And then there were 9. Following the four 2022 NTT IndyCar Series driver announcement in four days, two of which coming on Friday, one on Sunday and the other on Monday, it leaves just 9 full-time seats open for the taking next season.
Callum Ilott will stay with Juncos Hollinger Racing in 2022. Romain Grosjean replaces Ryan Hunter-Reay at Andretti Autosport for next year. Rinus VeeKay reupped with Ed Carpenter Racing for another season.
With that said, Harvey clearly has something lined up. One doesn’t leave a full time seat if he doesn’t. With how the dominoes are following, it’s clear the rumors of Harvey going to Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing is likely true. That means RLL has one car left and that’s the one that’s the most intriguing.
Santino Ferrucci fared really well in it but he also tore up a lot of equipment in the process. Christian Lundgaard was highly impressive in his one shot at the Indy road course. OIiver Askew has made the the car and the team better in general in his three appearances. Do they take one of them?
What if Honda gives Takuma Sato the budget the compete full time? If it’s not too late, he will slide back into his No. 30 Honda and Harvey to the No. 45. If he doesn’t, then Harvey will be in the 30 and the new driver in the 45.
Hy-Vee is rumored to favor an American driver which leaves Ferrucci and Askew as the front runners. Conor Daly and Hunter-Reay also make sense.
For Hunter-Reay, this may be among his last chances for a full-time ride. Most of the others are already far down the line with other drivers in mind.
Andretti Autosport’s last car available is likely going to Devlin DeFrancesco. While some wonder why not Kyle Kirkwood, I heard the American is more than likely going to Dale Coyne Racing in their Vasser Sullivan entry.
Marcus Ericsson is going to be back with Chip Ganassi Racing. They haven’t formally announced anything yet but the deal is there.
The only other full time rides left are then with AJ Foyt Racing (No. 4, No. 14), Carlin and the DCR/Rick Ware Racing joint entry in the No. 51 Honda.
Team Penske goes back to three cars so that car is out of the running. Carlin will likely retain Max Chilton even though he’s threatened to leave if they don’t find him a teammate. I just don’t see him going anywhere else.
Foyt is likely going to bring back Dalton Kellett in the No. 4, so that then leaves the 14 with them and the 51 with DCR/RWR as the only seats available.
Sebastien Bourdais will shift to sports cars with Ganassi and eye and part time role with Foyt. If he doesn’t come back, Hunter-Reay would make sense, but is that where he wants to end his career?
The DCR/RWR car is rumored to be Sato’s if he doesn’t come back to RLL, so the path for Hunter-Reay being full time is growing slimmer by the day.
The seat in the No. 20 Chevrolet on a part-time basis could be in play if Daly leaves but that’s all dependent on Air Force. Honestly, it would make sense for Carpenter to bring out a third car for himself and get two full time drivers. Far worst case, split time with Daly and Hunter-Reay in the second car and Carpenter in a third.
Past that, most everything else is done minus the added entries that are possible for expansion.
DCR/Rick Ware has the No. 52 Honda they plan on bringing out some next season. Arrow McLaren SP will bring out a third car part time and then run it full time in 2023. Can Carlin get that second car off the ground again? What about Paretta Autosport who with Penske likely scaling back and Paretta losing their car which went back to Juncos, does the No. 22 Chevrolet end up being the No. 16 Chevrolet for races in 2022? Top Gun says that their No. 75 Chevrolet will be in use some. Foyt is eyeing a third and Tatiana Calderon if so.
All this adds up to a higher car count. We saw 24 full time cars this past season with that trajectory looking like we’ll have at least 26 on the grid for every race in 2022.
There’s a realistic chance that we’re going to see upwards of some races of 29-32 cars at them. I mean think about it. Chevrolet would have 3 cars at Penske, 2-3 at Foyt, two at AMSP, two at ECR, one at Carlin and Juncos/Hollinger. That’s 11-12 full time. They’d also have a third at AMSP, maybe a second at Carlin, maybe Paretta and Top Gun too. That’s some races with 15-16 cars.
Honda has four with Ganassi, four with Andretti, three at RLL, two at DCR and MSR. That’s 15 cars there. Does Ganassi land a fifth car is Jimmie Johnson goes full time? Tony Kanaan and Sebastien Bourdais would be great partners to share a fifth car. Does DCR/RWR add that third car in some races still? That could be 17 cars for Honda which is why I say there’s a very real possibility we can have 32 cars away from the Indy 500.
The only problem with this and the only reason we may fall short of this would be that there’s not enough people to go around for these teams. This is a people business and you can’t just hire anyone off the street. You need good, quality people around you and at this moment, there’s not a lot available.
Current Open Rides (10)
AJ Foyt Racing (2) – No. 4, No. 14
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (2) – No. 30, No. 45
Dale Coyne Racing (2) – No. 18, No. 51
Andretti Autosport (1) – No. 29
Chip Ganassi Racing (1) – No. 8 Honda
Ed Carpenter Racing (1) – No. 20 (part time ride)
Carlin (1) – No. 59
Devlin De Franceso (linked to Andretti)
Kyle Kirkwood (linked to DCR/Vasser Sullivan)
Marcus Ericsson (linked to Ganassi)
Jack Harvey (linked to RLL)
Takuma Sato (lined to staying at RLL or moving to DCR)
Santino Ferrucci (RLL possibility)
Oliver Askew (RLL possibility)
Christian Lundgaard (RLL possibility)