INDIANAPOLIS — Now that the 2021 calendars are ancient history and the fresh aroma of a new calendar is filling the air after being unwrapped, many are wondering – what’s next? It’s January now. At this point, we’re just a little over a month away from starting the next racing season back up again. The imminent question is, what’s next?
INDYCAR will have a few test sessions between now and the season opener on the streets of St. Pete on the last weekend on February. This is the first time since 2003 that the series opened up a season prior to March.
NASCAR though, well they really kick it into high gear now with having three two-day test sessions coming up this month which in fact starts this week in Atlanta (Jan. 5-6). Next week, they’ll go to Daytona (Jan. 11-12) then Phoenix to close out the month (Jan. 25-26) before setting sails for Los Angeles for the Clash (Feb. 5-6).
With that said, there still are some rides to be filled.
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?
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.
Ed Carpenter Racing sits at the top of the list but this ride isn’t a full time endeavor. They have a part time opportunity open but is one that does give an Indy 500 opportunity for their third seat. Max 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.
Jack Aitken, Daly, Hunter-Reay and Chilton are the best options for this seat in general. It’s that, or can one of the European drivers who didn’t land an F1 gig but also has money in their pocket. It’s getting late in the game.
Carlin though, holds the keys to the only full time seat left. 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 Chilton in that seat and that this seat could in turn end up being an Indy only entry for a two-car outfit.
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.
These are two cars that are there for the taking but could end up both being part-time in the end.
The next domino is the third seat at McLaren then the third one at AJ Foyt Racing. For McLaren they’ll run that third car 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?
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.
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.
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 last 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 but at this rate, it may end up being Indy only.
- 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.
- 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
Juan Pablo Montoya (part time)
Sebastien Bourdais (part time)
James Hinchcliffe (part time)
Deals Already Done
- Power remains with Penske
- Hunter-Reay/Andretti confirm exit at end of 2021
- Castroneves full-time again, Harvey not returning to MSR in 2022
- Pagenaud to Meyer Shank Racing
- Juncos teams with Hollinger Racing, keeps Ilott for 2022
- McLaren brings both drivers back for 2022
- Grosjean to replace Hunter-Reay at Andretti in 2022
- ECR re-signs VeeKay for 2022
- Harvey leaves MSR for RLL
- Bourdais won’t be full time due to new IMSA deal at Ganassi
- Lundgaard to run 3rd RLL car in 2022
- DeFrancesco replaces Hinchcliffe for 2022
- Kirkwood joins Foyt in 2022
- Kellett stays with Foyt for 2022
- Sato joins DCR/RWR for 2022
- DRR to have 2 cars at Indy for 2022, Karam/Ferrucci to drive them
- Hinchcliffe won’t be full-time in 2022
- Johnson to run full time for Ganassi in 2022
- Malukas teams with DCR for 2022
- Coyne has been a great stepping stone to bigger INDYCAR seats but now gets Sato
- Details on how Kirkwood ended up at Foyt and not Andretti
- How Allmendinger helped Kirkwood get to where he is today
- Why DeFrancesco over anyone else for Andretti, how this deal took place
- Why RLL chose Lundgaard and Harvey for seats that didn’t require funding
- Why so much European talent is coming to INDYCAR now
- Why lack of 3rd OEM has INDYCAR hitting its ceiling
NASCAR Cup Series
Only Stewart-Haas Racing confirming Aric Almirola which is likely going to happen is one thing and what Rick Ware Racing does with their cars and charters is the last.
RWR is really it. They now have three charters but do they keep them? Do they scale down to two or keep them? Rumor is, RWR has sold one other charter to Spire so they can scale down to two cars leaving Spire with a ride open.
No one else is on the market for charters at the moment with most being already finalized.
Roush Fenway Racing is now Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. Trackhouse bought out Chip Ganassi Racing in the same sense that GMS did Petty but the difference is Petty’s name should be around GMS still.
Kaulig bought Spire’s two charters, 23XI Racing bought StarCom’s and RWR is down from 4 to 3. That’s the team movement.
