With most of the top IndyCar drives for 2015 already secured, the long off season isn’t likely to offer up any exciting moves in the driver market. And that is shame not just because we need something to fill the months but because there are drivers occupying seats that others (think Pagenaud, Newgarden and Hawksworth) might do much more with.
As I wrote about a while back, the Andretti/Andretti dream is a recurring nightmare now. Both Marco and the team are stuck in limbo: his role in the team is unclear being neither the young rookie nor the team leader; and both parties seem to be obliging each other. Andretti will undoubtedly feel he owes his father’s team wins and titles for the faith shown since his stellar rookie season but you always get the impression there is also degree of ‘comfort’. With success seeming further away than ever is that obligation enough to motivate him and those around him?
A move to a smaller team, a one-car outfit perhaps, might spark something off. Similarly to Graham Rahal – another second generation driver failing to deliver – a bit of pressure from each race result determining his next paycheck, and the security of his drive, may be no bad thing.
Kimball is a great guy who has overcome significant health issues to get to where he is in IndyCar racing. That should rightly be applauded and admired. Nevertheless you wonder how long Chip Ganassi will continue to run him. IndyCar’s most successful team owner of the modern era does not field drivers for the fun of it.
Kimball’s break-out win last season was followed up by a pretty muted 2014 season. Certainly Ganassi Racing were off the pace this season and there were still flashes of promise and good race-craft. There is however a natural process within the Ganassi stable: rookie progress; first win; multiple wins and title challenger. It looks like Kimball will get another shot with Ganassi in 2015 but that could be it.
The likeable American needs to be regularly at the sharp end with Dixon and Kanaan in 2015 otherwise his plum seat will be offered elsewhere.
The only driver other than Briscoe to have driven for both Roger Penske and Chip Gannassi in open-wheel is Juan Pablo Montoya. Briscoe therefore sits in pretty esteemed company but unlike Montoya, little from 2014 suggests the Australian is shaping up for a run at the championship. Similarly to his team-mate Kimball, he won’t be able to get comfortable at Ganassi without regular top 5 finishes and contending for wins.
Running for one of the 3 super-teams in IndyCar demands a blend of speed, racecraft and calm intelligence. The latter two are assured but there are question marks over whether the speed of his peak years in 2008 – 2009 will return. In 2014 Briscoe needs to be mixing it with Dixon and Kanaan regularly next year.