The Game of Musical Chairs Plays On

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The other day at work I made a comment to a twenty-something about how when the music stops, not everyone is going to have a chair. She looked at me like I had two heads. Realizing she was confused, I felt the need to clarify what I was talking about. I asked if she was familiar with the game Musical Chairs. She intensified the confused look on her face like a dog looking at a typewriter.

I explained to her that it was a child’s game where music was played and everyone walked around a circle of chairs, with one less chair than there were players. When whoever in charge of the music randomly stops the music, everyone immediately sits in a chair. Whoever is left standing is out and they remove another chair for the next round – hence the reference that not everyone will have a chair. She said it sounded like a stupid game. After I thought about it, I had to agree with her.

Regardless, it makes for a good analogy – especially when describing where things stand with available rides in the NTT IndyCar Series for the 2021 season.

Yesterday, Dalton Kellett was confirmed to the No. 4 car at AJ Foyt Enterprises for the full season. That news may make you yawn, but what caught my eye was that he will be piloting the No. 4 car – the same car that Charlie Kimball drove all season last year.

The main news about the Kellett signing was that one of the few fulltime seats is now gone.

The bad news for Charlie Kimball fans is that it means Kimball will not be back with Foyt in 2021. It appears that Kimball has the budget for at least a partial ride, if not a full-time ride, but now that his ride from this past season is no longer available – where is he going. The first place I thought of is Dale Coyne Racing. We know that the car that Alex Palou drove last season is still open. Last week, it sounded like the No. 18 car driven by Santino Ferrucci would be available. But as far as I know, there has been no confirmation to the rumors that he is headed to the Xfinity Series, as some were discussing last week – including me.

So that is one car definitely available, and another that may be available at Coyne. Where are the others? Is Carlin coming back? Some seem to think that Trevor Carlin may have had enough running at the back of the field. If you’re tired of that, you can do one of two things – you can improve, or you can quit. Some are speculating that if Gallagher and Max Chilton don’t come back, that may be it for the team that came to IndyCar in 2018 amid so much promise that has yet bto be fulfilled.

If Chilton does return with Carlin, will it be another part-time season where he does not run the ovals? With only four oval races on the 2021 schedule, is that enough to satisfy Kimball’s sponsors? Probably not. Will Carlin run another car alongside Chilton? They didn’t last year, but if Kimball has enough money – he could persuade Carlin to expand. After all, Kimball did drive a full-season with Carlin inn 2018 and a partial season in 2019, before moving on to Foyt for 2020.

As I was driving home from work last night, I was discussing this very topic with my good friend, Paul Dalbey from Fieldof33.com. He threw out the possibility that he might could drive a possible third car at Rahal, but the more we tossed that around, the more convinced we were that that was not going to happen. Remember, the two of them were teammates on Chip Ganassi’s “B-Team” in 2011 and 2012. I’m not sure how they did or did not get along back then. That was ten years ago, so I’m not sure that affects anything either way. I’m just not sure that I see Rahal running a third car next season, and if they did – I don’t see Kimball driving it.

The available rides are drying up. Yes, there are some unconfirmed rides at Andretti Autosport – but I still think Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe will fill those seats. Besides Kimball, there are several other drivers looking for full-time or part-time rides. Oliver Askew and Spencer Pigot come to mind, but there are others. One chair just got taken away and the music is now playing. As those drivers without rides parade around the available seats, they know that at some point – the music will stop. No one wants to be left standing without a chair (or a ride).

Will Charlie Kimball have a chair for 2021? Stay tuned.

George Phillips

4 Responses to “The Game of Musical Chairs Plays On”

  1. I don’t think Carlin will run two cars so Charlie’s best shot is at Coyne. My first thought was, how excited is Jimmy Vasser gonna be calling strategy for Charlie Kimball in the Novo Nordisk Seal Master #18? From Bourdais two years ago to this? Poor Jimmy. Really wish he had the cash to start up his own team again.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    Coyne seems to be the most intriguing potential destination for Kimball, but I think Carlin is more likely. While not knowing what is going on at Coyne is not a new thing, it has been a while since the team had so much uncertainty surrounding both of its entries.

  3. Except for his lone win at Mid-Ohio, Charlie Kimball’s best results have come at superspeedways. Given how much Coyne has improved at the Indianapolis 500 during the 2010s, I dare say that Kimball in a Coyne car could well be a winning combination.
    But there are others also in the running for that seat, such as Pietro Fittipaldi who has run a few races with Coyne not long ago.
    Maybe Kimball doing a partial season with Dreyer & Reinbold is more likely? That team didn’t sound like they wanted to continue with their 2 drivers of the past few seasons for next year, which is surprising given Sage Karam’s iRacing IndyCar Series victory at a virtual Watkins Glen International during spring Quarantine this year, and how that has brought additional sponsorship (not virtual) to the team.

  4. Wow, I thought that the musical chairs were a compulsory activity at every kindergarten in the world.

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