INDIANAPOLIS — The long awaited worst kept secret in the NTT IndyCar Series paddock has now been confirmed. All it took was a couple of dominos to get tipped over within the last couple of weeks for us to land at the moment we’re in on Monday. But, Monday’s unveiling that Jack Harvey would pilot the No. 45 Honda for Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing added more questions that answers.
“You know, I am getting a little bit of a tickle where everybody thought it would be for the No. 30 car, and obviously that’s not the case,” Rahal said on Monday afternoon.
“You know, there’s a lot of rumors, a lot of guessing. Hey, that’s racing. It kind of excites people.
“I don’t have a problem with that, but until the time was right, we couldn’t make an announcement. But obviously the time has been right now.”
We all knew Harvey was going there. That word leaked this summer. Plus, look at the recent Silly Season developments as well.
Harvey and MSR announced this past summer that they mutually agreed to part ways as they’ll expand to a two-car outfit with Helio Castroneves moving from part-time to full-time in the No. 06 Honda. The 60 seat was Harvey’s but he turned it down.
Simon Pagenaud was announced two weeks ago that he not only would not be returning to Team Penske for the 2022 season but would be joining Meyer Shank Racing in the No. 60 Honda instead. That ride was vacated by Jack Harvey since 2017.
You don’t turn down a guaranteed ride in this series if you don’t already have something else lined up. So, with him gone, Penske losing Pagenaud to this car and then Takuma Sato not being retained by RLL, well the path was clear.
RLL confirmed the Sato news last week.
Harvey to the No. 30 right? The Hy-Vee sponsorship was on the No. 45 entry and that ride was open. This all lined up and made sense. Then, RLL announces it was Harvey to the 45.
Was he supposed to be in the 45 all along or did something change?
“Well, I mean, certainly Jack driving the 45 car was considered as a part of the plan or a big consideration,” said Rahal on that topic of if anything change or was Harvey in this car all along. “The most important thing is who could we get for that car that was going to do a job that — this is an important commitment for our team, for RLL. This is a sponsor that has been tremendously supportive of us even just to this point, so it was very important for me personally, and I think Mike felt the same way, and Dave, that we’d put the best possible guy we could get in that car.
“Really in the end, Jack filled that bill. We tried several other guys, as you well know, and I’m not going to comment on the possibilities of any one of them being remaining with the team, but just suffice it to say, we wanted the best guy we could get in the 45 car. That’s not saying we’re not looking for the best guy we can get for the 30 car, because as I said earlier, our goal over the last year has been to put ourselves in position to put the three best guys that we can get into the team to drive that team forward.
“With Jack, with Graham, I think we’ve got two out of that three, and we’re working on the third.”
As to why Harvey then? Rahal says it was simple. He likes what he saw.
“I can’t tell you how pleased I am to welcome Jack to our team,” said Rahal. “Really for me when it came down to who are we going to get to drive this car, I’d had interest in Jack before. Obviously he showed his pace. He showed he had a lot of good races. He had some very good races that didn’t end up so well, which that happens in racing, but through no fault of his own I might add. But that happens.
“I’ve seen his pace on the tracks, and I’ve seen what he can do, in qualifying and in race day. I just think that — I don’t think there’s any question that he has the capability, and for us now, it’s all about giving him the team around him to really take it to the next level, which is to put it in Victory Lane, and I think there’s no doubt that he can do that.
“I first heard of him during his time in Indy Lights. He has a great record of success over the years in all forms of racing so I’m pleased that he agreed to join our team. He and Graham will work well together and be a strong foundation for our driver lineup that will raise not only the level of each driver individually but of the team as a result. I respect and appreciate his commitment and work ethic to racing on and off the track which is so key.
“I think for sure Jack, Graham will push each other. That does great things for a team because it just raises the competitiveness of the team. All you have to do is look at Roger, what his team has been like over the years, or Chip. You’ve got to have guys within the organization that are pushing each other and really trying to make it better, and so I’m really pleased that Jack agreed to come along with us.
