The 2020 Indycar season is scheduled to end the way it was originally scheduled to start: with a street race at St. Petersburg on October 25. The race will be broadcast on NBC at 2:30PM Eastern.
This week we’re going to discuss the driver’s championship, the manufacturer’s championship and silly season developments.
The Driver’s Championship:
Despite below-average results in the last four races (10th, 10th, 9th, 8th), the driver’s championship is still Scott Dixon’s to lose. Going into St. Petersburg Dixon (Ganassi-Honda) leads by 32 points over defending champ Josef Newgarden (Penske-Chevy). Newgarden’s chances are slim, but not none. Unlike previous seasons when the final race of the season was worth double points, this year it is not.
If Dixon starts the race, Newgarden has to either win or finish second or third. These are the ways that Dixon Wins.
- Dixon wins in all cases if he finishes ninth or better.
- If Newgarden wins the race but does not qualify on pole or lead the most laps, Dixon has to finish tenth or better.
- If Newgarden is second in the race, Dixon wins the Driver’s title if he finishes 18th or better.
- If Newgarden finishes third, but qualified on pole and led the most laps, Dixon must finish 23rd or worse.
- With all other possibilities of Newgarden finishing third or worse, Dixon wins by starting the race.
In all cases where Dixon and Newgarden would finish tied, Dixon wins the tiebreaker either by most wins (4 vs. 3 if Newgarden does not win) or most second places if Newgarden does win (2 vs. 1).
It is almost impossible for Chevy to keep Honda from winning its third straight manufacturer’s title. Chevy trails Honda by 54 points. If Honda gets two or more cars in the top 10, and one of them is 7th or better, Honda wins.
Without going into the obtuse math involved, the best scenario for Chevy to win the title would have Chevy cars finish 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Chevy could also win if there is only one Honda in the top 10.
Both of these scenarios are extremely unlikely. That math could be screwed up if there are “ineligible” cars out there on either side, but I do not think there are. It is possible that Chevy and/or Honda could provide Newgarden or Dixon with new engines (possibly make them ineligible for manufacturer points).
Silly Season Developments
The big driver news since the Harvest Grand Prix in Indianapolis was Arrow-McLaren SP/Chevy parting ways with Oliver Askew and signing Felix Roseqvist from Chip Ganassi-Honda to replace him.
Why did Ganassi fail to sign Rosenqvist, who won his first Indycar race this season? My understanding is NTT Data is cutting back on sponsorship of the 10 car, leaving Ganassi scrambling for funding. If they made an offer to Rosenqvist, it might have been dependent on the team finding funding. Arrow-McLaren’s offer was guaranteed, and Rosenqvist took it.
The other silly season developments include:
- Andretti Autosport cut Zach Veach loose from the 26 car. James Hinchcliffe is replacing him for the Harvest GP and St. Pete.
- Word leaked out that DHL will be cutting back on funding for the 28, leaving the team short on funds for Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car.
- Meyer-Shank Racing announced an equity investment from Liberty Media (owners of F1 commercial rights) and their plans to run a second car next season for at least part of the season.
So from a Honda standpoint, that leaves the fate of three high-profile cars in limbo as this is written: the Ganassi 10 car, and the Andretti 28 and 26. As well as a partial-season opportunity with MSLR (or whatever they will be called). Here’s a quick discussion.
Andretti: As things stand now, the team needs at least partial funding from the Drivers for the 28 and the 26 (Veach brought the Gainbridge deal to the team). I think the obvious thing is going to happen and the two cars are going to end up in the hands of Hinch and Conor Daly. Hinch is more or less obvious and is bringing money from Genisys. But why would Daly leave Ed Carpenter Racing (Chevy)?
To refresh, Daly is driving the number 20 for Carpenter in the road and street courses and an third ECR car in the Indy 500. He brought Air Force funding for that deal. But the rumor is that he was pissed that he brought more money than Rinus Veekay brought for the full-time ride in the 21 car and only got a part-season ride. There was a rumor when Daly left Andretti last that the Air Force wanted an American engine partner. I think the Air Force now knows that Andretti would do a better job with promotion and realizes that Honda Performance Development, the division of Honda that runs the Indycar program) is based in California (not Japan), and is convenient to several Air Bases. They probably also know that Ilmor, which runs the Chevy program, is based in the UK. I am not sure any of that really matters.
Ganassi Racing: This is harder to figure. The team is looking for the next Scott Dixon to drive the 10. If they thought Felix was that driver they would have tied him down sooner and then worried about funding.
Ganassi could go with a proven driver like RHR , but I think that would be a stop gap (he’s 39) and I think they are looking for someone younger. Preferably someone with proven skill in their 20s. Think Colton Herta or Alexander Rossi. If I had to make a guess, I would pick Conor Daly (who would bring funding, Spencer Pigot or someone from F2 or Formula E that we are not talking about (see below).
Shank-Andretti: One of the more intriguing situations is that both Andretti (26 or 28) and Shank (second car) might have partial season entries. Would they combine forces to have one driver take both entries? Perhaps a soft landing for RHR?
There are a couple other interesting developments to keep an eye on:
First, Formula E champion Antonio Felix da Costa has a test set up with Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing after the season. Although the 29-year-old from Portugal won the Formula E title driving for DS Techeetah, he has a long-standing relationship with BMW in Europe. This explains how the test came about ( RLLR runs the BMW factory team in IMSA ). Why not Andretti, for whom he drove in Formula E last year? I’m not sure.
It’s unlikely that RLLR would sign da Costa for Indycar based on the test, since they have two drivers and I don’t think they are close to a third car. But another team has a history of hiring Formula E drivers named Felix.
Second, don’t sleep on the possibility that Santino Ferrucci might move to Ganassi (or Andretti), either with or without Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan. Both Ferrucci and Vasser-Sullivan have funding and 2020 was a rocky season for their partnership with Dale Coyne.
And what of Jimmy Johnson? My understanding is that a fourth car for Jimmy Johnson at Ganassi happens if and only if Jimmy Johnson comes up with funding for it. And if he does, Jimmy Johnson would not drive any of the ovals, with the possible exception of the Indy 500. This would open up an Oval-only drive for Tony Kanaan, perhaps with a throwback livery.