INDIANAPOLIS — I guess we should have taken them more seriously. Rick Ware Racing has been teasing an NTT IndyCar Series opportunity lately but not many, myself included, put much stock into their aspirations.
See, RWR is a growing NASCAR team with four charters now. They showed up to Indy last August though with a car and a joint partnership with Dale Coyne Racing, Byrd Racing and Belardi to bring James Davison to the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Davison, qualified 27th but finished 33rd after his No. 51 Honda had a parts failure and caught fire early on in the race.
Since then, they’ve done a brilliant job on social media teasing a potential INDYCAR return for the upcoming season. They were even at Sebring this past week testing with driver Cody Ware too.
But, after the teams post on social media on Thursday, it appears that not only are they going to show up in the series in 2021, they’ll do so on a full time basis.
They’ll likely do so in another Honda entry as that’s the car that they had last year and the one that they have so far now. Some speculated that it could be a flurry of drivers in it, but Pietro Fittipaldi’s tweet on Friday morning reveals that it could be him driving that car this season.
Notice the No. 51 planted above his head? That’s the car number RWR teased in their video yesterday that they’d be using and the font of that number is the same.
Plus, Cody Ware is racing full time in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021, so I don’t see an opportunity for him to race in an INDYCAR too. He could have just have always wanted to test an INDYCAR and took a test session this week to get behind the wheel. He was turning respectable times too but his main focus is on NASCAR.
Fittipaldi, has long been rumored since last Fall to be coming back to an INDYCAR seat and Dale Coyne Racing was the proposed destination. He ran select raced with DCR a few years ago before joining Haas F1 as a reserve driver that next season. He remained there last year but with Haas electing to go with two new rookies for their two seats in 2021, Fittipaldi was allowed to look elsewhere.
The best destination is back to the States to race in INDYCAR and this seems like the fit that’s going to happen.
The main question now is, will this be RWR on their own or will it be the more likely scenario as teaming with DCR?
It would help DCR as they have Vasser-Sullivan back on the No. 18 Honda. Team Goh paired with them on the No. 55 Honda with Alex Palou last year but Palou has since departed to Chip Ganassi Racing. So, getting RWR as a new partner with a car at that, only helps.
That allows DCR to take someone with money for the 18 seat and they can remain competitive. Initially, it was speculated that Fittipaldi would possibly replace Santino Ferrucci, but now it appears it could be Romain Grosjean who’s recently been reported to be close to a deal with DCR.
Is it Grosjean in the 18 and Fittipaldi in the 51?
It sure seems that way right now unless the partnership with RWR is allowing DCR to run three cars which doesn’t seem too likely but is still entirely possible.
I’ve heard names from Grosjean to Charlie Kimball to Ed Jones to Spencer Pigot to other wild rumors for the DCR seats. So, while Grosjean is the new favorite, it could easily land with any one else too.
Still, RWR is factoring into this season as a new team. Last year they became the 18th new team to join the series since 2015. Paretta Autosport became the 19th as they unveiled this past week that they’ll do the Indy 500 this year with a goal of being full time in 2022.
The thing is, what can INDYCAR, RWR and Paretta do in order to keep this around longer than just one season?
Out of the 19 teams that’s came into the series since 2015, only six of them are still around at the moment.
2015 – Jonathan Byrd (Indy only)
2016 – Team Murray (Indy only) *1 race and hasn’t been back
2017 – McLaren (Indy only with Andretti), Meyer Shank (Indy only with Andretti too), Harding (3 races that season), Juncos (Indy only)
2018 – Hollinger/Belardi (Indy only with Foyt/Byrd), Carlin (full time), Vasser Sullivan (with DCR but full time), Thom Burns (Indy only with DCR), Scuderia Corsa (Indy only with RLL)
2019 – Marco Andretti (bought into his existing team), Team Strange Racing (Indy only, paired with SPM for 1 time deal), Clauson-Marshall (Indy only, 1 time deal), DragonSpeed (Indy only)
2020- Rick Ware (Indy only with Belardi/Byrd/DCR), Team Goh (with DCR full time), Citrone Buhl (Indy only with RLL)
2021- Paretta Autosport
Out of them, only McLaren, Meyer Shank, Vasser Sullivan, Carlin, Paretta and now RWR are left. Harding has a car but no driver nor a good outlook to remain full time for 2021. Byrd has been Indy only during this span but no word yet on if they remain. Marco Andretti’s ride is Indy only with a potential for a few more select races.
Does Citrone Buhl come back?
Team Strange, Team Murray, Clauson Marshall and Thom Burns seem to be long gone. So is DragonSpeed. Belardi is taking a year off due to medical reasons. Scuderia Corsa hinted in 2019 that they’d like to do more races in 2020 but nothing ever materialized. Juncos’ car went to Team Penske and they in turn have worked out a deal with Paretta to use it.
So, the big key for INDYCAR is, how do they make it work for these new teams coming in to stay. How can they get them to go out on their own? Right now, a majority of them are with alliances as I can’t blame them for doing so. Why go straight into the deep end when you can join an existing team and figure this thing out slowly. But, how do we get them past that point to come back again?
It worked for RWR, they’re clearly coming back in 2021 and even on a larger scale at that. McLaren came back and are full time too. Carlin jumped in directly full time. Vasser Sullivan is still here with DCR again.
Getting the teams has been going great. Thank Jay Frye for that. This growth is all on his watch and he’s been a tremendous get for INDYCAR when they brought him in. He’s done his job of getting them here. While there’s no right answer to the question on how to keep the new teams coming back, it’s one that does need to eventually get solved.
The full time car count is going to be substantially higher this year than in years past. We’re trending higher and higher each year so what Frye and INDYCAR are doing is clearly working. It’s how can we keep these other teams around to help grow this even further?
Is it a third OEM? Is it more money? Is it on them? There’s no easy answer but what this still show is, INDYCAR is in great hands with plenty of people wanting to still come in.
RWR and Paretta are just the latest examples.