INDYCAR silly season already ramping up

INDIANAPOLIS — We’ve not even reached the green flag for the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) and we’re already discussing silly season. In all reality though, we’ve never actually stopped from last year. This is just in continuation of the high speed game of musical chairs.

Pato O’Ward was a surprise addition to the free agency list but he’s since signed a multi-year agreement to stay put at AMSP.

The organization is still planning on running 3 full time cars in 2023 so his teammates are yet to be known. This is the team with the top dominos for Silly Season and where things start to get real interesting.

Multiple people have pointed to Alexander Rossi leaving Andretti Autosport and landing there. I mean it’s not necessarily a secret that the marriage is rocky between Rossi and Andretti right now.

It’s a similar situation as to what Ryan Hunter-Reay was in last year. The results weren’t there for a new contract for either side.. The skill of the drivers aren’t being questioned. It quite honestly just comes down to bad luck. Sometimes at this point, a change of scenery is honestly what’s needed and right now, it almost seems like that’s where we’re headed in this situation.

If so, Rossi would be a coveted driver. His fear is, will his value shrink without results. That’s kind of why he’s betting on himself here too. AMSP would be a great change of pace but don’t forget the fact that Rossi has large ties to Honda who’s helped keep him with Andretti for this current contract he’s operating on. Does he cut ties with Honda and move towards the Chevy direction?

Seems so.

Which is why this Andretti situation is interesting. Herta will be back in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda so long as he’s not in F1 next year. Romain Grosjean signed a multi-year deal that began in 2022 for the No. 28 Dallara-Honda. I don’t see Devlin DeFrancesco being a 1-and-done with the team. I also don’t see them expanding to 5 full-time teams so if Herta, Grosjean and DeFrancesco are back, and the rumors are true of Kyle Kirkwood being with Andretti for 2023, then that leaves Rossi out.

Kirkwood, won the Indy Lights championship with the team in 2021 and while they wanted to keep him this season, they couldn’t make it work on 5 full time teams. So, off Kirkwood went to AJ Foyt Racing in the famed No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet. With other seats opening, I don’t think Andretti wanted to lose out on a future star which is why maybe his hand was tipped to choose Kirkwood and allow Rossi to go elsewhere for that change of scenery.

If Kirkwood does leave Foyt, which all signs point to him doing so, then 2023 would be the 4th straight year a new driver was in the 14. 2020 was Tony Kanaan and Sebastien Bourdais. 2021 was Bourdais only. 2022 was Kirkwood. 2023….?

Foyt kept Dalton Kellett in the No. 4 Dallara-Chevrolet but there’s no word yet on the future. Tatiana Calderon and JR Hildebrand are splitting the seat in the No. 11 Dallara-Chevrolet. I don’t see Hildebrand being full-time for next season so at least 1 new drivers has to be in the mix at Foyt.

Ed Carpenter Racing signed Conor Daly for a multi-year deal so he figures to be back in the No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet. As far as how much Carpenter is back in the No. 33 Dallara-Chevrolet is in question. Is it Indy only? Is it all ovals again? Does he step away for another full time driver instead? We know he’ll have the No. 21 Dallara-Chevrolet back but is Rinus VeeKay in it? He’s a budding star that’s still only 21 years of age. He’s off to another hot start to the season and as a free agent, could play into free agency too.

The question is, where?

I don’t think Team Penske expands back to 4 cars as they’re off to a much better start to 2022 than they were as a 4 car unit in 2021. They’ve always said their wheelhouse is 3 cars not 4. Only way they expand is if it’s a right situation for someone like Rossi (he ran IMSA for them) or if major funding from someone like VeeKay who I’ve been told doesn’t have a budget like that in his arsenal.

Will Power signed a multi-year extension just last year and no way would Penske let Josef Newgarden walk so barring Scott McLaughlin being let go (he’s not) then I think Penske is set.

That lands VeeKay on the AMSP radar and could very well see the team roll out a lineup in 2023 of O’Ward, Rossi and VeeKay.

Juncos Hollinger Racing has 2 cars but using 1. Callum Ilott is technically a Ferrari Academy driver but drawing interest from bigger teams too. Can JHR retain him if he’s not used in F1? With Ferrari set on Charles LeClerc and Carlos Sainz Jr., I don’t see a fit for him within Ferrari right now which means a return to INDYCAR should he want to. Is that a fit for AMSP’s 3rd car? Would Ferrari allow that since AMSP is a rival F1 team? Would he leave Ferrari all together for a shot at AMSP which could lead to a future F1 seat if he performs here? It’s an interesting one to watch.

That’s really it for Chevy.

What about Honda?

Andretti we discussed above and while we did briefly with Ganassi, barring Marcus Ericsson miraculously not being retained or Scott Dixon retiring, I don’t see them having anyone other than their 4 full-time drivers now. Alex Palou is set. Jimmie Johnson wants to come back and I don’t see why he wouldn’t be allowed to. Dixon is in the 9 as long as he wants and with Ericsson’s year-over-year improvement, they may be best to stand pat.

Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing already will have Graham Rahal (why leave a family team). Christian Lundgaard may not have an F1 seat ready for 2022 so he’s best to stay and Jack Harvey is also in his 1st year. Why give up now?

Dale Coyne Racing has HMD and I don’t see that partnership ending after just 1 year. Does Rick Ware Racing keep Takuma Sato for a 2nd year or a new driver for a 3rd straight season?

Meyer Shank Racing is the one that could keep the same lineup, or pair Simon Pagenaud with a new driver. Helio Castroneves is a free agent. Does MSR bring him back full-time? There’s talks of MSR wanting to eventually expanding to a 3rd car. If so, do they use it part-time for Helio and put a 2nd driver full time in the No. 06 Dallara-Honda?

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