndyCar off-season had in store for fans. With the 2013 season opener at St. Petersburg fast approaching, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at my picks at this stage in the off-season and see just how clear my crystal ball was in hindsight.

My original prediction: Ryan Hunter-Reay stays at Andretti Autosport.

RHR proved me right on this one shortly before the season finale, and it appears to have been a great decision so far. On December 5, Andretti Autosport announced that RHR will campaign the champion’s #1 in 2013 and, in a nice bit of symmetry, will become the first driver to do so since 2006 when Andretti Green ran the number in the Indianapolis 500. Michael’s graphics team did a great job of incorporating the #28 into the #1 scheme so that Ryan could continue to raise cancer awareness while also returning to an IndyCar tradition that many fans hope will become a yearly tradition once again.

My original prediction: Graham Rahal signs with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

No surprises here as Graham and RLLR made this one official on November 14. The only question left is who, if anyone, will partner with Rahal in 2013. RLLR made news again shortly after Graham’s signing by bringing veteran engineer Eddie Jones into the fold to work on the second (as yet unannounced) car. Jones worked with Rubens Barrichello at KV Racing Technology last year, but Barrichello has already confirmed that he will depart the IZOD IndyCar Series to drive Brazilian stock cars in 2013. Where this leaves the second entry at RLLR remains to be seen, as information has been hard to come by where this ride is concerned.

My original prediction: Rubens Barrichello signs with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Well, I missed the boat on this one. I am still shocked that a driver of Rubens’s stature couldn’t put together the necessary $3-4 million (rumored) to make an IndyCar ride happen in 2013. Chip recently told Jenna Fryer that Ryan Briscoe is the only driver his team is considering for the fourth seat. That said, if someone comes up with a check, I would bet Chip would sing a different tune. The only hope now for seeing Rubens is a possible one-off in Brazil, but I wouldn’t even hold my breath on that one.

My original prediction: Justin Wilson stays at Dale Coyne Racing.

This one seems to be all but a done deal as Justin tested for the team at Sebring, but it would be nice if they would go ahead and make it official. (Justin confirmed via Twitter around that time that nothing was signed yet.) Dale Coyne Racing could really benefit from some better PR to make waves with great moves like retaining Justin, but alas, their Twitter account has fallen silent since September of last year. The team is currently trying to fill some positions, presumably for the second car, but this entry is not announced yet either and it is believed that James Jakes will go elsewhere in 2013.

My original prediction: Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing retains Oriol Servia.

Panther/DRR made this move official on December 4 with team owner Robbie Buhl declaring it a “no-brainer.” I agree wholeheartedly that this was the right move for this small team to retain stability in its ranks.

My original prediction: Panther Racing signs Ryan Briscoe.

I went out on a tiny limb with this one, and it appears that it is going to snap on me pretty soon. Briscoe was rumored to have been in the running for the AJ Foyt ride that eventually went to Takuma Sato, but he was reportedly turned down by Super Tex. Ryan still has options out there — most notably Ganassi — but in this economic climate, finding sponsorship unfortunately appears to be the only hope for Briscoe to make the 2013 grid, which is a real shame.

My original prediction: Tony Kanaan stays at KV Racing Technology.

KVRT wisely kept TK in the fold and, in an unexpected move, snapped up Simona de Silvestro from HVM Racing to partner with the feisty Brazilian. Seeing Simona in a competitive car is sure to put a big smile on a bunch of faces this year, and I for one am anxious to see how her talent shakes out against her more experienced teammate. KV had good race pace last year, but job number one has to be to find a way to pick up the pace in qualifying trim. Having another year with the same crew should help Tony’s chances in 2013.

My original prediction: Michael Shank Racing chooses Arie Luyendyk Jr.

The only Arie news lately is his testing of a Stadium Super Truck for the new Robby Gordon–owned series. There has been no more mention of anything IndyCar or Rolex Series related since September 6, making me think that perhaps a check didn’t clear. Mike announced his Rolex drivers at the Roar Before the 24 test in early January, and Arie was conspicuously absent there as well. The bigger question for Mike at this point is (still) whether he will have an engine to power his DW12. Has anyone in the IndyCar paddock ever tried longer than Mike to give someone his money without success? The fact that a first-rate team owner wants to be in IndyCar and can’t get any help is beyond aggravating.

My original prediction: AJ (Foyt) picks AJ (Allmendinger) to drive for AJ (Foyt Racing).

The Dinger seems determined to stay in NASCAR no matter how poor the equipment he is saddled with, having been rumored as a replacement for Travis Kvapil at BK Racing before eventually being announced as a partial season ride-sharer in the Phoenix Racing #51 entry with Regan Smith. The only other concrete plans Allmendinger has lined up for now are a return engagement with Michael Shank Racing at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with Justin Wilson, Ozz Negri, and John Pew. Allmendinger did say in interviews at the Roar Before the 24 test that he is still open to racing in any form of motorsport, and pacing the first two days of the test in the Michael Shank Racing machine surely helped prove that he still has what it takes behind the wheel.

AJ Foyt Racing, on the other hand, has been a busy team this off-season, albeit with some oddly timed moves. No sooner had the team signed Conor Daly to test at Sebring than word came down that Takuma Sato was the leader in the clubhouse for the vacant seat in the #14. With that move now official, it will be interesting to see how the Sato/Foyt combination meshes. Sato’s propensity for tearing up equipment could make for a volatile relationship with Mr. Foyt, and I wondered at first if a great test from Daly might allow him to push Sato out of that seat. Alas, Conor has announced that he will again race in Europe in 2013, with 2014 being a possibility for a return to America. So far, the word out of Sebring has been that Daly is the real deal behind the wheel, and signing the rising open-wheel star could have been a real coup for the IZOD IndyCar Series and the A.J. Foyt Racing team in particular. Let’s hope we can look forward to seeing Daly in another year’s time.

My original prediction: Penske’s third car goes to … the garage.

The Captain tried to give this ride to Tony Stewart for the Indianapolis 500, but Smoke declined citing the competitiveness in the Series as a deterrent. In a recent interview, Tim Cindric revealed the company’s plan to run the third entry only in selected events in 2013.  My guess is that someone gets a chance to trot this car out on Bump Day at Indy and perhaps for Roger’s home race in Detroit, but a full season doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

Picks I got right: 6

Picks I got wrong: 4

Rides still up for grabs: 5 (at least)
Ganassi Racing 4th entry
Rahal Letterman Lanigan 2nd entry
Sam Schmidt Motorpsports 2nd entry
Dale Coyne Racing 2nd entry
Michael Shank Racing