With Kirkwood signing, where does INDYCAR Silly Season Now Sit?

INDIANAPOLIS — The dominoes keep falling in INDYCAR silly season. Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing shored up their lineup last month. Andretti Autosport followed suit. That’s led to where we are on Wednesday – Kyle Kirkwood to AJ Foyt Racing.

The chips fell from Andretti not purchasing an F1 team, which left Colton Herta Stateside. With Romain Grosjean already signed back in September and Devlin DeFrancesco signed last week, it didn’t leave any room for Kirkwood at the Andretti inn.

Without the proper funding and way to get a fifth car out of the shop full time again, it left Kirkwood to pursue other opportunities.

He found one.

Foyt can take on the scholarship money and has funding in place to allow him to run full time. He’ll do so on a one year deal.

So, what’s left? Before you figure out what’s left, it’s best to break it down by manufacturer and here’s why.

Expansion is definitely on the horizon for the paddock in terms of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season. We’ve only lost one team from 2021 and that’s the No. 22 Chevrolet from Team Penske who will see the organization move from four back to three cars next year. That’s their sweet spot and ideal position that they’d prefer to be in anyhow.

So, in terms of full time entries from 2021 to 2022, we go from 24 down to 23 by this move. That’s the lone demotion. The rest are all additions. Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing grows from two full time cars to three. Meyer Shank Racing will go from one full time car to two. Juncos Hollinger Racing will be full time now.

That’s three new full time cars so take the one going away at Penske and you get 26 full time entrants so far. The question now is, how many more will we get?

I tend to think that at the moment, we’re basically capped at 36 cars/engine packages. In 2021, each manufacturer had 18 engines provided. With new regulations coming out in 2023, I don’t see either planning to spend the amount of money that it’s going to take to expand on that to 19-20 or even more engines available.

So, while the intention is out there for several teams, I just don’t see how it will work to grow the entry list past 36 total cars next year on the engine front. Then you have the demand for people too. There’s just not enough good crew members, engineers, etc to hire. The good ones are already on teams and the ones who aren’t will soon be.

So, while there’s drivers and sponsorship money out there for the taking, how do you start a new team without the right people to make that car go fast and an engine to make it run?

That’s why this silly season is all predicated by the number 36 which equates out to 18 per manufacturer. For 2023, yes that number could grow so long as you get a third OEM and find more people. For now, we’re not talking ’23, we’re discussing ’22.

We know for Chevrolet, out of their 18 engines, 12 are definitely spoken for. Team Penske has three (Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Scott McLaughlin). Arrow McLaren SP has three but only using two at the moment with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist). Ed Carpenter Racing also has three with Rinus VeeKay in the 21 car and Ed Carpenter in the 20. The third is for Indy only for the driver who will split time with Carpenter in the 20 on all road/street courses. Juncos Hollinger Racing has one with Callum Ilott. AJ Foyt Racing has 2 with Kirkwood in the 14 and they also have an opening for the 4 seat which seems to be staying with Dalton Kellett. There’s a potential they can land a third again too. That leaves six engines between Carlin, AJ Foyt Racing, Paretta and Top Gun.

Carlin, Paretta and Top Gun each had one last year and I don’t see either of them expanding now. If they all come back, that leaves three engines left. Foyt had two full time and two part time last year and will definitely have two full time again. Rumor is that they want to expand to a third full time team next season which would leave two engines left.

In terms of the Honda front, Andretti Autosport has four (Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Romain Grosjean, Devlin DeFrancesco). Chip Ganassi Racing is at four at the moment (Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson, Tony Kanaan/Jimmie Johnson) but is after a fifth which will obviously happen should Johnson want to run the Indy 500 and all signs are pointing to that happening. RLL is now a three car effort (Graham Rahal, Jack Harvey, Christian Lundgaard), Meyer Shank Racing is a two car outfit (Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud) and Dale Coyne Racing has the other three.

That’s 17 engines spoken for. With one left, that’s where things get interesting.

Andretti ran six cars last year but due to Honda needing an engine to go to Ganassi for Johnson, they have to scale back to five. They wanted to keep Kirkwood in house but his deadline came and passed which led him to Foyt. They also have Marco Andretti wanting to run the Indy 500 so couldn’t put Kirkwood or anyone else in the 98 for that matter which caps them out.

In regards to that fifth Andretti car, one way to make that work is for Vasser Sullivan to team up with Andretti on the 98 car for select races and then they branch out on their own for ’23.

It seems like VSR will be leaving DCR anyways on the 18 car which all signs are pointing to HMD taking their place and having David Malukas in it. Malukas tested that car with HMD branding on it last Monday in Barber.

Rick Ware Racing is staying on with DCR. Takuma Sato likely lands there.

Then you have to look at partnerships. Carlin and Juncos appear to be forming one. Vasser Sullivan is eyeing a new partner and Foyt or Andretti are the top two in the fold. Cusick is also after a partnership as there’s just nothing left for them to run on their own unless they go the Chevy route. Foyt or even that fifth Andretti car could be partner options as well.

Other than that, the rest is history.

As far as who goes where? Two Indy 500 champions are available.

There’s really only five full time opportunities left too. A couple of them I just mentioned. Malukas to the 18, Sato to the 51 then Carlin and Foyt figuring out their involvement and how many cars they make work.

ECR is really down to Conor Daly, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Oliver Askew for the 20 seat.

AMSP is only using the third car when convenient and it’s a precursor for 2022. Nico Hulkenberg just tested that ride a couple of Monday’s ago but last week took himself out of contention. Stoffel Vandoorne will test it next.

The Foyt and Carlin rides come down to funding and funding only. Dalton Kellett is likely back in the 4 while they’re trying to make a third car work. If they can, Charlie Kimball, Dalton Kellett, Tatiana Calderon, Dan Ticktum and Linus Lundqvist could come into play in these seats.

The rest is history.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s