INDYCAR Silly Season talk of the day on Friday

INDIANAPOLIS — The big talk of the day on Friday from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the obvious crossover between the NTT IndyCar Series and NASCAR sharing the same 2.439-mile road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But, with there being only five races left in the 2021 INDYCAR season, including Saturday’s Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, INDYCAR Radio Network) silly season was also a big topic, especially with Alex Albon on site.

There’s been rumors that the former F1 driver could land in an INDYCAR seat for 2022 with Andretti Autosport being the leading candidate. But, he showed on Friday that they may not be the only destination for him.

Albon, spent some time in the Dale Coyne Racing garage and even hopped into one of the cars for a few minutes. He also spent time talking with Ed Carpenter as well. Both teams as well as by all accounts Andretti Autosport have openings next year and all make sense.

For ECR, they also could remain status quo too. Here’s what their drivers told me on Friday morning from IMS.

Rinus VeeKay:

“I’m not really sure what it’s going to be for next year. If I could sign with ECR again, that would be great. I’m happy with ECR. I think everyone wants to continue with each other. I don’t see any crazy things happening.”

Conor Daly:

“We’re trying to put it together. Realistically, it’s working for them (US Air Force). We did a lot this year that was new because we didn’t get to do in 2020. Still, it’s not been a normal season so there’s some events where we’ve not been able to do our setups in the fan zone. There’s still more. This is a certainly level of investment and I still don’t think we’ve been able to give them what they need. Lets go into next season where hopefully it’s more normal and they can get the full extent of the ROI. We want to be back. I want to be back. The Air Force from what I know that they enjoyed the relationship with ECR.

“I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. It’s a good fit. We are building something. You want to build something over the years.”

I don’t see VeeKay leaving as there’s an option to keep him in the No. 21 Chevrolet for next season. What keeps coming up is Simon Pagenaud leaving Team Penske and Meyer Shank Racing being his potential landing spot. If that happens, the main rumor going around is Penske would either go back to three cars or make a run at VeeKay.

Alexander Rossi will be back with Andretti for 2022 but both he and VeeKay are true free agents for the 2023 season. That’s why there’s speculation that Penske just goes back to three cars for a year before making a run at either driver.

ECR has been the talk of maybe a landing spot for Ryan Hunter-Reay for a road/street course as well as an Indy 500 program. If so, he would replace Daly unless Daly can find the additional money to run full time in another car for them.

Hunter-Reay has also been linked to MSR if Pagenaud doesn’t go there either. The No. 60 Honda sounds like it’s between Hunter-Reay, Pagenaud and Kyle Kirkwood.

Andretti has Rossi and Colton Herta back but the other two cars are likely between Grosjean, Albon, Kirkwood or Devlin De Francesco. Two will be in and two out.

Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing has Graham Rahal back and surprisingly it sounds as if Takuma Sato isn’t going to be there for 2021. Jack Harvey has been listed as his replacement with the 45 car down to Oliver Askew or Santino Ferrucci. If Sato should return, then Harvey would then go to the 45.

Dale Coyne Racing will have partnerships with Vasser-Sullivan as well as Rick Ware Racing again but it appears both rides are open. Ed Jones isn’t likely going to be retained and while they’re making a run at keeping Grosjean, I think the Frenchman ends up with Andretti.

Arrow McLaren SP is keeping both drivers but eyeing expansion to a third full time cars. Juncos will be full time on the grid and currently doesn’t have a driver. Carlin should bring back Max Chilton on road/street courses as well as the Indy 500 again while Ganassi has an opening for the No. 8 Honda but with Marcus Ericsson winning twice this year, I don’t think the two sides break apart. I expect Ganassi to have the same lineup for 2022 as they did for 2021. The only difference would be if the 48 car is full time with Jimmie Johnson, who mentioned that he’s going to likely test at Texas soon to see if racing on ovals is going to be an option for him next year. If it is, then Tony Kanaan would share a fifth car with someone else.

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