INDIANAPOLIS — The NTT INDYCAR Series silly season continues to heat up as we now head south to the streets of Nashville for this weekend’s Music City Grand Prix (3 p.m. ET, NBC, IndyCar Radio Network). Both drivers that were linked to Chip Ganassi Racing’s seat for the No. 10 Dallara-Honda have each been retained by their current teams with each receiving new multi-year deals.
Last Thursday it Callum Ilott who was signed to a new deal by Juncos Hollinger Racing. This Thursday, it was Ed Carpenter Racing’s turn to re-sign Rinus VeeKay to remain in the seat of his No. 21 Dallara-Chevrolet.
With both deals being multi-year now, you almost have wonder if the entire landscape of racing contracts are now changing. On one hand, you sign a 1-2 year deal in order to prove yourself and to then get a pay raise for the next deal. On the other, you may not have had the best of results but want a solid ground for a longer term deal. The team takes the options on their end and less financial burden by a lower base as a result.
Now so, contracts are getting messier with how McLaren is poaching other drivers and preying on them while they’re questioning their own contracts with their respective teams.
Which leads us to, now what? Most of the big names are off the board.
Once again both manufacturers are each capped at 18 car/engine programs a piece. We have 25 full time this year. That number likely jumps next season, but by how many?
It pays for being full-time at Indy now. The full time teams drew way more of a piece of the pie than the part timers. Most part time teams in May received between $100-$200k no matter where they finished. With a car needing $1-$2-million to race during the Month of May and the purse being that small for a part time team, they need drivers with a substantial amount of money. Instead, you can run full time and maybe even piece it together with a couple of different drivers and get a larger share of the pie in May.
Seats Open: No. 1 (Chip Ganassi), No. 10 (Chip Ganassi), No. 48 (Chip Ganassi), No. 51 (DCR/RWR), No. 06 (MSR)
Possible Seat Open: No. 29 (Andretti)
Expansion: DCR/HMD, MSR
Engines Left: 1-2 (Vasser Sullivan’s, Ganassi if they scale from 5 cars to 4).
The Ganassi seat is the top one on the market but is it truly on the market? Alex Palou has been optioned by the team to stay with them for 2023. It’s now in federal courts. Does Ganassi option Palou but sideline him? We know Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson are both back and all signs point to Jimmie Johnson doing so in his No. 48 Dallara-Honda. Johnson wants to be full time and Ganassi wants him to be too. It’s just does Carvana scale down their efforts after some financial troubles? Does Johnson truly want to remain full time? They had 5 engines for Indy this year so do they keep a 5th car or scale back down to 4 again now that the contract with Tony Kanaan is done. Hell, Kanaan could even shift back to the 10 car for a year. So could Ryan Hunter-Reay or Sebastien Bourdais.
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing is expected to remain status quo but they do have a press conference scheduled for Sunday morning for a team announcement. I don’t see them expanding again so they’ll remain at 3.
Andretti Autosport will have Colton Herta in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda, Romain Grosjean in the No. 28 Honda and the newly signed Kyle Kirkwood replacing Alexander Rossi in the No. 27 Dallara-Honda. The may have an opening in the No. 29 Dallara-Honda if the Devlin DeFrancesco and Andretti’s fall apart. There’s rumors of some financial hardships here. Marco Andretti should be in the 5th car at Indy next May.
I don’t see many changes in store for Dale Coyne Racing unless Takuma Sato decides to call it quits. HMD and David Malukas should be back with DCR in the No. 18 Dallara-Honda as there’s now rumors of the two sides aiming for a 3rd car under the DCR umbrella. If so, Linus Lundqvist would be the main player for that ride.
The only thing is, if they don’t secure a 3rd car, is Malukas allowed to go to Ganassi’s 10 seat and Lundqvist taking his Road to Indy scholarship should he win the Indy Lights title to the 18 car? 2 of the last 3 drivers of the 10 car came from DCR with Ed Jones and Alex Palou.
Meyer Shank Racing will have 2 full time cars with Simon Pagenaud locked into the No. 60 Dallara-Honda. The No. 06 Dallara-Honda being driven by Helio Castroneves is open but by all accounts, there should be a new deal done soon to keep him in it. They’re eyeing a 3rd car.
That’s it for the Honda front. They have 17 of their 18 allotted engines used this year and MSR and DCR/HMD eyeing possible expansion. Can they snag the 1 from Vasser Sullivan that’s not being used and does Ganassi keep their 5th or lease or even sell it off?
Seats Open: No. 7 (AMSP), No. 4 (Foyt), No. 11 (Foyt), No. 14 (Foyt)Expansion: JHR
Eyeing Joining: Cusick, DragsonSpeed, Paretta
Engines Left: 1-3 (Top Gun/RC Enerson’s saga, does Foyt scale back from 3 to 2 cars, does JHR lease their 2nd engine out again)
Team Penske will remain a 3 car team with the current 3 drivers. Ed Carpenter Racing now has both full time drivers signed and I don’t see Ed Carpenter retiring so he’ll be in a 3rd car at all the ovals. Do they expand their partnership with Paretta Autosport for all the rest of the road/street courses?
It will be hard for Paretta to go off full time on their own. Top Gun/RC Enerson has that saga, Cusick wants in full time, DragonSpeed now wants to stay and I don’t see them and Cusick partnering again unless neither can find footing on their own.
Arrow McLaren SP expands to 3 full time cars with Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi in 2 of them. The 3rd car is down to Felix Rosenqvist or Alex Palou likely.
For the 3rd time in 4 years AJ Foyt Racing has an opening in the 14 car. They usually let the dominos play out before making any moves. Benjamin Pedersen is the favorite to land in 1 of their seats. I keep hearing Dalton Kellett will be face in the 4 car. The 11 entry though is what’s up in the air. Do they keep it?
Juncos Hollinger Racing has Callum Ilott back and they’re eyeing expansion to a 2nd full time car. They have the car and equipment just need the man power. They tested Pedersen recently so he could be in the mix here too.
Dreyer & Reinbold racing will likely hang onto their 2 cars/engines and come back to Indy only again.
That’s 3 at Penske, 3 at ECR, 3 at AMSP, 3 at Foyt, 2 at JHR, 2 at DRR and 1 each at Top Gun/Enerson’s and the other floating from the Cusick/DragonSpeed Indy only entry.
Does Foyt stay at 3? Does JHR use their 2nd? What about the Top Gun/Enerson saga?
Paretta, Cusick and DragonSpeed want to all 3 be full time but there’s not enough room for all to do so.