INDYCAR Silly Season updates with what’s left, breakdown of what’s already happened and more

INDIANAPOLIS — On Tuesday, James Hinchcliffe took himself out of the running for a full-time seat. On Wednesday, Jimmie Johnson though announced that he will run all 17 races. A few hours later, it was unveiled that David Malukas will race for Dale Coyne Racing in their No. 18 Honda. So, where does Silly Season now land?

Before we get to what’s left, you have to first look at what the magic number is.

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?

Engines.

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. There’s really only 1 seat left that’s guaranteed to be full-time. Everything else is likely part-time.

AJ Foyt Racing has expressed interest in a third car and indications that could be JR Hildebrand, but they also could run it with a cast of drivers for the season. Still, unless you have some substantial cash, that ride will be a multitude of drivers for the season and not one driver alone.

I’ve heard Hildebrand for Indy again for that seat but have also heard names mentioned from Charlie Kimball to Ryan Hunter-Reay to Max Chilton to Sebastien Bourdais or even Tatiana Calderon, Dan Ticktum and Jack Aitken being in the mix there.

Carlin holds the keys to the only full time seat left though. The thing is, there’s been reports that they’ve merged with Juncos Hollinger Racing here in Indy. In saying that, I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily going to be Max Chilton in that seat.

Chilton has his dad’s funding which helped Carlin in INDYCAR. There’s been frustration on all sides in this dealing with one report being that Chilton wouldn’t return to the team in 2022 unless they give him a teammate. He was looking around the paddock for another seat but nothing ever materialized.

Carlin, doesn’t have the funding in place to add a second full-time car so teaming with Juncos Hollinger can make that happen. But, do they team with them to keep Chilton happy or did they do this because Chilton took his money with him? If Chilton took his money with him, the only seat he could be going to is Ed Carpenter Racing or Foyt. The other thing I’ve learned is Chilton may not even be on the grid at all either.

ECR has a part time ride open that does give an Indy 500 opportunity for their third seat but it’s not full-time. Chilton makes sense here because he can slot in easily since Ed Carpenter is running all the races Chilton isn’t willing to and the one oval that Chilton wants to run, Carpenter brings out a third car for.

Is this a match though? Carpenter needs funding since they lost US Air Force. If that sponsorship stayed, it was down to Daly and Hunter-Reay for this seat. Now that they left, it’s more wide open.

Aitken, Daly, Hunter-Reay and Chilton are the best options for this seat. Or, can one of the European drivers who didn’t land an F1 gig but also has money in their pocket.

Another part-time seat open is the No. 52 Honda for DCR/Rick Ware Racing. This seat is wide open but it’s only part-time at best.

A third seat at McLaren is open for the taking as they’ll run it in the Indy 500 and hopeful for all the races after. This ride will be full-time in 2023. Does it go to Stoffel Vandoorne? Does Juan Pablo Montoya race it at Indy again before turning the keys over to Vandoorne for the rest of the season?

Top Gun says they’ll be back in a larger capacity. That leaves literally one engine left if Foyt truly does run a third car. Paretta had it last year but that car and everything else went back to Juncos. Can they land a car and engine again?

Penske’s fourth entry last year is the one that everyone is after. This ride which is a Chevrolet package is the lone one left. Who can land it?

The other key is alliances. Juncos Hollinger and Carlin is likely occurring. Meyer Shank remains aligned with Andretti Autosport. Both HMD and Rick Ware Racing are aligned with Dale Coyne Racing.

Vasser Sullivan though is no longer teamed with DCR. They want to be on their own for 2023 but would like to still remain in the series and partnered with someone else for the upcoming season. Cusick partnered with Andretti last May and wanted to run by themselves this year, but there wasn’t any engines left. They have money and willing to partner. The key is, who do these two merge with?

Chip Ganassi Racing has to bring out a fifth car for Tony Kanaan on the ovals. That doesn’t necessarily fit Cusick since they are bringing Stefan Wilson with them on the funding angle. Does VSR, who oh by the way, Jimmy Vasser is a former Ganassi standout, merge with Ganassi and help their initial driver in Tony Kanaan, run all ovals? This seems like a perfect fit.

Then, who does Cusick/Wilson team with then? Is it that Carlin-Juncos ride? Makes a lot of sense, especially if Carlin is out all together and Cusick can gain another year experience before maybe taking that ride on their own for ’23.

That’s why I say most of this silly season is solidified. It’s down to really Foyt and Paretta.




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 tested for them this offseason but has no interest in the series anymore. Stoffel Vandoorne got his shot earlier this month. No one else has been mentioned as in play yet.
  • 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.

Is Paretta back or was that a one off year? Is Foyt going to snag a third entry? There’s 2 engines here for the taking. Who gets them?




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 racing full time, 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.

Alliances

  • 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. So does Juncos Hollinger/Carlin which honestly makes the most sense of all.
  • Vasser Sullivan – Merging with a fifth Ganassi car is the most sense. If not there, Foyt or ECR makes sense too.
  • Carlin – It seems like they’ve already moved into Juncos’ building so expect this deal to get announced somewhat soon. They kicker here is, does Carlin stay involved?

Free Agent List

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Conor Daly

Max Chilton

Ed Jones

Juan Pablo Montoya (part time)

Sebastien Bourdais (part time)

James Hinchcliffe (part time)

Charlie Kimball

Tatiana Calderon

Dan Ticktum

Jack Aitken

Stoffel Vandoorne

Linus Lundqvist

Spencer Pigot

Deals Already Done

Features

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