“And I also respect the way he deals with people – friendly and respectful. I think we’re going to have a lot of success together and I very much look forward to having him with us. Our goal, Mike’s, mine, Dave’s, our goal was to really put forth the strongest three-car program we could for 2022 and beyond, and certainly Hy-Vee was a huge component of that or is a huge component, and then bringing Jack in to the team is just as much of a huge one.
“I can’t think of a better representative for Hy-Vee and RLL, both on and off the track. That’s why we’re here today.”
For Harvey, his big question was why leave MSR to join RLL when everything was seemingly being built around him at his past team?
“I’m incredibly excited to be joining Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing,” Harvey said. “I’ve been working towards this moment for my entire career.
“I really enjoyed my initial chats with Bobby and with Mike, the ambition of the team, and honestly what really drew me to the team was they were having a good season, but that wasn’t enough. That’s really how I felt, as well.
“It was a huge part, ultimately. I look at our season, and it was filled with a lot of potential. Too many coulda-woulda-shouldas, and I would look every weekend and watch the races back, and I always felt like Graham’s race pace was exceptionally strong, and as a team they always found a way to get their drivers to the front. That’s definitely been a few races where I was envious of that.
“I think a lot of it, you look at their season, and the cars always run really well at Indy, which is evident because they’ve won it extremely recently, Graham has been very strong this year. I thought the 45 at the end of the year was running pretty strong, as well, and ultimately I think the team expanding to three cars is a great move for everybody. But their consistency, and when you see all three cars be quick and have the opportunity to be quick, that’s what you want to be a part of.
“I feel like what I can bring to the team is obviously trying to qualify, keep our qualifying performances going, but also be able to improve on our race pace, which I feel like between me and the team, we should be ticking a lot of those boxes.
“There’s just a lot of really great things that everybody at RLL is doing, which made that such an enticing opportunity. Again, like I said, it wasn’t one particular thing, it was just the team is very, very good across the board, and like I said to a couple of people who kind of knew, it was a tough decision, but ultimately where I was before, MSR, I’ve been there a long time, I know a lot of people there, it would have been easy to have stayed, and ultimately I wouldn’t have just left that organization for anything, but I was really excited about this project, this opportunity, and I wanted to be a part of it.
“I’d like people to know that I wouldn’t have just taken anything. I was truly excited about this.
“I feel ready to have an expanded role, I guess. I’m really excited to get on track. I feel that my time at MSR has served me really well, and I feel ready to win.
“The things I loved about to the team was there’s still things I need to work on, and I feel like the team has a lot of infrastructure and support to help me grow both as a driver and as a person. I’m excited to work with Graham and the third car when that gets announced.
“But to me it wasn’t one thing that hammered it home. It was from the get-go, from our first conversations to now, I’ve just been so impressed with the hunger and desire of the team. Obviously Hy-Vee’s commitment has been incredible.
“There’s so many things to look forward to with this team, and honestly I’m just really grateful to be a small part of it but obviously a big part of it come race day.
“But it takes a village; you can’t just do it on your own. A lot of people have helped me to get here, and just excited for the future at this point.”
That leads to the elephant in the room now, who’s going to the 30? With this announcement, some may speculate the driver of that car has to bring funding. That’s not the case at all says Bobby Rahal. He says that ride is fully funded due to the hardwork of their marketing department. They’re now in a place to where they could hire both new drivers and not have to worry about the paycheck someone brings.
“You know, we — thankfully through the hard work of our marketing/sales group, Tom Knox and his folks, there’s been a lot of work, a lot of commitment over the last year or two to get us to the point where we could hire who we wanted to hire. That’s the same — that’s led us to this point,” Rahal said.
“That’s the way it used to be for me back in the days of Team Rahal when we had Bryan Herta or Kenny Brack or Max Papis or any of those fellas in our team.
