ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — We came into the weekend at St. Pete with 12 rides open for the taking for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR Series season. Now, we’re down to 9.
Scott McLaughlin was confirmed to a fourth Team Penske entry next season on Friday night. Takuma Sato was confirmed to be back with Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing for a fourth consecutive year on Saturday morning. Then, Rinus VeeKay was tabbed to be back with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2021 again as well.
In between the Sato and VeeKay announcements, Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new partner in Carvana as they’ll sponsor Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Honda in 2021. The team confirmed Johnson will still only run the 13 road/street courses but will be full time with a driver being sought for the four ovals.
Same for Ed Carpenter’s No. 20 Chevrolet. He too will be back on the four ovals but needs a driver for the 13 road/street courses.
How does Conor Daly fit into that? He says it’s all predicated on funding from US Air Force but he doesn’t know yet on their plans for 2021 and won’t likely until sometime in November.
Helio Castroneves’ plans for a full time seat are getting smaller. Andretti Autosport or Chip Ganassi Racing is really his only chances of doing so in a competitive ride. Arrow McLaren SP now looks to be staying put on two full time cars and Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist will be their drivers in those seats.
James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti are all vying still for the three open Andretti seats but it doesn’t sound like Hinchcliffe is in plan for the 26 seat. Andretti isn’t going to fire himself from the 98 seat and prospects are growing more and more likely that Hunter-Reay returns to the 28 now. That means Castroneves, Askew and maybe even Kevin Magnussen could be in play for the 26.
The full time Ganassi seats could go to Castroneves, Magnussen, Marcus Ericsson or Alex Palou who are all in play. Whomever brings money gets the leg up.
Tony Kanaan appears to be the favorite to split the seat with Johnson in the 48. The thing now is, is the 10 the only open seat at Ganassi or does the 8 come back in play for four cars? Ganassi could just move the 8 to the 48 and take any one of those other drivers to the 10.
Castroneves could even shift to the 4 at AJ Foyt Racing with Sebastien Bourdais too.
Dale Coyne Racing will get Santino Ferrucci back but the second seat is down to funding from any of the above drivers too.
Silly season is far from over. There’s plenty of factors in play.