Silly Season Lives On
January 3, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Although there is only two full months until the season-opener and one month until the Test in the West at Phoenix International Raceway and California Speedway, many IRL teams have not announced their plans for the coming season.
RacingOne.com doesn’t have a lot of inside information, but we can speculate with the best of them. With that in mind, here is a list of IRL teams and driver possibilities.
A.J. Foyt Racing: Now that he’s got the driver of his No. 14 Winston Cup nearly figured out, maybe Super Tex can focus on his IRL squad. A two-car team from the legendary open-wheel figure is likely, with Eliseo Salazar and Donnie Beechler in the running. Who will drive the No. 14? Who knows. Is Al Unser Jr. in the picture? Could be. Truth is, Foyt’s team is the hardest to figure out.
Bradley Motorsports: Buzz Calkins will be back with his family-owned No. 12 team.
Brayton Racing: This new team is promising a run in 2002 and has said a major announcement is due in January. The team tried to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 last season but didn’t make the field.
Cahill Racing: Competed in 2001 without a major sponsor, as he did in 2000. The same could be true in 2002, and Robby McGehee is a safe bet as the driver of the No. 10.
Cheever Indy Racing: Now that Red Bull is on board as sponsor, Eddie Cheever is looking for a teammate. He’ll drive the No. 51, and he’s been auditioning several drivers for the No. 52 seat, with Buddy Rice the leading candidate. Rice will test for Cheever at the Test in the West.
Conquest Racing: Owner Eric Bachelart had hoped to make an announcement about his plans by Christmas, but Santa didn’t help. It is expected Laurent Redon will return. Mi-Jack and Hype Energy Drink are still the sponsors. The big question is if this operation is a full-time, part-time or Indy-only effort.
Curb-Agajanian-Boat Motorsports: Billy Boat is the driver and majority owner of this team.
Dick Simon Racing: A full season is unlikely, but Simon has expressed his desire to come back to Indianapolis in 2002. Maybe a reunion with Stephan Gregoire?
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: Robbie Buhl is back in the No. 24.
Galles Racing: This team is in limbo. Without a major sponsor, Galles may be dead, leaving Al Unser Jr. to pursue other opportunities.
Hemelgarn Racing: Buddy Lazier, of course, is back with this team. The No. 92 may appear with Chris Menninga again, but nothing is official.
Heritage Motorsports: Another team that may be dead. It ran 2001 with Jeff Ward and no sponsorship to speak of. The owners have said they won’t race without a sponsor in 2002. Ward has tested the No. 52 in Cheever Indy Racing’s stable.
Indy Regency Racing: Competed in two IRL races in 2001 but is bound for the Toyota Atlantic Series in 2002 with a trip to the Indianapolis 500 likely. Cory Witherill appears to be the driver of choice.
Kelley Racing: Scott Sharp and Greg Ray will drive for this powerhouse team. Sharp will stay in his customary No. 8; Ray has been given the keys to the No. 7.
Mo Nunn Racing: Legendary open-wheel figure Mo Nunn stole Felipe Giaffone and sponsor Hollywood from Treadway-Hubbard Racing for his first year in the IRL.
Panther Racing: The championship team remains in tact with Sam Hornish Jr.
Penske Racing: CART champ Gil de Ferran and Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves spearhead Roger Penske’s first season in the IRL.
PDM Racing: There have been no announcements from this team, although it would make sense to see Jeret Schroeder here on at least a part-time basis.
Sam Schmidt Motorsports: Anthony Lazzaro will be the driver of the No. 99. If Davey Hamilton can return to racing, maybe he’ll get a second Schmidt seat later in the year.
Satellite Motorsports: A startup team, Satellite Motorsports has plans to compete in a full season with driver Jimmy Kite, but sponsorship has not been secured.
TeamXtreme: It has been suspiciously quiet in the TeamXtreme camp, although rumors have run the gamut. Depending on who you listen to, Airton Dare is out, the team is dead or things will remain the same. Time will tell.
Team Menard: Jaques Lazier is now the driver of the No. 2. With Ray out of the picture, Menard will likely expand to a two-car team at Indy, something Ray always opposed.
Treadway-Hubbard Racing: With Giaffone and Hollywood gone, things are uncertain here. Arie Luyendyk will drive for the team at Indy and possibly a couple of other races. If there is a full-time driver, it would likely be Rick Treadway, who drove in a few races for the team last season.
Walker Racing: There hasn't been an announcement, but look for Sarah Fisher to return.
310 Racing: This African-American-owned team has George Mack behind the wheel with hopes of competing in the IRL in 2002. It has backing from high-profile celebrities, so this team could make it to fruition.
As always, a host of other teams will come out of the woodwork for the Indy 500, including Team Rahal, Team Green and Chip Ganassi Racing from CART.
Silly as it seems, most decisions may be put off until the Test in the West. Then the media will be focusing on auto racing more specifically, giving every move maximum exposure.