“Thankfully, again, through all that hard work, we’re in a position where we can make independent choices. That’s nice. I can tell you. And we’re continuing — as you know, in racing there’s never enough money, so we’re continuing to knock on doors, but we’re really pleased with where we’re at at this point in time.”
Rahal gives a ton of credit to a change in direction several years ago in which they’re now reaping the benefits of that decision made then.
“Probably six years ago, seven years ago, Mike Lanigan and I decided we really need to make the financial commitment to create an in-house marketing/sales organization, and we found this fellow Tom Knox and asked him to — and Tom had been with Rusty Wallace, he had been with NASCAR, he had been with IMG, a really strong resume, and he thankfully came on and we just re-upped another long-term agreement with him, and he’s done a great job with his team, put a team together that’s really producing results.
“That’s what’s put us in this place. Obviously the on-track product hasn’t been bad at all by any means, but it takes more than that.
“So the organization has really — why we are where we are is because of those efforts I think in particular, and then we continually look for further relationships in the corporate world to help us along our way and for us to create these kinds of relationships like we have been able to do with Hy-Vee.
“That has been a goal of ours, as I said, that we wanted to get to a place where we were hiring drivers because of our respect for their abilities and what they could do for our team, and we’re at that point.”
Also, in saying that they have two funded cars, what does this mean for scouting for them. See, the way we determine who’s good or not or who’s a good fit for a team or not, could vary completely different than how a team views it. They have more data at their disposal than we do. They know the chemistry and pieces in place better than any of us from the outside.
Plus, with so much technology at our disposal now, especially in a series sponsored by NTT Data, how much has that changed over the years for Rahal.
“Yeah, there’s more information out there for sure,” Rahal told me. “A lot of information comes to you. People have agents, guys, people trying to help them, help these drivers. They’re making you aware of them, what they’re doing, regardless of where it might be.
“Palou was in — Super formula in Japan. But he wasn’t in Europe; he had been in Europe, gone to Japan, was very highly thought of there, and there’s probably others over there looking the INDYCAR way, as there is in Europe.
“You know, a lot of it comes to you, but then again, it’s upon you to act upon that information. Piers Phillips, who’s the president of RLL, has kept his finger on that pulse to a large degree.
“Yeah, I mean, you’re always looking because — we’re fortunate all of our drivers are pretty young. Graham is 32, I think Jack is 26 or 27. It’s not like we’ve got a team full of 40 year olds or 39 year olds.
“So we’ve got some runway ahead of us. But we’re going to continue to look, test these young guys, people who have got great resumes and see because one day we might come knocking.”
Hy-Vee is their next great partner. They first joined the team as the primary sponsor of Graham Rahal’s entry for Race 2 at the Iowa Speedway in 2020 where he finished third. The company was also the primary sponsor of the team’s entry for Spencer Pigot at the Indy 500 and an associate sponsor of Rahal’s entry for the legendary race. In 2021, they have been a primary sponsor at 9 races: the Indy 500, Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader and Mid-Ohio races with Santino Ferrucci, at Road America and World Wide Technology Raceway with Graham Rahal and at Portland, Laguna Seca and Long Beach with Oliver Askew.
“Our ongoing partnership with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing continues to be a success,” RANDY EDEKER, Hy-Vee’s Chairman of the Board, CEO and President said. “Over the past two years, we’ve enjoyed being a part of a sport that continues to see its fan base grow substantially year after year. Now, as we look ahead to the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, we look forward to hosting our own doubleheader event at the Iowa Speedway and seeing the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda take the track in the nationally televised event.”
So, the day started on Monday with us feeling Harvey to the 30 and Askew or Ferrucci to the 45. Then, once the announcement came, it seemed as if Harvey to the 45 and Lundgaard to the 30. Now, with a fully funded ride open, it’s back open again for the taking.
Rahal says they’ll announce that driver by the end of the month.
So, with all this said, what’s left?
