Juncos back in INDYCAR, how Silly Season Looks now

Jay Frye has this NTT IndyCar Series riding high from a competition standpoint. He’s done everything right since he joined the series and I can’t say enough good things about him. But, one of his greatest assets from his work is the ever growing car count. There’s a realistic chance that we’re going to see 27-29 full time cars next season with that pushing closer to 30 in a few years. That doesn’t even count a potential new OEM coming onboard either which could push that higher again.

This season currently, we have 24 full time cars with four more part time entries showing up in races outside of Indy. That list is already growing for 2022 with Meyer Shank Racing running two full time cars now to push that number up to 25. Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing will likely move the No. 45 Honda entry to full time and expand to a third car next year too. That’s 26.

Now, we have Juncos back in the fray as they’ve partnered with Williams F1 stakeholder Brad Hollinger to rename them Juncos Hollinger Racing. They’ll run the final three races of 2021 and all of the races in 2022.

The partnership between Juncos and Hollinger brings an expansive future for the race team and the state-of-the-art headquarters located just half a mile away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“The opportunity to partner with someone who shares many of the same values, passion, determination, and is forward-thinking like Brad Hollinger makes this an incredible moment in our team’s history,” said Ricardo Juncos. “Brad has a lot of experience at one of the highest levels in racing and brings resources that will create more opportunities and growth for all of our programs. I am looking forward to what our future holds at Juncos Hollinger Racing and taking our team to the next level.”
Hollinger brings multiple years of experience and resources in motorsports after being the second-largest shareholder and board member in the Williams Grand Prix Holdings Formula One team. Once he ended his time in Formula One, Hollinger looked for an opportunity to be involved in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. He met Juncos during the 2017 Indianapolis 500 and they formed a friendship over the next few years. Both Juncos and Hollinger saw the opportunity to combine their passion for motorsports which led to the partnership and formation of Juncos Hollinger Racing.
“I am very excited to join Ricardo and the Juncos Racing team,” said Hollinger. “Since we first met, Ricardo’s relentless drive for success, knowledge of open-wheel racing, and engineering expertise were quite apparent. His winning spirit along with our shared vision and commitment to be a front running team made my decision to join Juncos Racing a simple one. I recently transitioned from the Formula One world, where the sport entertained an international audience, yet had limited fan participation in the United States. My view of INDYCAR SERIES racing, in light of Formula Ones’ limited exposure, is that significant growth opportunities exist. This premise prompted me to seek an INDYCAR SERIES team with a combination of engineering acumen, a culture of excellence, and a track record of success. With an infusion of funds to obtain the best equipment and INDYCAR SERIES talent, Juncos is a team poised to be fiercely competitive in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Further, INDYCAR SERIES racing is an American-born motorsport with a significant spectator platform that has major growth potential. The racing is very competitive and exciting, creating a viewer experience that is attractive to businesses focused on national and international branding. In addition, all major networks are seeking live sports content at an unparalleled level.”

That’s 27 full time cars. It’s only August. What does Dale Coyne Racing/Rick Ware Racing do with their third car? What does Top Gun do? What about if Arrow McLaren SP expands to a third car? Does Carlin bring out a second car again? Can Ed Carpenter Racing find the funding for two full time cars and a third part time role for Ed Carpenter only? Does Chip Ganassi Racing add a fifth car?

The only team that could downscale is Team Penske as it all depends on what they do with the No. 22 Chevrolet. Simon Pagenaud has driven it the last several years but does he come back? If he doesn’t, does Penske shelf the car for a year before making a run at Alexander Rossi or Rinus VeeKay for 2022?

Other than that, the car counts are only going to go higher.

“Since the Indianapolis 500 in 2019, we have been looking for the right opportunity to get back on track in the INDYCAR SERIES,” said Juncos. “After a difficult 2019 year and then with us all facing the terrible and unfortunate times during COVID-19 in 2020, our efforts were derailed until this year. Once we committed to a full 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, we made the plan to get on track this year for the final three races this season to begin our preparation for next year. To be back on track and to get to this point would not have been possible without the support we have received. Since we first committed to running in the Indianapolis 500 during 2017, Chevy, Firestone, INDYCAR SERIES, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been there for us every step of the way. Our relationships with Chevy and Firestone remained strong even when we were not on track, and the support they have provided since we made the decision to get back out there this year has been incredible. Thank you to everyone who has continued to believe in our program and we look forward to seeing you all on track in September!”

Juncos Racing has competed in the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires for over 10 years. The team has claimed two Indy Lights driver championships, five Indy Pro 2000 driver championships, and five Indy Pro 2000 team championships.
“Ricardo and Juncos’s winning history in open-wheel racing and their state-of-the-art engineering platform not only position us for future success but also advances Juncos’s Road to Indy driver development program,” said Hollinger. “The combination of Ricardo’s racing expertise and Hollinger resources positions Juncos for success on multiple levels of open-wheel racing.”
Juncos Hollinger Racing will compete at the Grand Prix of Portland, Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach this September and is currently preparing for full-time INDYCAR competition in 2022. A driver will be announced soon.
What about everything else?