For driver movement, Austin Cindric (Team Penske), Harrison Burton (Wood Brothers) and Todd Gilliland (Front Row Motorsports) are fighting for Rookie of the Year honors.
Other driver movement is Brad Keselowski replacing Ryan Newman in the No. 6 Ford while Cindric replaces Keselowski in the No. 2 Ford. Kurt Busch isn’t going to shift from Ganassi to Trackhouse but Ross Chastain will and join Daniel Suarez with them. Busch will join 23XI Racing in a newly made team.
JTG scaled back to one full time car and the one that ran as an open car will dissolve.
The rest remains status quo.
The 2021 charter list.
Hendrick Motorsports (No. 5, No. 9, No. 24, No. 48)
Stewart-Haas Racing (No. 4, No. 10, No. 14, No. 41)
Joe Gibbs Racing (No. 11, No. 18, No. 19, No. 20)
Rick Ware Racing (No. 52, No. 53, No. 15)
Team Penske (No. 2, No. 12, No. 22)
Richard Childress Racing (No. 3, No. 8)
Roush Fenway Racing (No. 6, No. 17)
Chip Ganassi Racing (No. 1, No. 42)
Front Row Motorsports (No. 34, No. 38)
JTG Daugherty Racing (No. 47)
23XI Racing (No. 23)
Wood Brothers (No. 21)
Spire Sports (No. 7, No. 77)
Spire Sports (No. 99) *leased to Trackhouse Racing
Richard Petty Motorsports (No. 43)
Live Fast Motorsports (No. 78)
StarCom Racing (No. 00)
Petty Ware Racing (No. 51)
For 2022, the list remains somewhat similar.
Hendrick Motorsports (No. 5, No. 9, No. 24, No. 48) *no changes
Joe Gibbs Racing (No. 11, No. 18, No. 19, No. 20) *no changes
Stewart-Haas Racing (No. 4, No. 10, No. 14, No. 41) *no changes
Team Penske (No. 2, No. 12, No. 22) *Cindric replaces Keselowski in the No. 2
Roush Fenway Racing (No. 6, No. 17) *Keselowski replaces Ryan Newman in the No. 6
Richard Childress Racing (No. 3, No. 8) *no changes
Trackhouse Racing (No. 1, No. 99) *team bought out Chip Ganassi Racing, Chastain takes over the No. 1
Front Row Motorsports (No. 34, No. 38) *McDowell is back in the 34, Todd Gilliland is in the 38
23XI Racing (2 charters, No. 23, No. 45) *Bubba Wallace will be back in 2022, Kurt Busch is in the 2nd car.
Kaulig Racing (2 charters, numbers TBA) – Justin Haley in 1 car, AJ Allmendinger to share the 2nd car with other driver. Charters purchased from Spire.
Petty GMS Racing (2 charters) – Erik Jones will be in the 43 with Ty Dillon in the 42.
Wood Brothers (No. 21) *Harrison Burton replaces Matt DiBenedetto for 2022
JTG Daugherty Racing (No. 47) *Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is back.
Spire Sports (No. 7) *Corey LaJoie back in the No. 7, they sold other 2 charters for Kaulig. Still after a 2nd charter to be back as a 2 car team again.
Live Fast Motorsports (No. 78) *Team not selling a charter, looking for drivers for 2022.
Rick Ware Racing (No. 52, No. 53, No. 15) *How many of these charters are back?
Stewart-Haas Racing (1) – No. 10 Ford
Kaulig Racing (1) – Part time seat in 1 of their Chevrolet’s
Rick Ware Racing – all their seats are open
Aric Almirola (linked to stay at SHR)
Xfinity Series Silly Season
While we have a lot of good talent moving up to the Cup Series, once again, the Xfinity Series replenishes these seats with some top talent. 3 of the top 7 in points move up to Cup, but the guys left and ones now joining will make 2022 just as good as 2021.
In terms of what’s left to announce, Chevrolet has pretty much set their lineups with Toyota and Ford having some vacancies left.
RCR may be the busiest team in the sport with Kaulig, Jordan Anderson Racing, BrandonBuilt, Big Machine and Our Motorsports all involved with them.
