One of IndyCar’s major offseason moves might not be one shortly. Reports indicate that Chip Ganassi Racing will not downsize its Verizon IndyCar Series roster for 2016, instead continuing to run four cars – and it’s worth noting that Sage Karam, the former driver of the previously dropped car, is still searching for a drive.
Karam was released from his contract with Ganassi in December after uncertainty about the future of the No. 8 car he co-drove with Sebastian Saavedra and middling performance on-track. Now Racer says it has multiple sources confirming that the team will indeed bring back the No. 8 next season, with the car set for an unknown preseason test prior to the Mar. 13 season opener.
Meanwhile, Karam also made it known Monday that he has yet to secure another drive in any motorsports league since being let go. In a separate article Monday, the 20-year-old was quoted as saying, “I don’t have anything right now to speak of. Nothing’s done yet. We’re working on some options here.” He noted that he had hoped to be in a car for the upcoming Rolex 24 at Daytona, but one look at the entry list for the IMSA opener shows that did not materialize.
His co-driver Saavedra, still under contract with AFS Racing, also does not have a confirmed drive for next season.
It’s possible that Ganassi could recall Karam, Saavedra or both to pilot the No. 8 entry, as at this late stage in the game – two months before the season starts – most of the available names have already left the open market. Indy Lights runner-up Jack Harvey is still hoping to sign on with an IndyCar team for 2016, but Ryan Briscoe appears set to run sportscars for Ganassi this year and Conor Daly signed with Dale Coyne Racing for his first full-season drive.
Going back to last year’s team, however, would also pose an equal number of challenges for Ganassi. They would first have to re-sign Karam, who while he’s clearly interested, anything can happen in contract negotiations. Then they face the problem that shuttered the car in the first place: finding sponsorship. If Karam and Saavedra weren’t hugely appealing to sponsors in 2015, there’s no reason to believe they will be in 2016 either.
The Racer article suggests Max Chilton, who has driven in both Indy Lights and Formula 1, is another potential candidate. Chilton finished fifth in the most recent Indy Lights season, with one win and three pole positions earned, and is probably a more appealing driver financially than either Karam or Saavedra.
Whoever is behind the wheel, the team will also have to move crew around: on Friday, it announced it had plucked Eric Cowdin from the former No. 8 team to serve as the engineer on Charlie Kimball’s No. 83 car, as Ganassi is moving Kimball’s engineer Brad Goldberg to its sportscar side.
Having four entries in IndyCar puts Ganassi back even with its biggest rival, Team Penske, which had already confirmed last year that it would return all four of its cars in 2016.
For more on the Verizon IndyCar Series, visit the league’s website.