So far, we know that Will Power is staying with Team Penske in the No. 12 Chevrolet. Also, Helio Castroneves will pilot the current part time ride (No. 06 Honda) which will become full time next year. The No. 60 Honda that Jack Harvey’s held the keys to since 2018 will be turned over to someone else. That ride was going to be Harvey’s again, but the Brit has since found something else for next year which will be announced soon.

So, now that a major domino has fallen, what’s left? Well, buckle up because the INDYCAR silly season will rival NASCAR’s in the drama department.

Several big named rides will become available with some big notable free agents after them. Lets go with what we know is secured for in 2022.

Andretti Autosport has eyes on four full time cars again and would only expand back to a fifth if the money is right. Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta are under contract for next year and aren’t going anywhere. MSR has Castroneves. Chip Ganassi Racing will have Scott Dixon back and there’s no way Alex Palou is going anywhere. Jimmie Johnson is back in whatever capacity he wants while Tony Kanaan is also under contract. I also don’t see Ganassi allowing Marcus Ericsson to get away since he keeps improving and also brings money. More on this team in a bit.

Graham Rahal is obviously back with RLL. Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin and Power are returning to Team Penske. Pato O’Ward will be coming back to Arrow McLaren SP. Rinus VeeKay is back full time with Ed Carpenter Racing while Ed Carpenter himself should return for all ovals.

That’s the confirmed list.

The open rides is to where this gets interesting.

There’s 12 existing rides open. There’s potential for three teams expanding that don’t have drivers tied to them. There’s also 27 drivers mentioned vying for those seats. As you can tell, despite every big outlet reporting “insert driver here* is close to a ride, don’t necessarily put much stock in that. They’re being used by drivers and their agents around them to keep their names in the mix for seats but there’s not enough seats for every driver named to stay in the series. You have to dig deeper to figure out who’s really in the mix or who’s not.

You have veterans like Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais, Takuma Sato, Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball without rides for next year. You have young drivers like Conor Daly, Jack Harvey, Santino Ferrucci, Felix Rosenqvist, Ed Jones, Oliver Askew, Spencer Pigot, Sage Karam and Dalton Kellett trying to secure rides. Then you have drivers with overseas experience like Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Alex Albon, Kevin Magnussen, Tatiana Calderón, Juan-Manuel Correa and Antonio Felix da Costa in the mix. Finally, Indy Lights drivers in Kyle Kirkwood, Devlin De Francesco, David Malukas and Linus Lundqvist are all throwing their names into the hat.

That’s a strong field just in the free agent market, but there’s not 27 seats for the taking for them. So, who ends up still standing when the music stops?

Andretti Autosport has two rides to fill. Do either Ryan Hunter-Reay or James Hinchcliffe come back? Hunter-Reay has been tied to DHL with Hinchcliffe in Genesys. Even if both have those sponsors for 2022, are they welcomed? Sounds like both are on their ways out.

The talent level is there for both though and they should land on their feet somewhere else. Their talent isn’t being questioned. The bad luck has plagued them which has led to dismal seasons for both. It seems as if AA is wanting a partial reset for their organization as a result. Where do they go from here? Is it Oliver Askew? What about Sage Karam (Andretti ties), Kevin Magnussen or Romain Grosjean? All are viable options and have been linked to AA at some point. So could Kyle Kirkwood should he win the Indy Lights championship this year. If not here, he could very well end up in the second Shank car too.

Alex Albon has also emerged as a front runner to grab one of the season as well as Devlin De Francesco. Translation? The two open seats are likely going to come down to ex F1 drivers in Grosjean and Albon or Indy Lights drivers Kirkwood or De Francesco or a combo of half of them.

This is likely the top domino standing right now.

Same for Penske because Simon Pagenaud is a hell of a racer, a champion for both the series and the Indy 500 at that. Can he and Penske work out a deal? If not, Pagenaud should certainly be on everyone’s list to fill a ride at any team and open a largely wanted ride which makes this domino No. 2.

Arrow McLaren SP’s second car makes the most sense for Pagenaud if he doesn’t return to Penske but how do you turn Penske down? The future past 2022 and whether he’s in sports cars for them or INDYCAR’s is likely what’s being negotiated as you know he’d much rather stay here on a long term deal but just how long is Penske willing to offer and what’s Penske’s view on Pagenaud past next season? If he doesn’t return, does Penske just go back to three cars, which they’d honestly prefer to run, or fill Pagenaud’s ride? Rossi and VeeKay would be potential drivers for them and both would be free agents past next season. I sense if Pagenaud doesn’t return, the team may go back to three cars before making a run at either Rossi or VeeKay at this time next year. This ride is likely Pagenaud’s or no one’se for 2022.


