The odds are looking stronger for Carlin to join the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018.
One of the most successful teams in junior levels of motorsports around the world, Carlin has been a favorite of the rumor mill to join North America’s top open-wheel tour since entering Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires in 2015. Speculation has increased about Carlin entering cars in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, particularly following Chip Ganassi Racing’s announcement on Wednesday that it was scaling back from four to two cars.
Team owner Trevor Carlin is quick to admit he isn’t the type to dabble in a venture, but rather dives in head first when it becomes sensible.
“This year, we’re quite flattered because we’ve had a lot people saying we should be doing INDYCAR from our first race weekend, but we like to take our time and build up to something,” said Carlin.
“When we start something, we like to stay in it. There hasn’t been a right moment in the past, but I think the right moment is approaching.
“I’m not going to stand here now and say it’s a done deal, but I would say that the odds on us being on the grid next year are the highest they’ve ever been. It’s just a case of putting the package together now.”
One thing working in the favor of it happening is the universal aero kit that all Verizon IndyCar Series entries will use in 2018. In team owner Carlin’s eyes, it would put his team on more equal footing with the veteran teams. It also provides a similar entry point to what Carlin encountered when he joined Indy Lights in 2015 when that series introduced its Dallara IL-15 chassis.
Carlin driver Ed Jones won the 2016 Indy Lights championship before graduating to the Verizon IndyCar Series this year. Carlin drivers won four consecutive Indy Lights races this season – three by Matheus Leist and one by Zachary Claman DeMelo.
The learning curve to join the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018 could be similar with introduction of the universal kit.
“That’s a bonus for us, really,” Carlin said. “I think we would have been looking to do it next year anyway. The fact is, the new aero kit is perfect because, obviously the big teams got massive resources where they can do testing and aero this and that, but I think that it does level the playing field for a team like us that could come in.
“It’s just timing. It was a bit of the same with Indy Lights. We were ready to do it and, at the end of 2014, the IL-15 was coming in. So the timing was perfect. And I think the timing is perfect again for INDYCAR.”
Being a part of the top tier of the INDYCAR development ladder the past three seasons has also allowed Carlin’s staff to learn the tracks and how “the system works.” It’s all part of a bigger plan as the British team aims for the next level.
Part of the allure for Carlin to continue building his racing empire in North America is the on-track action itself.
“Most of the series are pretty similar, to be fair, whether being in America or in Europe,” said Carlin. “Of course, Formula One is a different beast entirely, it’s almost more science fiction and space station technology than motor racing.
“The reason we love being here in Indy Lights and would like to do INDYCAR is because the racing is so good. It’s purer. On track, the action is thick and fast.
“It’s not a big difference in the racing, but we like America because it’s a bit purer and on track its awesome stuff.”
Carlin’s team has a storied history competing in the likes of British F3, Formula Renault 3.5, GP3 Series and other junior European tours. Drivers including current Formula One pilots Sebastien Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo have driven for Carlin, not to mention Verizon IndyCar Series stars Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato.
But the two former Carlin drivers who have drawn the most interest and speculation about a Verizon IndyCar Series future with the team are Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball. Chilton’s father, Grahame, is already a financial backer of Carlin as well as CEO of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.’s international division, the financial services company that has sponsored Max Chilton in his two Verizon IndyCar Series seasons.
With only Scott Dixon confirmed to return to one of the two Chip Ganassi Racing entries in 2018, conjecture has the younger Chilton and Kimball headed back to Carlin to drive next season. Whether that scenario plays out remains to be seen.