We already know that Romain Grosjean will replace Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 Honda for Andretti Autosport. The same team was able to sign Colton Herta to a multi-year extension this past May. Alexander Rossi reportedly has one year left on his contract with them for 2022. The fourth car?
All indications are pointing to it being Devlin DeFrancesco in the No. 29 Honda in replacing James Hinchcliffe.
Where does Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay land? What about Sato? What about Kyle Kirkwood and his three race scholarship totaling $1.3-million from winning this past year’s Indy Lights championship?
The snowball is now rolling downhill. The thing is, most of the remaining rides are spoken for. The ones that aren’t, well these are starting to get tangled in some sticky webs.
Penske will go back to a three car team instead of four. Juncos will stay a one car team and have Callum Ilott in it. Chip Ganassi Racing retains their entire driver lineup. Their only question mark is if Jimmie Johnson runs the Indy 500, then if he decides to just do the whole season from there. If so, they’ll bring a fifth car out for Tony Kanaan for all ovals. If that does end up happening, does that fifth car just run full-time and if it does, wouldn’t Sebastien Bourdais be the prime candidate to run the races Kanaan won’t?
Bourdais’ name is being brought up because he’s likely going to race for them on the IMSA side.
Texas, Long Beach, Barber, Indianapolis road course, Belle Isle, Mid-Ohio, Toronto and Nashville are the conflicts for Bourdais. The thing is, we know a charter is going to take teams and drivers between Texas and Sebring. Long Beach and Belle Isle are IMSA/INDYCAR shared weekend. So in all reality, Barber, Indy road course, Mid-Ohio, Toronto and Nashville are his main conflicts.
That fifth Ganassi car could be:
St. Pete – Bourdais
Texas – Kanaan (If Johnson is full time)
Long Beach – Bourdais
Barber – Open
Indy Road Course – Open
Indy 500 – Kanaan
Belle Isle – Bourdais
Road America – Bourdais
Mid-Ohio – Open
Toronto – Open
Iowa – Kanaan (If Johnson isn’t full-time)
Indy Road Course – Bourdais
Nashville – Open
Gateway – Kanaan (If Johnson isn’t full-time)
Portland – Bourdais
Laguna Seca – Bourdais
Is Bourdais back with Foyt in 2022? Photo Credit INDYCAR Media Site
This is all predicated if Bourdais doesn’t return to the seat in the No. 14 Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing. There’s a path to where he could run the same races for them as well as Iowa and Gateway. That would give him a ride for 11 races including the Indy 500. If he doesn’t come back to Foyt, then they’ve got at least two cars open and a potential for a third if the money is right.
Charlie Kimball, Tatiana Calderon, Dalton Kellett, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Max Chilton, David Malukas and even someone like Dan Ticktum all make sense here. As far as why Chilton? Carlin is rumored to possibly be for sale and if that’s the case, he and his dad can take their money elsewhere. The thing is, there’s not many places to take it and Foyt could benefit from the added resources.
If Carlin isn’t purchased, then Chilton wants a teammate. That will require someone with a substantial budget.
The main key though to the rest of Silly Season resides in Illinois. Dale Coyne Racing will be back with two cars. The question is, who’s partnering with him?
Rick Ware Racing will on the No. 51 Honda. I keep hearing this is Sato’s ride should he want it and I don’t see any other path for the two-time Indy 500 champion to remain full time if he doesn’t take it. That then leaves the most interesting case of them all – the No. 18 Honda. Here’s where it gets wild.
Vasser Sullivan wants to eventually land back on their own again. That won’t happen in 2022 though. So, do they come back in a partnership with DCR? Rumor is HMD Racing from Indy Lights is eyeing a partnership with someone and DCR could be the suitors. If that happens, VSR would then be looking for a new partner and I’ve now been hearing Andretti Autosport as that destination.