That then would lead to AMSP and what they do. They’d like to have Felix Rosenqvist back but you could also get a Pagenaud, Hunter-Reay, Harvey, Grosjean, Sato, Ferrucci or Kevin Magnussen on the open market too. They don’t want to have a turnstile of drivers come though this ride as if the 7 car is anyone but Rosenqvist next year, it would be the third full time driver in as many years. Also, there’s a great possibility of them expanding to a third full time car too. That’s why this is a team everyone is interested in since its a paid ride and they’ve shown to have the speed to contend for a championship on the 5 car. Why not the 7?

Speaking of Magnussen, Ganassi would obviously love to keep him inside his walls. But, how? This is where it gets intriguing there with likely all the full time seats staying status quo. The question is, what does Jimmie Johnson do? If he runs ovals, the 48 car is his full time. Does that push Kanaan to a fifth Indy 500 only ride? Or, does Ganassi just expand to a fifth full time team and have then Kanaan and Magnussen split the ride as Kanaan and Johnson have done this year? Do they run six cars, five full time and a sixth for ovals only for Kanaan? The sell of the NASCAR team gives them monetary options to grow in INDYCAR as a result of that if they want to.

For RLL, I don’t see Takuma Sato leaving them at all but rumors are starting to surface saying otherwise. If he leaves, I doubt he’d be a full time driver since Andretti’s open rides don’t appear to have Sato’s name attached to them. He won’t be racing for Chevy or their teams so his opportunities are limited and why take a step back? RLL seems like the best fit but it doesn’t sound anymore like he’s a potential to remain which is arguably one of the more shocking deals of this silly season.

For the third seat, Santino Ferrucci makes the most sense. He’s raced in that car every race its run thus far and in all those races, while he’s tore up some equipment in practices or qualifying, he’s still finished in the top 10 too. Harvey’s name is being mentioned as an RLL candidate too.

Right now, it sounds as if it’s Rahal and Harvey in two of the seats with Ferrucci, Askew or a few other option available for that third car.

MSR has their second ride to fill while the final Honda team is Dale Coyne Racing. They’re interesting in that I think Grosjean gets scooped up elsewhere leaving both cars open. Does Vasser-Sullivan return for the 18 car? That’s a rumor being floated around the paddock that they may leave and join another partnership with someone else or even go off on their own. Right now, the 18 and 51 are open for next season and I think you’ll see two new drivers in each should these current partnerships remains. Zach Veach is the lead candidate to land in the 18, what about the 51?

Hinchcliffe would be a good option for that car leaving Ed Jones out of a ride now.

For the Chevy teams that we’ve not talked about yet, Foyt likely brings back Sebastien Bourdais but that second ride is open for the taking.

ECR likes Conor Daly and I do think if Air Force is willing to come back and I don’t see why they wouldn’t, they remain status quo again. Carpenter told me that their improvement this season from last is the continuity. Imagine if they run it back for a third straight year? The only thing here is, can Ed find enough funding to run two full time cars (VeeKay/Daly) and just a third car for him on ovals only?

Nico Hulkenberg has emerged as a potential for ECR too.

The other team is Carlin. I think Max Chilton ends up back with them but do they finally bring that second car back out?

This is just existing teams. Does Paretta and Top Gun come back on a larger scale? They’re eyeing that. Does Dreyer & Reinbold finally race outside Indy 500? Does Carlin and ECR expand additional cars? Does Ganassi? Does Vasser Sullivan go out on their own?

My early predictions would be Andretti getting Grosjean and Albon. Kirkwood goes to MSR. Pagenaud stays put at Penske. ECR stats status quo. So does Carlin. DCR keeps Vasser’s support but goes with Zach Veach and Hinchcliffe replaces the departing Grosjean. RLL gets Harvey for the 2nd seat and Ferrucci in the third. Foyt retains Bourdais but grabs Malukas or Lundqvist as their second driver.

Sato and Hunter-Reay are Indy only seats.


Current Open Rides (11)

AJ Foyt Racing (2) – No. 4, No. 14

Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (2) – No. 30, No. 45

Andretti Autosport (2) – No. 28, No. 29

Meyer Shank Racing (1) – No. 60

Team Penske (1) – No. 22

Arrow McLaren SP (1) – No. 7

Juncos/Hollinger (1) – number TBA

Ed Carpenter Racing (1) – No. 20 (part time ride)

Carlin (1) – No. 59 (part time ride)


Free Agents

Simon Pagenaud

Romain Grosjean

Takuma Sato

Ryan Hunter-Reay

James Hinchcliffe

Santino Ferrucci

Conor Daly

Felix Rosenqvist

Jack Harvey

Ed Jones

Sage Karam

Oliver Askew

Spencer Pigot

Charlie Kimball

Max Chilton

Dalton Kellett

Nico Hulkenberg

Alex Albon

Kyle Kirkwood

Devlin De Franceso

David Malukas

Linus Lundqvist


Expansion?

3rd car at Arrow McLaren SP

2nd car at Carlin

2nd full time car at Ed Carpenter Racing

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Paretta Autosport

Top Gun

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