INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis 500 triumph or a Daytona 500 win is something that supplants you into racing immortality. Celebrating in victory lane on these respective hallowed grounds grants you a lifetime of happiness and a key to open up more doors than not.
Unfortunately though, for two drivers who happen to both share a first name, not only did they win these races but they also are looking more and more likely that they won’t have full time seats for 2022 either.
Ryan Hunter-Reay is an NTT IndyCar Series champion. He won the 2014 Indianapolis 500 as well. As we approach mid January, a 16-time winner in the series is out of a job.
Same can be said for Ryan Newman. The 2008 Daytona 500 and 2013 Brickyard 400 champion doesn’t have a seat as we’re nearing a month out of the 64th Annual Great American Race. The thing is, I honestly don’t see a path right now for either to have a seat for either of their season openers.
Hunter-Reay lost his seat with Andretti Autosport this past offseason. Both sides wanted to go in a different direction. His most logical fit though was Ed Carpenter Racing’s split seat with team owner Ed Carpenter. See, most of the other rides that were opening up already had names attached to them.
Hunter-Reay, lacked the financial budget to land anything on the market. So, if US Air Force remained with the team, it made a lot of sense for a former series and Indy 500 champion to run all the road/street courses in the No. 20 Chevrolet and a third car for the ‘500 itself.
Unfortunately, Air Force left. Hunter-Reay didn’t have money to land that seat or any others. That’s why as the high speed game of musical chairs is dwindling, Hunter-Reay is left still standing.
Same can be said for Newman.
Brad Keselowski left Team Penske to take an ownership stake at Roush Fenway Racing. It would now be dubbed Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. The thing is, Keselowski wasn’t done racing either. He’d be a driver-owner. With Chris Buescher locked into a deal still to drive the No. 17 Ford and the organization not in a position to run a third full-time car, Keselowski bumped Newman out of the seat of the No. 6 Ford.
Newman, lacked the budget to get one of the few open seats himself. That also has him on the sidelines.
So, with that being said, what’s left?
For Hunter-Reay, it’s down to Indy only rides. A third seat at AJ Foyt Racing, the third seat at Dale Coyne Racing (partnership with Rick Ware Racing) or whatever Juncos/Carlin does with that car. This is realistically it.
Cusick and Vasser Sullivan are looking for partners but VSR’s best destination to do so is with Chip Ganassi Racing and Tony Kanaan’s fifth car. Cusick has Stefan Wilson and could team with either Foyt or Juncos/Hollinger/Carlin which both dealings could put Hunter-Reay out of a ride.
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. Conor Daly will be in the 20 while Ed Carpenter will be in the third seat for Indy.
- 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) – HMD Racing replaces Vasser Sullivan in the 18 ride and brings David Malukas with them. Rick Ware is back on the 51 Honda and will have Takuma Sato. The 52 seat is open.
- 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 Juncos/Hollinger/Carlin is the only move left.
- Vasser Sullivan – Merging with a fifth Ganassi car is the most sense. If not there, Foyt is all that’s left.
- 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
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
- Daly to race for ECR full-time in 2022
- Montoya to race Indy 500 for AMSP in 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
- Are night races a thing of the past now?
The only real seats open now reside with Rick Ware Racing and Spire but both are only part-time. The 15 car at RWR will have David Ragan and Ryan Preece splitting time in that car and the 51 will likely go to Cody Ware.
Spire’s second car will have Landon Cassill in some races and Josh Bilicki in most.
That has squeezed Newman really out of it to be honest.
Plenty of charters have exchanged hands. Both GMS and Kaulig Racing wanted into the Cup Series as full-time teams. Kaulig wanted two cars, GMS with one. Trackhouse wanted not only one charter, but two as they eyed expansion for 2022. Then, you get 23XI Racing wanting to expand to a second full-time car.
That’s five charters being sought.
Spire got the ball rolling by selling two charters to Kaulig Racing. See, Trackhouse leased one of Spire’s three charters for 2021 but Spire sold it out from under them for 2022. Justin Haley will drive the No. 31 Chevrolet while AJ Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson will share the No. 16 Chevrolet.