This is the spot that Kirkwood could end up which in turn helps both sides. Kirkwood has a sports car history with VSR and also drives for Andretti in Lights. It’s a win-win. If VSR stays with DCR, I don’t foresee Andretti letting Kirkwood land there. Their problem is, they don’t have any room to have him run a fifth full time car since they need funding to do so and Kirkwood falls far short of that for an entire seasons worth of money.
If HMD is the partner, then David Malukas would be the driver of the No. 18 Honda. There’s also rumors of Dan Ticktum and a few others for this seat too.
This is the main door to open up the rest of Silly Season.
This trickles down to ECR who can remain patient here. Ed Carpenter is back for all ovals. Rinus VeeKay is back full-time. The road and street course driver could remain Conor Daly. If US Air Force isn’t back with Daly, then Hunter-Reay or someone like that could. I’ve even heard that VSR or even HMD could land here in a partnership too.
That’s truly why DCR hold the keys for once in Silly Season.
Honda is pretty much maxed out for 2022 – Photo Credit INDYCAR Media Site
Honda (15-17 full time)
Chip Ganassi Racing (4-5): Marcus Ericsson, Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Kanaan. They’re all back. The only question is, does Johnson run full time?
Andretti Autosport (4-5): Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Romain Grosjean are all there for 2022. Devlin DeFrancesco is tabbed for the 29. What do they do with Kirkwood?
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (3) – Graham Rahal, Jack Harvey, third car is TBA. Askew, Ferrucci and Lundgaard are the favorites to have one of them in the 30.
Dale Coyne Racing (2) – Rick Ware Racing is back on the 51 and Sato is the favorite for that seat. Does the 18 car have Vasser-Sullivan or HMD partnering with it?
Meyer Shank Racing (2) – Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud are there for 2022.
Chevy has room to grow but they’re almost set still – photo Credit INDYCAR Media Site
Team Penske (3) – Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin and Will Power are all back. They’ll scale down a car.
AJ Foyt Racing (2-3) – Both current cars are open and they’re eyeing a potential third.
Arrow McLaren SP (2) – Both drivers are back from 2021 for 2022. Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist each return to their respective seats.
Ed Carpenter Racing (2) – Rinus VeeKay is back in the 21 while Ed Carpenter is back in the 20 on all ovals. Who joins that seat for the road/street courses is the question.
Carlin (1-2) – Max Chilton wants a teammate. If they can’t provide one, he may walk leaving 1 seat open. If they can find one, they’ll expand back to a two-car team.
Juncos Hollinger Racing (1) – Callum Ilott will drive the No. 77 full time in 2022.
Arrow McLaren SP (Chevrolet) – They’ll have a 3rd car at some point next season. Maybe starting at Indy on.
Paretta Autosport (Chevrolet)
Top Gun Racing (Chevrolet)
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (Chevrolet) – Indy only?
AJ Foyt Racing (Chevrolet) – Do they run a 4th car at Indy again?
Andretti Autosport (Honda) – How many part time cars show up to Indy? The 98 will likely be back, but what does Ganassi do on a fifth car? That rolls down to how many engines are available for Andretti.
Dale Coyne Racing/Rick Ware Racing (Honda) – We know the 52 car will be back part-time next season. This is the most guaranteed ride on this list.
Free Agent List
Devlin DeFrancesco (linked to Andretti)
Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti isn’t letting him get away for obvious reasons)
David Malukas (Has HMD funding – linked to DCR, ECR or Foyt)
Santino Ferrucci (RLL possibility)
Oliver Askew (RLL possibility)
Christian Lundgaard (Has Alpine finding, RLL or DCR top prospects)
Max Chilton (Carlin or Foyt)
Sebastien Bourdais (Foyt or 5th Ganassi car)
Charlie Kimball (Foyt)
Dalton Kellett (Foyt)
Tatiana Calderon (Foyt)
Dan Ticktum (DCR or Foyt)
Ryan Hunter-Reay (down to Foyt, ECR or DCR)
James Hinchcliffe (down to DCR)
Conor Daly (ECR or Carlin)