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Silly Season is kicking it into high gear. Rumors and facts are flying around like crazy and it's hard to tell what is happening, and where it's happening.
This is the season of deciphering bablefish translations from various countries. This is the season of sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to see who will and won't show up. This is the season that makes you go moan and complain. But ultimately, this is simply the precursor to the season that really matters. Once the 2010 Izod Indycar Series season starts, the Silly Season is just a thing of the past.
But until that happens, Silly Season is all we have to go by (asides from a bunch of different designs for 2012). So I figure I'll go through each team and see what is happening driver wise.
Rumors have been flying around about anything from a 3 car team (Rahal, Lloyd, Mutoh) to a 0 car team. There are problems at the ownership level according to Robin Miller and that is causing problems. Sounds like Lanigan will soon not be part owner of the team.
Right now, Hideki Mutoh has just been confirmed by Autosport and a few other publications as solidifying his ride at NHL Racing in 2010. That guarentees NHL Racing will stay on the grid in 2010 which is a very good thing. I guess it's possible they put together a package for Rahal or Lloyd is able to get his HER Energy sponsorship back in line before the season begins. But as for right now, it seems as though NHL will be a 1 car team in 2010.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing
TCGR seems set with two cars between Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. Efforts to put Graham Rahal in the third car are probably still on going, but Chip made it sound like it won't happen, mentioning that all sponsorship possibilities were for the 2011 season. Unless something major happens, look for Ganassi to be a two car team in 2010, a very good two car team.
Team Penske/Penske Racing
Roger Penske has set his organization up well with a 3 car effort in 2010. You've got to think that Ryan Briscoe wants to make up for his disappointing ending to 2009, and he has Helio Castroneves and Will Power pushing him. Any three of these guys are 2010 Championship contenders, and expect them to be battling with Ganassi as usual.
After a tough off-season and questions surrounding the team and who would be driving for it in 2010, I feel like we got some sort of confirmation from Robert Doornbos via Twitter that he will be racing this season with HVM (through E-Factor sponsorship, I believe). Don't take that as confirmation, but I'm thinking it's a distinct possibility.
As for Simona de Silvestro, I'm not sure how that's going to go. I know she tested a FIL car on an oval, and testing one of HVM's Dallara's on a road course with Stargate colors on her car, however, the producers of the Stargate games just went bankrupt, so we'll see what effect that has on her ability to land a 2010 ICS ride with their backing.
So in 2010, expect Robert Doornbos to land on the grid with HVM. Asides from that, Simona de Silvestro has an outside shot at the second seat, if she can find the money to drive that car.
Between Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, and Danica Patrick, Michael Andretti has set himself up well for a good three car squad in 2010. Add to that the potential of Ryan Hunter-Reay running anywhere from 5 events to the full season, you have to think that Andretti Autosport is ready to jump back into competition near the top of the field with Ganassi and Penske. Tony Kanaan now has RHR to share setup information with, which will then be used by Marco and Danica.
Expect AA to run back where they belong, up front with the big boys in 2010 with 3-4 cars depending on where they are and how much money they find.
KVRT are the big movers this offseason. In 2009 they ran 1 car for Mario Moraes, and a second car at selected races for Paul Tracy. Now, after struggling all off-season to find sponsorship for Mario Moraes, they seem poised to run 3 cars full time between Takuma Sato (Confirmed), E.J. Viso (Not confirmed, but close enough), and James Rossiter (Not comfirmed, but very rumored). Add Paul Tracy at selected events, that makes 4 cars at KVRT every now and then quite possible.
KVRT also apparently signed Nelson Merlo, a Brazilian, for the opening round of the championship in Sao Paolo.
Then you wonder what happens to Mario Moraes. The kid had problems with funding once his father passed away, but Curt Cavin said he believed Moraes had his finances figured out and would be returning to Indycars this season. So does this mean KVRT will run 4 full time cars in 2010? Or will Moraes have to bring his skills elsewhere?
This former power house 1 car team seems set to continue in it's ways. Dan Wheldon is back at Panther in 2010, mainly since there were no other openings available. There were rumors that Giorgio Pantano would bring money for a second Panther car, but those rumors have died down substantially.
Expect one National Guard Panther Racing car in 2010.
Luczo Dragon/De Ferran Racing
Luczo Dragon picked up a strong ally in Gil de Ferran this past week. With Raphael Matos returning to his seat full time in 2010, this team looks keen to build on a good rookie season.
In the presser, the team was asked about running a second car, to which they said they were planning on 1 car, but working on some new developments for a second car. Maybe look for Ana Beatriz in the second car, or maybe even Graham Rahal if Gil can pull something out of his rear end.
FAZZT Race Team
This team is set with 1 car for 2010. Sponsorship hasn't really been announced aside from the opening race, but Alex Tagliani will be driving the number 77 Dallara.
Expect a second car from them for Indianapolis and maybe the two Canadian races. Daniel Morad and James Hinchcliffe have been rumored for the second seat at those races.
The biggest question surrounding Conquest is whether they will get to the grid or not. Rumors are flowing that they could field anywhere from 1-3 pay drivers are various races throughout the season. Names like Jan Heylan, Bruno Junqueira, and Ana Beatriz have been rumored, with Bruno and Jan attending the winter meetings with Eric Bachelart.
This team always finds a way to put something together, even if it isn't for the full season. Bachelart finds a way to keep his employees employed rather then out on the street.
Look for Conquest to make various starts, but don't really expect a full season.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
D&R recently announced their two car team consisting of Mike Conway and Justin Wilson. Seems this will be their first year in a while without a large mix of drivers coming in and out of the team. Reports say they have stepped up their game as well, so 2010 should be a good year for them. Maybe expect an extra car at Indy for John Andretti again?
Dale Coyne Racing
As usual Dale hasn't announced his drivers yet, but he did announce a new partnership with the Boy Scouts of America program and that he planned on running two cars in 2010. J.R. Hildebrand tested for DCR at Sebring recently in one of the teams Dallara's. Coyne has made no secrets that he has tried to sign Graham Rahal to the BSA car, but Robin Miller says the contract is too long term for Graham to spend at DCR. Dale is trying to build a program with continuity, and just as he offered a two year deal to Justin Wilson, you would think he did the same for Graham Rahal.
RM is also reporting that Milka Duno could land in the second DCR seat (shame!).
Sarah Fisher Racing
Sarah Fisher Racing is expanding to two cars for certain events this season. They hired Jay Howard to run 4 races in 2010 with Kingdom Tire backing, alongside Sarah who will be running 9 races backed by Dollar General.
Look for some good things from Sarah on the ovals with her new Dallara this season. Hoping to see her turn some heads now that she will be on track a little more often.
This team is anyones guess. Let's face it, does anyone even know if they still exist?
A.J. Foyt Enterprises
I originally forgot to include them in the silly season report, even after I just read the feature on Vitor Meira at Foyt in 2010. My thanks to Rick who mentioned Foyt in the comment section.
Foyt will be represented by 1 car in 2010 driven by Vitor Meira. Or course, AJ would enter another car if the league needed it I think. Rick did mention Rahal at Foyt as an intriguing idea, but I doubt the thought has crossed Graham's mind.
Expect 1 car from Foyt with maybe 1 or 2 more cars at Indy.
These are all the teams I can think of. I'm sure if I'm missing someone, I'll be reminded of it on the comments section. Hope this silly season update was helpful for you all. I'll try to post a car count idea relatively soon.