With the end of the oval rounds, the driver market got a bit clearer for the year-end road course rounds and a lot more interesting for the 2018 season. The names involved? Takuma Sato, Jack Harvey, and Conor Daly. The headlines surrounding these names will be explored in this edition of the IndyCar Notebook. So let’s dive into it.
SPM announces Harvey during the Bommarito 500
The Bommarito 500 had just gotten underway when the news broke; Indianapolis 500 driver Jack Harvey will drive the final rounds in the #7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports-Honda vacated by Mikhail Aleshin. The Briton takes over for Sebastian Saavedra, who contested Pocono and Gateway. The move to Harvey gives SPM a familiar face to work with; Harvey having been in the SPM Indy Lights team for 2014-2015.
The move to the 24-year-old for Watkins Glen and Sonoma however, doesn’t end speculation about who takes over duties full-time in 2018. There are people within SPM who are keen on Robert Wickens. There are grumblings that Esteban Gutierrez might make a case for the coveted seat. Then, there are those within the team and IndyCar as a whole, who are waiting to see if Tony Kanaan will retire or return in 2018. Many industry commentators predict that the 42-year-old is the linchpin to the entire driver market in 2018. If Kanaan reires, owner Chip Ganassi may make a move for Alexander Rossi to join, thus starting a very interesting game of IndyCar musical chairs.
Sato to leave Andretti, rejoin RLL Racing
Takuma Sato will rejoin RLL Racing in 2018. No, he isn’t replacing Graham Rahal; RLL is expanding into a two-car team in 2018. With victories this season by the youngest Rahal and the reigning Indy 500 champion coming back, RLL Racing looks to be in good shape for 2018.
What’s interesting about Sato’s move is it unites him with the team he is most comfortable with, and potentially it signals that owner Michael Andretti will switch back to Chevrolet in 2018. The reason for signing Sato was to further expand team market share in Japan, through Sato’s partnership with Honda and Andretti’s continued backing of the Japanese engine manufacturer. With Sato gone, Andretti can move to Chevy and try to attract more domestic sponsors.
Is there more to Daly’s tweet?
After his best finish of the year, A.J. Foyt Enterprise driver Conor Daly took to Twitter to thank his team. The message was somber in tone and sounded hopeful, almost pleading.
Twitter: Thank you so much @AJFoytRacing and #ABCSupply for allowing me to be here. I love this job, our car was fantastic tonight. So happy #P5 (@ConorDaly22)
It’s no secret that Daly has underperformed this season, prior to his P5 finish at Gateway, his season-best was P7 at Texas with a slew of mishaps along the way. So was Daly’s tweet a reminder to his team of his untapped potential for next year or was it an early “Dear John” letter? We will find out soon enough.