INDIANAPOLIS — The NTT IndyCar Series is no doubt one of, if not THE, most competitive racing series on this entire planet. It’s so tight from top to bottom and features some of the best race car drivers this world has to offer. But, as competitive as the series is on the track, it’s brutally competitive off of it too.
Yes, the majority of the drivers are friends off track, but what I’m talking about is the competitive nature of silly season. This year is a true prime example of that.
Helio Castroneves joined Team Penske for the 2000 season. He remained as a full time Indy Car driver for them for the next 17 years. In that time frame, he won 30 races including three Indianapolis 500’s. He was also runner-up in the championship four times as well. But, following the 2017 season, he was let go from his full time open wheel venture but brought back to join their IMSA program.
Castroneves, would make Indy only appearances for Penske afterwards in INDYCAR but race full time in their new IMSA operation. He won this past year’s championship in IMSA at that. Penske though is shutting down their IMSA program and adding a fourth INDYCAR team back.
Castroneves isn’t being hired for his old ride. A rookie in Scott McLaughlin is. Yes, McLaughlin can be a great driver here. This has nothing to do with him but rather a business. McLaughlin looks to have Helio’s old sponsors too.
Helio, after 20 years with Penske, now is out.
Cut throat business this is.
I get why he’s out, but it just goes to show you how this business is a win for me now venture. It’s also one that deals with funding too.
Gainbridge was brought to Andretti Autosport from Zach Veach. The contracts were up at the end of the 2020 season. Gainbridge signed off on an extension to remain as the title sponsor of the No. 26 Honda with AA. Veach, wasn’t retained to drive the seat for the sponsor that he brought.
Colton Herta will drive the 26 next year and Veach is unemployed in racing.
Again, cut throat business. But, Veach didn’t deliver wins in that ride and they feel Herta can.
Then you have Oliver Askew sitting out the Indy road course race weekend in October with concussion like symptoms. His team strongly felt that these symptoms go back to his Indy 500 crash but he was afraid to get out of his car after due to the nature of not wanting to see someone else get into his car. There seemed to be some drama unfolding regarding this situation between Askew and Arrow McLaren SP after the fact. Askew wasn’t retained for 2021 despite being a Rookie of the Year leader before that Indy crash.
Felix Rosenqvist didn’t come back to Chip Ganassi Racing, the team that took a chance on him and gave him his INDYCAR shot in order to replace Askew in the No. 7 Chevrolet at Arrow McLaren SP next year.
Again, this is a tough business.
Just look at how Arrow McLaren SP handled their situation with James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson last year.
It’s a competitive world out there. If you want to succeed in racing, especially INDYCAR, you need to not only find funding, but you better win with it. If you don’t, you won’t be in your seat wrong and your sponsor that you had may stay without you too.
It’s a business after all and one that has to thrive on the bottom line and if the bottom line is losing money, brutal but necessary changes will be made for the betterment of the team.