That left Trackhouse now needing at least one charter but preferably two. They thought outside the box and offered Chip Ganassi a deal he couldn’t refuse. So, Trackhouse bought out Ganassi which included their shop and both charters. Daniel Suarez will return to the No. 99 Chevrolet while Ross Chastain stays technically in the same building going from a Ganassi driver to Trackhouse and will pilot the No. 1 Chevrolet.
Kurt Busch was the odd man out but that’s okay. He joined 23XI Racing in the No. 45 Toyota. Without a charter, they were hoping Front Row Motorsports would sell one of theirs. Instead, FRM kept both and keeps Michael McDowell in the No. 34 Ford but replaces Anthony Alfredo with Todd Gilliland in the No. 38 Ford.
23XI Racing then offered StarCom a substantial amount of money to buy them out and off StarCom goes with Ganassi and in comes a second charter for 23XI Racing.
GMS was still after a charter and that comes in a buyout of Richard Petty Motorsports. They’ll keep RPM around but in the 43 car under a GMS umbrella. The initial slate of the No. 94 Chevrolet and Ty Dillon being the driver now swaps to the No. 42 Chevrolet with a merged deal with RPM. They gained a charter for that ride in the sale.
That charter came from the split one between Petty and Rick Ware Racing. See, RWR didn’t want four charters. Their ideal scenario was two.
This deal left them with three. Spire which sold two of their three was after one more. They got it from RWR and will run the No. 77 Chevrolet full-time with Josh Bilicki in most races for them with the exception of the Daytona 500 and a few others.
RWR now has two charters.
JTG Daugherty Racing also announced they’ll not run an open car anymore leaving Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as their lone full time car. The 37 Chevrolet goes away.
That put Ryan Preece on a free agent list that included Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Newman.
SHR elected to remain status quo and brought Almirola and Smithfield back but only for one year. They also signed Preece to a developmental deal which all signs pointing to Preece replacing Almirola in 2023.
Keselowski wanted an ownership stake but Penske isn’t structured for that to happen. He left to buy into Roush Fenway Racing and take over the No. 6 Ford. Austin Cindric who was supposed to drive the No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers shifts over as Keselowski’s replacement. Harrison Burton then replaces Cindric in the No. 21 ride.
Head spinning yet?
DiBenedetto found a Truck Series ride. Alfredo moves down to the Xfinity Series with Our Motorsports. Newman, is really the only major full time driver from 2021 left without a ride. The music in this high speed game of musical chairs is dimming and slowing down. Newman, is left standing and the full time seats are all folded up and placed back in storage.
His only options really are Spire or RWR now on a part-time basis.
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, Suarez back in the No. 99.
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 with this charter coming from StarCom.
Kaulig Racing (2 charters, No. 16, No. 31) – Justin Haley full-time in the No. 16, AJ Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson to share the No. 31. Charters purchased from Spire.
Petty GMS Racing (2 charters, No. 42, No. 43) Erik Jones will be in the 43 with Ty Dillon in the 42. The 43 charter is came from last year, 42 charter from the RWR/Petty deal.
Spire Sports (2 charters, No, 7, No. 77) *Corey LaJoie back in the No. 7, Josh Bilicki, Landon Cassill and a few others in the No. 77 Chevrolet. They sold other 2 charters for Kaulig but likely now gets another back but this one from RWR.
Wood Brothers (No. 21) *Harrison Burton replaces Matt DiBenedetto for 2022
JTG Daugherty Racing (No. 47) *Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is back. The 37 car which was an open ride from last year is gone.
Live Fast Motorsports (No. 78) *Team not selling a charter, looking for drivers for 2022.
Rick Ware Racing (Numbers TBA) – 1 of their 4 charters sold in the Petty/GMS dealing. Initially, it was a split charter between RWR and Petty. Now, Petty sold that to GMS. A second charter appears to be heading towards Spire’s way (No. 77 Chevrolet) meaning they’re down to two charters. That’s what they were after all along. They’ve also started a technical alliance with SHR meaning that Ryan Preece will likely be in one of their cars in a couple of races. So will David Ragan.
Spire – No. 77 Chevrolet is open for Daytona 500 and a few other races.
Rick Ware Racing – 2 seats open but Ryan Preece likely in car May 1 Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway and May 29 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. David Ragan will drive that 15 car in the Daytona 500 and others.
Live Fast – part time seat in the No. 78 with BJ McLeod.