Kaulig Racing keeps AJ Allmendinger in the No. 16 Chevrolet but also named Landon Cassill to the No. 10 Chevy and defending champion Daniel Hemric to the No. 11 Chevrolet. They’ll be aligned with Richard Childress Racing too. So will Jordan Anderson Racing who has Myatt Snider driving their No. 31 Chevrolet. As will BrandonBuilt who will have Brandon Brown in the No. 68 Chevrolet. Big Machine is also aligned and will have Jade Buford in the No. 48 Chevrolet. So is Our Motorsports who will feature three cars next season with Brett Moffitt, Jeb Burton and Anthony Alfredo. RCR themselves will feature a two car lineup again with Sheldon Creed in the No. 2 Chevrolet and Austin Hill in the second car.
JR Motorsports will have Josh Berry, Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier and Sam Mayer in their four car team next season.
Jeremy Clements will be back in his No. 51 Chevrolet while DGM Racing will have Mason Massey in the No. 91 Chevrolet for one of their cars.
Alpine Prime Racing will have varying drivers in this No. 44 Chevrolet seat.
That’s the Chevy confirmations at the moment.
Toyota will have Joe Gibbs Racing back but they’ll scale down to three cars again. Brandon Jones will be back in the No. 19 Toyota while all signs are pointing to defending ARCA champion Ty Gibbs in the No. 18 Toyota. The No. 20 Toyota will likely be an all-star car.
Sam Hunt Racing is back with the No. 26 Toyota but hasn’t listed any drivers yet.
In the Ford camp, Riley Herbst is back in the No. 98 Ford for SHR. RSS Racing will have Ryan Sieg and Parker Retzlaff in the second car on a part-time basis. We don’t yet know Team Penske’s plans but they will be on track at some point. Is it full-time or part-time for the No. 22 Ford?
BJ McLeod Motorsports will feature Josh Williams in the No. 78 and Stefan Parsons in the No. 99. Nick Sanchez will drive a third car part-time for them.
Joey Gase Racing will have Joey Gase in the No. 35.
Jesse Iwuji Motorsports will have a team too.
Does Hattori Racing Enterprises come back? What’s JDM’s plans? They have Bayley Currey in one car but what about the others? These are the next announcements coming with SHR (2nd car?), Penske and JGR (Gibbs announcement) left.
Truck Series Silly Season
DGR will have Hailie Deegan and Zane Smith. We know Kyle Busch Motorsports returns both drivers from 2021 in John Hunter Nemechek in the No. 4 Toyota and Chandler Smith in the No. 18 Toyota. Hattori Racing Enterprises will now become a two Truck team and named Tyler Ankrum (16 Toyota) Chase Purdy (61 Toyota) as their drivers. On Point Motorsports signed Tate Fogleman to drive the No. 30 Toyota too. Other Toyota teams are Halmar Friesen Racing who will have Stewart Friesen return to their No. 52 Toyota and Todd Bodine part-time in a second entry. Timmy Hill will drive the No. 56 Toyota for Hill Motorsports while ThorSport will at least have Ben Rhodes and Matt Crafton back. They have two seats open for the taking.
GMS Racing will scale back to two Trucks since they now own two Cup teams and have Grant Enfinger in the No. 23 Chevrolet and Jack Wood in the No. 24 Chevrolet. Smith and Sheldon Creed depart for new rides with Creed now with Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series. The thing is, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing has aligned with GMS and will likely have Derek Kraus in the now No. 19 Chevrolet for 2022. They were with Toyota this past season. Colby Howard will drive the second truck which makes up for the other two Trucks that GMS won’t be using.
Niece Motorsports has filled out their roster. Carson Hocevar is the only one returning as he’ll pilot the No. 42 Chevrolet. Dean Thompson (No. 40 Chevrolet), Kris Wright (No. 44 Chevrolet) and Lawless Alan (No. 45 Chevrolet) will pair with him.
Spire has started a Truck team but has their seat open for the taking now too leaving them and ThorSport left with announcements.