Panther Racing: The John Barnes-led team has been trying to add a second car for quite a while, and says it's closer than ever to making it happen. Its primary program will continue in 2014 with one of a few drivers under consideration.
- No. 4: Tryouts for the seat have narrowed down the list of drivers the team is interested in signing, with Ryan Briscoe and Oriol Servia continuing to hold the greatest chance of getting the nod.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Moving ahead with both entries for 2014 is the current plan for the RLLR squad. Its recent changes in the engineering department and addition of Mitch Davis to the management side will only bolster the program. The acquisition of more engineering talent is a priority for the Indianapolis-based outfit.
- Graham Rahal: Rahal and his sponsors will be back next year.
- James Jakes: The Englishman is in the midst of a breakout season, but doesn't have a lot of results to show how far he's come with engineer Eddie Jones. Jakes is on a one-year contract with RLLR and like Viso and Kimball, would be wise to stay and build on what's been established in 2013.
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing: Sarah Fisher told RACER she and co-owner Wink Hartman will continue with the No. 67 program without any changes, and is at an confident SFHR will have a second car on the grid next season with the involvement of RW Motorsports owner Steve Weirich.
- Josef Newgarden: The IndyCar sophomore is 15th in points, ranked third among the single-car entries and, most importantly, left his crash-happy ways behind in 2012. His contract with the team runs through 2014. Of all the drivers in the IndyCar Series, Newgarden would benefit the most from having a veteran teammate to learn from. He's fast and smart, but needs to make a significant leap in overall performance and consistency next year, and that won't happen without a second SFHR car.
Nathan O'Rourke, Newgarden's engineer, is also a star in the making and would benefit from having two sets of data and setup options to work with. His name has been mentioned among the coveted engineers in the paddock, but SFHR's family-run outfit is a unique environment a lot of potential waiting to be realized. It would be hard to see him leave with Newgarden on the cusp of becoming a regular contender.
Schmidt Peterson Hamilton HP Motorsports: Both drivers are under contract for 2014, and team co-owner Sam Schmidt says he will not, under any circumstances, expand to three cars after dealing with the growing pains of adding Tristan Vautier alongside Simon Pagenaud this year. The team, as always, needs more sponsorship, although Ric Peterson's investment in the program has certainly helped in that department. But burning Peterson's cash isn't a feasible business strategy, making the need to recruit a larger cache of sponsors the biggest priority for the team. Vautier's No. 55 car has been a prime example of the issue at hand as a rotating cast of race-by-race primary sponsorship has appeared on the car.
- Simon Pagenaud: The Detroit Race 2 winner's contract with Schmidt runs through 2014, but he's on the short list of a few teams in need of a long-term solution. He and engineer Ben Bretzman are inseparable, and showed what they are capable of by winning at Belle Isle, yet it's worth asking if the two will be able to topple Andretti, Ganassi and Penske in their quest for a championship while at SPM. It is possible, but will require a massive amount of finances to do so.
Pagenaud, now in his second full season in the series, can hardly afford to spend another year hovering around the top five without any hope of challenging for a title. Despite his newcomer status in IndyCar, the 29-year-old doesn't have many years to waste while waiting for the right opportunity. As one of the most self-aware drivers in the paddock, I'm sure he's looking at 2014 as the most pivotal year of his career.
- Tristan Vautier: The only rookie in the series signed a multi-year deal, and Schmidt also made similar commitments to its staff and engineering team. He hit the rookie wall earlier than expected and has yet to peel himself off of it, but with a welcome two-week break in the schedule, he should return at Mid-Ohio in a more productive mindset.
Allen McDonald, Vautier's engineer and the team's technical director, hasn't smiled much lately, and for the litany of teams seeking an upgrade on the technical side, the Englishman's talents are known to be profound and impactful. Vautier would suffer without McDonald's influence, and between the two, the engineer is the one with the greater market value at the moment which could influence his future employment plans.
Team Penske: The legendary team is set to continue with two cars in 2014, but as Penske Racing president Tim Cindric has said more than once, returning to three cars would require proper sponsorship to fund that program. AJ Allmendinger, whose limited outings with the team have been inconclusive, could be in a car for the season finale at Fontana, but Cindric insists it will take someone other than Roger Penske to foot the bill for 'Dinger (or any other driver) to receive a full-time gig.
- Helio Castroneves: He's leading the points, in a contract year, and is a lock to sign an extension with the team he's driven for since 2000. At 38, he's finally found the answer to dealing with his teammates foreboding presence and has his first IndyCar title in sight. Everything is looking good on Team Helio.
- Will Power: The Aussie hasn't had the year he or anyone else expected, but will be back and looking to recapture his old form at Penske in 2014.
Next page: Manufacturer prospects, and possible team scenarios.