Andretti Autosport will field four cars for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, but it didn’t happen the way many people thought. News came out today from Robin Miller at RACER that Bryan Herta’s single-car team has partnered with Andretti for the upcoming season. The No. 98 car will be based out of Michael Andretti’s shop in Indianapolis, alongside his other three entries, driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, and Carlos Munoz. Herta will oversee the 98 car as team strategist and driver coach, and the entire crew will be retained and shuffled about within the Andretti camp.
While most everyone will remain in tact for 2016, that does not include last year’s Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. He finished 15th in the standings last year, completing 2,116 of 2,147 total laps (second most of any driver) in BHA’s car. Gabby said he learned of his fate yesterday, and that his exit is largely due to not having the funding that he had last season, with his scholarship money. While he isn’t expected to be back in the 98 car, chances are we haven’t seen the last of him in IndyCar (Coyne, ECR).
“Michael has been a long-time friend and Andretti Autosport was a big part of my career,” Herta said. “When the opportunity came together for us to strengthen our organisation, and merge with one of the most successful teams in the sport, it was really a no brainer.” Herta drove for Andretti between 2003 and 2006. The entry will officially be known as “Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian.”
Andretti and Herta were both in desperate need of sponsorship money. Andretti was short on their fourth car, originally intended for the late Justin Wilson, and Herta couldn’t guarantee a full season for his entry, so they came together. “I got let down a couple of times, so this was a welcome program,” Herta told Autoweek. “I’m not gone; they’re getting their fourth. It’s good for both of us.”
While rumors have already started about who will be in the seat (Hildebrand, Harvey, Rossi, Jakes), Michael Andretti only said that they are having discussions with drivers. One name that apparently won’t be back, is NASCAR driver Kurt Busch. Michael said that Kurt has told him that he “doesn’t want to do it this year.” Speaking at NASCAR Media Day last week, Busch noted that he probably wouldn’t know about doing the ‘500’ again this year until sometime next month. If he does land a ride for the 100th running in May, it will be with another team, most likely one with Chevrolet power.
Herta said they might not have their driver named in time for next week’s big test at Phoenix. The team has said that the driver for the No. 98 Dallara-Honda will be announced at a later date.