There is speculation linking a number of IndyCar drivers to replace Dan Wheldon in the Andretti Autosports team for 2012, who was initially signed mere hours before his fatal crash in Las Vegas to replace the NASCAR-bound Danica Patrick.
Fresh from his adventures in Las Vegas, our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon takes a look at the likely candidates…
No official shopping list has been released by Andretti, but such a list could include Justin Wilson, rumoured to be in high-demand by a number of teams thanks to a renowned technical ability and strong, experienced race craft as one of only two current drivers in the series with Formula 1 experience. Wilson is currently available and has not yet signed a deal for 2012.
Another rumoured consideration may be JR Hildebrand. While usually in the midfield, he has shown patches of the brilliance which won him the 2009 Indy Lights championship, incidentally with Andretti Autosports. His highlight (or lowlight, depending on how you look at it) was a second-placed finish on debut at the Indianapolis 500. This could easily have been victory had Hildebrand not crashed at the final corner on the final lap, ironically handing victory to Wheldon. Hildebrand is currently contracted with Panther Racing for 2012, however for the right price, could become available.
Ryan Briscoe is another name that may be on the Andretti shopping list. No word on whether he will be retained by Team Penske is currently public. Briscoe is a talent that both Penske and Andretti would be comfortable having in their ranks and another championship challenge will hopefully be on the horizon in 2012.
Although he won the 2011 Rookie of the Year award, James Hinchcliffe is another star on the rise that may be in the Andretti crosshairs. Very promising on both road and oval courses in 2011, “Hinch” should rightly feel he has done enough to at least secure a second season with Newman Haas or to be considered further up the grid.
Andretti Autosports have said finding a replacement is a top priority and are hoping to be able to make an announcement within six weeks.
[Images via LAT]