INDYCAR fans owe a lot to Hy-Vee. The Iowa based company spearheaded and helped bring back a fan/driver favorite in the Iowa Speedway. If that’s not enough to rejoice, they’ll also sponsor a new full time car in the NTT INDYCAR Series as well.
In one of the more underrated nuggets from Thursday’s announcement was the fact that Hy-Vee will fund a third car for Rahal/Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2022. No driver was announced yet as RLL is still finalizing their lineup.
We know Graham Rahal will be back but the status of Takuma Sato is still up in the air. Rumors are that Jack Harvey is coming over but is it in this No. 45 Honda or in the No. 30 Honda in replacing Sato?
Santino Ferrucci and Christian Lundgaard have driven the 45 this year in race competition while Oliver Askew and a host of others are said to be on the short list.
It’s all predicated on Sato.
Still, RLL adding a car means that we have three new full time teams next season. They’ll join Juncos and Meyer Shank Racing with new entrants. We also have 24 full time cars this year, and if all return, that’s 27 now for 2022 with potentially more to come.
Carlin is interested in a second car again. Arrow McLaren SP is eyeing a third car full time. Does Ganassi go to five cars if Jimmie Johnson goes full time? That’s 30 cars right there.
Rick Ware Racing wants to use their second car on a part time basis even more. Paretta and Top Gun are out there still. That’s three part time cars already for races outside of Indy.
ECR would eventually like to expand to two full time cars and a third part time for Ed Carpenter. Vasser Sullivan would like to eventually branch out on their own again too.
That doesn’t even begin to count the potential of even more new teams like Trackhouse who’s interested in eventually joining.
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.
The only downsizing now could be Team Penske if they choose to mutually part ways with Simon Pagenaud. They’d like him back but for how long? MSR has crept up as a potential landing spot for him in the No. 60 to replace Harvey but nothing is signed. Ryan Hunter-Reay and some Indy Lights drivers are also in the mix there.
Pagenaud’s direction is all up to him but he’s thinking more past 2022 than next season itself.
If he elects to not return, then Penske could downsize back to three cars before making a run at Rinus VeeKay or Alexander Rossi for next offseason.
VeeKay told me that he doesn’t see anything crazy happening to him this off-season and expects to be back with ECR. Rossi says he happy with AA but just frustrated with bad luck.
There’s 14 rides open now. There’s potential for a few more teams expanding that don’t have drivers tied to them too. 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 Christian Lundgaard 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? Sounds like at the very least Hunter-Reay isn’t.
Romain Grosjean is on everyone’s hot list but he keeps coming up as linked to AA. So does Alex Albon, Kyle Kirkwood and Devlin De Francesco.
DCR will have Rick Ware and Vasser Sullivan back but likely with two new drivers.
ECR has been linked to Nico Hulkenberg, Albon or a few Indy Lights names. But Conor Daly also told me there’s a good chance Air Force is back and I don’t see ECR turning that away.
Carlin will have Max Chilton likely back but needs an oval driver. Ganassi will return all four current drivers as the only one nit signed as of now is Ericsson but I don’t see him getting away.
Sebastien Bourdais wants to come back to Foyt and I don’t see them saying no. His teammate up is for grabs.
Current Open Rides (14)
AJ Foyt Racing (2) – No. 4, No. 14
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (2) – No. 30, No. 45
Andretti Autosport (2) – No. 28, No. 29
Dale Coyne Racing (2) – No. 18, No. 51
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)
Devlin De Franceso
3rd car at Arrow McLaren SP
2nd car at Carlin
2nd full time car at Ed Carpenter Racing
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing