The Silliest Of Silly Seasons

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If you watched Sunday’s race from Mid-Ohio, you heard Robin Miller give a silly season update. Some of what he said we had heard before, but a lot of the dominos have to do with whether or not Andretti Autosport switches from Honda to Chevy for 2018. I’ve seen reports that Michael Andretti hopes to have a decision made within the next week or two. It sounds like if all goes to plan we should know something definite before the series reconvenes at Pocono in less than three weeks.

If Andretti stays with Honda, there may be little movement among many of the drivers. But if Andretti goes to Chevy as many are predicting he will – look out. Takuma Sato would definitely be on the move after only one year at Andretti, possibly to Rahal Letterman Lanigan, where he spent the 2012 season. Chances are good that Alexander Rossi would move to a Honda team also. Miller speculated that Rossi could move to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to team with James Hinchcliffe, who is also a free-agent but has made it public that he would like to stay with Schmidt if possible. But if you listened to Trackside last night, you heard them report that Michael Andretti thinks that Rossi’s situation with Honda may be overstated just a bit.

The probable move of Helio Castroneves to sports cars has been dissected enough that any further debate on that issue will just be more of the same.

The real intrigue revolves around Chip Ganassi Racing, which has suddenly become very fluid after years of stability among drivers and sponsors. Scott Dixon is going nowhere, but he is the only person that is completely safe at Ganassi.

Tony Kanaan made it clear on Sunday that he intends to be driving in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018. It’s when he is pressed on where exactly that he seems a little hesitant. I’m a big Tony Kanaan fan, so my opinion is more than a little biased – but I think he has earned the right for one more season at Ganassi. Yes he has had a disappointing season, but so has the entire four-car Ganassi team – including Scott Dixon. The fact that Dixon led the points as long as he did was something of a miracle. He had a very ill-handling car at Mid-Ohio and it went downhill from there. Salvaging a ninth-place finish on Sunday is testament to Dixon’s driving ability.

Even more interesting than Tony Kanaan’s future plans is what Robin Miller discussed regarding the other half of Chip Ganassi Racing – drivers Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball. This rumor caught me completely off guard. Miller is unpopular in some corners, but that is generally due to the fact that they have a problem with his sometimes brash delivery.

For the record, I’ve always been a big fan of Robin Miller. I can remember reading his writing in The Indianapolis Star even when I was a kid. My father subscribed to The Star in the Month of May. I would be home from school and get to the mail before he got home from work. That gave me the opportunity to be the first to tear into the newest issue which was usually three or four days old. But in the days long before the internet or cable, that was about as fresh as you could get.

You may not like the way Robin Miller says things, but you know what? He’s almost always right. He can come up with rumors that you hear and think to yourself “he got that one wrong. There’s no way that would ever happen”. It may take a few days or a few months for what he predicted to come true – but it almost always does. That’s why I fully believe what he put out for our consumption on Sunday regarding Chilton and Kimball.

Carlin (formerly known as Carlin Motorsport) is looking to move into IndyCar in the very near future, possibly as early as 2018. Since 2009, Carlin has been owned by two businessmen – Rupert Swallow and Grahame Chilton, father of Max. It seems that the elder Chilton is CEO of Arthur J. Gallagher’s UK-based international brokerage operations. If the name Gallagher sounds familiar, it rides on the sidepods of Max Chilton’s car. Are you starting to connect the dots?

If Carlin does in fact move to IndyCar for 2018, it would make sense to assume that Chilton would drive for his father’s team and take his Gallagher sponsorship with him. It doesn’t stop there. Chilton is reportedly recruiting his Ganassi teammate, Charlie Kimball, to come with him to Carlin and bring his Treseba sponsorship with him as well.

I had not heard any of this, but it makes sense. I never thought Kimball was a good fit at Ganassi. He just seemed to be shoved to the side for his sponsorship, while Ganassi’s true focus was on the cars of Dixon and either Dario Franchitti and then Tony Kanaan. It’s the same for Chilton. I have to remind myself that he is a Ganassi driver. If that indeed happens, would Ganassi backfill those two cars and continue as a four-car team or would he drop one or both programs to scale back like Roger Penske is reportedly doing next year by going to a three-car team?

NTT Data has stepped up to fund Dixon’s program. Supposedly, that sponsorship will move solely to Dixon leaving the No.10 of Kanaan (or whoever) without sponsorship. That would be a cruel blow to Kanaan, because he had a hand in landing that sponsorship, when he was originally slated to drive the No.8 before Franchitti was injured in 2013. But no one ever said the business of racing sponsorships was fair. Just ask Paul Tracy about GEICO.

Besides the uncertainty at Ganassi and the possibility of Carlin, there are other teams on the horizon. Harding Racing is expected to possibly run the entire season in 2018. One would assume it would be with Gabby Chavez. Then there is Juncos Racing. Apparently they are not as far along as they’d like to be for running the full series next season, but they are expected to run beyond the Indianapolis 500 like they did this past season.

So there is lots to talk about and speculate on. That’s what the silly season is all about. But unlike the last couple of seasons where there was not a whole lot of movement in the offseason, this year’s silly season appears to be the silliest in years. Don’t glance away, you may miss something major.

George Phillips

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9 Responses to “The Silliest Of Silly Seasons”

  1. Ron Ford Says:

    What’s not to like about Robin Miller from a race fan’s viewpoint. (not looking for replies here)

  2. I am ready for Helio and Kanaan to go to be honest.

    I would love to see Rossi end up at Ganassi, actually Hinch also there but I like him at Schmidt also.

    I think Andretti will go to Chevy and that will cost him Sato (who other than Indy has been his usual self) and Rossi. Marco needs to go too honestly. I wish RHR had gone to Penske a few years ago.

    I hate to say I want to see guys go but I also want to see new stars forming. We can’t live in the 1990’s forever, we need to build up new stars and teams.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    Though it seems to have died down, the speculation of Hinchcliffe moving to a Chevy-powered Andretti while Rossi (and Sato) departs puzzled me. While I don’t deny that Rossi has Honda ties, Hinch’s are much more obvious.

    I very much hope the rumors of new teams joining the series are true, more so than any of the driver switching rumors.

  4. I try not to get too caught up in “liking or disliking” a driver because of their personality or whether their hair and/or beard is viewed as unkempt. So I would not advocate for any driver “to go” unless or until they lose their skills and become a danger on the track. TK and Helio can still bring it. Of course I am all for more teams with new drivers coming to the series and I am hopeful that some of the speculation about those possibilities is real news.

  5. What about the rumours of McLaren setting up an Indycar team with Fernando Alonso & Jenson Button driving?

  6. this sounds like the Housewives of Indycar.
    soap opera and rumors and back-biting.
    love it.

  7. S0CSeven Says:

    I was just reading about Dale Jr’s retirement and I got to thinking about Power and his concussion-like problems and was wondering when his wife might get in his face and say enough is enough.

    Maybe another seat soon …….

  8. Regarding Max Chilton’s father…Grahame Chilton earned $101 million from his sale of a portion of an insurance brokerage. Pretty sure that Max’s career is set.

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