Viso to Andretti, Allmendinger to test for Penske

Story posted - Feb 07 2013 12:35 PM

The release just came in that E.J. Viso will indeed join Andretti Autosport with a joint Andretti/HVM car. From the release:

"IndyCar's Andretti Autosport has signed Team Venezuela driver E.J. Viso to pilot a fourth entry in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series. Viso will drive the No. 5 Team Venezuela PDVSA Chevrolet joining Andretti's full-season efforts of reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti. The entry is a result of an off-season collaboration between HVM Racing and Andretti resulting in a joint entry supporting Team Venezuela for the upcoming IndyCar season.

The unique three-way deal represents a win-win-win scenario with Andretti Autosport returning to its traditional four-car fulltime lineup, Viso joining the championship-defending team and HVM Racing securing an arrangement that provides for continuation of its business in IndyCar as an incubation to a potential return in 2014 for the Indianapolis-based team owned by Keith Wiggins."

This will not be the first time that HVM and Viso have worked together in some capacity - recall that Viso ran for HVM in 2008 and 2009 before moving to KV.

Hoping to join the teleconference later today to see exactly how the deal will work out from the perspective of it being a "joint operation", but if it helps HVM return as their own INDYCAR team in 2014, all the better. Wiggins and HVM gambled on Lotus and, well, lost about as big as possible with his driver, sponsor, and financial backer moving on.

From an Andretti perspective, it was already going to be interesting to see how the team's new engineering hires were going to mesh with their returning driver lineup. Now, with a fourth driver coming on board in Viso, there will be even more change. Will that help them or hurt them as they try to repeat as champions in 2013?

And another benefit to Andretti could be in the Mazda Road to Indy - Viso has been active with several drivers in the lower rungs of the ladder, and it would seem possible that some of those drivers could show up in Andretti cars in Firestone Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, or US F2000.

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So with the Viso signing ... not many open spots left as Silly Season winds towards its conclusion. The open seats would appear to be:

- We presume Justin Wilson will be in the lead car at Dale Coyne Racing.

- We'd expect the second car at Coyne to be whoever brings the largest check to the ride, and we also might not find out who this individual is until Spring Training at Barber in mid-March.

- The second car at Dragon Racing. The longer that Katherine Legge remains unconfirmed at Dragon Racing despite an expected return, the more it would appear she isn't coming back. But if she is not heading to Coyne, where is she going if she's going to stay in INDYCAR? For that matter, without her sponsorship, does this car even run? Does this Chevrolet engine end up elsewhere (ex. in a third part-time car at Team Penske)?

The top driver available as Silly Season winds down would be Ryan Briscoe. We wonder if Briscoe might be taking the approach Dan Wheldon took a couple years ago - better to not just take ANYTHING that comes along, better to be choosy and take the best situation even if that's only an Indy 500 ride for this year, and work towards 2014. For that matter, Briscoe could be looking back towards sports cars with the hope of landing a top ride in a reunified sports car series in 2014.

That said, in theory, the second car at Coyne or Dragon would appear to be pretty competitive based on what Wilson (Coyne) and Bourdais (Dragon) did with them in 2012, and Briscoe would make either team a heck of a lot more competitive right away... if either team owner could find the funding to make it work out.

Silly Season chart (leaving out the partial-season deals like Conway at Long Beach for RLLR, etc.)

Chevy:
Andretti Autosport - Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Hinchcliffe, Viso
Team Penske - Power, Castroneves
Dragon Racing - Bourdais, TBD (?)
KV - Kanaan, De Silvestro
Ed Carpenter Racing - Carpenter
Panther Racing - Hildebrand
Dreyer and Reinbold Panther Racing - Servia
13 cars

Honda:
Chip Ganassi Racing - Franchitti, Dixon, Kimball
Dale Coyne Racing - TBD (Wilson), TBD (?)
Schmidt/Peterson Racing - Pagenaud, Vautier
Rahal Letterman Lanigan - Rahal, Jakes
Barracuda Racing (BHA) - Tagliani
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing - Newgarden
A.J. Foyt Racing - Sato
12 cars

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Lee Spencer of Fox Sports had the news this morning that AJ Allmendinger would be testing with Team Penske at Sebring in a few weeks.

The article quotes sources who say that if the test goes well and funding can be found, Allmendinger would run at Barber and Long Beach in preparation for an Indy 500 ride with Penske.

It's commendable to see Roger Penske doing what he can to help Allmendinger get his career back on track - it would have been very easy and very understandable if Penske wanted nothing to do with AJ after his failed drug test that got him fired from his Sprint Cup ride with Penske.

http://msn.foxsports.com/nascar/story/Allmendinger-gets-second-chance-with-Penske-in-IndyCar-020613

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