Andretti Autosport could tie a longstanding record at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next year, and it has nothing to do with speed.
In 1996, the first year of the Indy Racing League, officials were scrambling to fill the Indy 500′s traditional field of 33 and got a massive helping hand from Andy Evans. Evans’ Team Scandia fielded a record seven cars. At this point, Andretti Autosport is potentially on a pace to field six full time cars in 2014. While most of Scandia’s entries were scrubs Andretti’s team would be nothing but top talent and rising stars.
Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay are confirmed with sponsorship in place, it’s possible that Go Daddy and James Hinchcliffe will be back and E.J. Viso’s sponsorship appears secure as well. Given that Viso’s sponsorship package is rumored to be in the $10 million range he can have his pick of the available ride buys and would have a hard time improving his lot in 2014.
On top of that Andretti is wooing Juan Pablo Montoya and working to find sponsorship for Carlos Munoz for a sixth entry.
“There are two particular sponsors that are definitely interested because of Juan, and if either were to happen, it would only be because of Juan,” Michael Andretti told RACER. “I would say there’s a couple of scenarios that if a deal happens, it would be because of him. I wouldn’t see them doing anything with anyone else but Juan.”
The obvious implication of that quote is that Montoya’s situation has nothing to do with whatever happens to James Hinchcliffe and Go Daddy. Its possible that both sponsor and driver could leave, making room for Montoya and a new sponsor, or Go Daddy could stay, leaving a seat for Montoya or another driver like Carlos Munoz or someone else entirely. Or both Go Daddy and Hinch stay, and that’s when things get massive.
If Andretti manages to retain his current crop of drivers and snag Montoya and Munoz (Who Racer reports is close to finding a budget to go racing with) that makes six full time teams, which is insane. That’s more than 20 percent of the field coming from one team. That’s almost half of Chevy’s total engine supply. With six cars Andretti could effectively bring in his engine manufacture. It’s a crazy amount of leverage one team could have.
My bet is either Hinchcliffe will go Ganassi, making room for Montoya or Munoz or Andretti expands to four cars with Munoz joining Viso at HVM. HVM is essentially a Andretti Autosport satellite team at this point, and it would make sense to place Munoz there. Another scenario I could see is Montoya going to Andretti and Munoz being farmed out to another Chevy team like KV Racing, Dragon or Panther for a year or two of seasoning before taking a seat at Andretti.
Andretti has been working to bring along Sage Karam and Zach Veach for several years now, and a Indy 500 effort could be in the cards for either teenager next year, which could up Andretti to seven or eight cars potentially. Also, Kurt Bush is allegedly working with Andretti for a ride in the 500 as well.
Just thinking about this is insane. How many teams have more sponsors, and more fast drivers than it could potentially use? How often than this happens? It also begs the question, what is Michael Andretti doing right that guys like Jimmy Vasser and Jay Penske aren’t?