By: Ashley McCubbin
While NTT IndyCar Series officials have kept everyone on their toes with relation to location and date for the season opener, a couple teams have been doing the same.
Andretti Autosport made things a little more clear at their end, confirming Ryan Hunter-Reay would return full-time behind the wheel, joining previously announced Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta. Known as the team leader for many years, there should be a focus on returning to victory lane for the first time in two years, and hopefully finding consistency to be a top-five points contender once again. While he has proven capable in the past, the inability to do so this year could solidify the shift in strongest horse at Andretti to Herta.
There was also a small shock announcement as Marco Andretti revealed he was scaling his efforts back in 2021, set to focus on the Indianapolis 500 with possible other select dates on the calendar. Although the focus of discussion due to his family’s heritage, he has not visited victory lane since 2011 and failed to finish in the top-five in points since 2013. With an average finish of 19.3 for last season, it’s no surprise a re-evaluation of everything happened.
James Hinchcliffe has yet to announce any plans for 2021 after running six events last season. The Canadian may be part of the conversation to come, though, if his tweet following Andretti’s announcement is any preview.
The pair have worked together in the past prior to Hinchcliffe driving for Arrow McLaren SP, and scored a seventh-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 in 2020.
Zach Veach also drove for Andretti Autosport last season, but has planted his feet in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition, landing a full-time with Vasser-Sullivan Racing. Although his primary focus right now, he did tell me earlier this week that he’d open to returning to IndyCar.
“That’s something to talk about a little further down the road this year,” he said. “Probably not a 2021 thing, but I definitely love to come back and do the Indianapolis 500. I have four of those under my belt now; it’d be awesome to get a fifth one in, but the opportunity has to make sense.
A past AA driver is set to return to the grid, though, with Simona de Silvestro set to enter the Indianapolis 500 in May for Paretta Autosport. Led by female automotive and motorsport executive Beth Paretta, they will be trying to get as many woman involved with the team as possible, from the competition side to operations and administrative roles. The operation is an extension of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s “Race for Equality & Change,” and will receive technical support from Team Penske.
Simona de Silvestro has made 68 career starts in IndyCar, with three most recent starts coming in 2015. While she has not set the world on fire by any means, there has been speed and promise shown, as evident with a fourth-place finish at NOLA Motorsports Park during that limited run, as well as eight top-10’s in 2013, including a runner-up at the NRP Park Stadium Circuit.
There’s also been another tease put out there, courtesy of Rick Ware Racing on twitter.
Setting high expectations for how this will play out would be unorthodox, given their previous statistics in NASCAR competition. Despite having over 900 starts across the three National Series divisions, they have only posted 14 top-10 finishes.