INDIANAPOLIS — Think of the NTT IndyCar Series for 2022 like the NASCAR Cup Series is with charters. No, INDYCAR doesn’t have guaranteed entries like NASCAR does for their charter system, but they do have a big tie to the number 36. That tie?
Honda has 18 and Chevrolet has the other 18. With a new engine formula coming out for 2023, there’s no way either side manufacturer more engines than they already have. So, 36 is the magic number for INDYCAR.
The thing is, 34 of the 36 at this very moment are already known and if things play out like they’re expected to, then all 36 are spoken for.
In saying that, who gets those seats? What’s left in terms of the cockpit for driving them? The seats are really starting to dwindle. AJ Foyt Racing had the last two announcements with Kyle Kirkwood (No. 14 Chevrolet) and Dalton Kellett (No. 4 Chevrolet) prior to Takuma Sato being listed as the replacement for Romain Grosjean in the No. 51 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing in conjunction with Rick Ware Racing.
So, what’s left? There’s really not any full time rides left. At the moment, it does show DCR (18) and Carlin are open. That’s it.
However, one driver is already tied to one of those seats too. David Malukas should fill out the full time seats at Coyne. Max Chilton is likely back at Carlin if they have a say in the joint entry that will become of with Juncos Hollinger Racing.
As you can see, that’s essentially it for full time aspirations.
ECR has a part time ride open that does give an Indy 500 opportunity for their third seat but it’s not full-time. If Chilton does return to Carlin, and I don’t see why he wouldn’t now, the ovals are open there. The main question now is, does Chilton partner with ECR which would be a seamless transition?
They bring out a third car for Indy only. The only oval Chilton will run is Indy. Chilton will race the road/street courses + the Indy 500. Ed Carpenter will only run on ovals including the Indy 500. This seems to fit and Chilton can bring over Gallagher with him which would be just what ECR needs.
That then would give a full time seat for the taking in the joint car between Carlin and Juncos Hollinger which would be perfect for Conor Daly. That’s if Daly doesn’t return to ECR.
Daly, Chilton, Hunter-Reay or any of these young drivers getting tests are open for business at ECR. They hope to have a driver named in the coming week as they’re out of testing dates available to test anyone else new out in their cars.
The 52 at DCR/RWR’s operation is open. The rest is down to funding as part time roles if you can pull it off or waiting to see if you can pull off the third McLaren seat for a part time role in 2022 and a full time gig for ’23.
So in terms of rides open – Carlin (No. 59), DCR (No. 18), DCR/RWR (No. 52), ECR (No. 20 – road/street courses, Indy 500), McLaren (No. TBA), Paretta (No. 16), AJ Foyt Racing (No. TBA). That’s seven cars with two entries with names tied to them in Malukas at DCR and Simona de Silvestro at Paretta.
I mean, just look at some of the names on this free agent list vying for these seats – Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe. These are world renowned drivers without a ride right now. All are likely part time roles at this point too.
There’s just not a lot out there for them to snag.
Chevrolet (16) – The only ones left with room
We know for Chevrolet, out of their 18 engines, 16 are definitely spoken for.
- Team Penske (3) – Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Scott McLaughlin are back as they’re scaling down from four cars to three.
- Arrow McLaren SP (3) – Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist are back full time. They’ll bring out a third car in 2023 on a full time basis but use it on a part-time role in 2022. Nico Hulkenberg recently tested for them but has no interest in the series anymore. Stoffel Vandoorne gets his shot this month. Kyle Kirkwood was said to be of an interest but he just signed with AJ Foyt Racing.
- Ed Carpenter Racing (3) – Rinus VeeKay is back in the 21. Ed Carpenter is in the 20 on all ovals. If US Air Force came back, it was going to either be Conor Daly or Ryan Hunter-Reay in the 20 on all road/street courses and in a third car for the ‘500 only. Now that they won’t be, this seat is wide open for the taking.
- AJ Foyt Racing (2) – Kyle Kirkwood will be in the 14 full time. Dalton Kellett will return to the seat of the 4 car. The team wants a third full time car and they’re moving closer to this happening.
- Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (2) – They’ll have two cars next May for Indy only and Sage Karam (No. 24) and Santino Ferrucci (No. 23) will drive them.
- Juncos Hollinger Racing (1) – Callum Ilott will be in the car but there’s a strong indication that they’ll merge with Carlin here for a second entry.
- Carlin (1) – They have a car and a team but need funding. Word is maybe the 59 works in house with Juncos Hollinger Racing as an alliance for a two car outfit which would bring Max Chilton in a return if he wants.
- Top Gun (1) – They still have their car and looking to show up to more races than Indy in 2022 with RC Enerson.
Paretta should be back which would be a 17th engine leaving one left. Does it go to Foyt? At the moment though, there’s only one floating out there for use and Foyt wants it.
Honda (18) – Basically Maxed Out
- Chip Ganassi Racing (5) – All five drivers (Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Kanaan) return but with Jimmie Johnson running the Indy 500 (formal announcement should come soon), they needed a fifth car for Tony Kanaan. That car and engine package comes from Andretti Autosport’s inventory of six that they had last year.
- Andretti Autosport (5) – They’ll run four cars full time (Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Romain Grosjean and Devlin DeFrancesco) with Marco Andretti likely coming back to the Indy 500 again as a part time one off. With a lot of Honda expansion this offseason, Andretti is essentially capped at five cars for Indy next May.
- Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (3) – Graham Rahal, Jack Harvey and Christian Lundgaard make up this team as they’ll expand from two full time cars to three.
- Dale Coyne Racing (3) – They have the other 3. Rick Ware Racing is back for one full time entry (No. 51 Honda) and one part-time (No. 52 Honda). Takuma Sato will drive the 51. The other car was aligned with Vasser Sullivan for the last few years but now it seems like it will be Indy Lights team HMD moving up and bringing David Malukas with them to partner with DCR on the 18. Both teams hail from Illinois and Malukas has tested this car already. I think this is pretty much a done deal with just a formal announcement all that’s left.
- Meyer Shank Racing (2) – Here’s another expansion with them growing to two full time cars now too. Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud) will drive them.
- Cusick – They’re after an alliance to team with someone to bring Stefan Wilson a ride again. They teamed with Andretti in 2021 for Wilson in the No. 25 Honda in the Indianapolis 500. They want more. Pairing with Foyt on a third entry or even ECR makes a ton of sense here.
- Carlin – It seems like they’ve already moved into Juncos’ building so expect this deal to get announced somewhat soon.
- Vasser Sullivan – I’m not sure where they land. Foyt makes sense here or even ECR for a year while they wait to explore a full time entrant on their own in ’23. They could partner with Foyt on the 14 car and get Kyle Kirkwood back since he’s their IMSA driver. Some funding on that 14 car then could shift to a third full time entry.
Free Agent List
As far as who goes where? There’s some star power here.
David Malukas (Has HMD funding – linked to DCR)
Max Chilton (Carlin, Foyt or ECR)
Sebastien Bourdais (Foyt part time?)
Charlie Kimball (Foyt)
Tatiana Calderon (Foyt)
Dan Ticktum (DCR or Foyt)
Jack Aitken (ECR or Foyt)
Ryan Hunter-Reay (down to Foyt, ECR or DCR)
Conor Daly (ECR or Carlin)