This week in INDYCAR -week of Oct. 3

INDIANAPOLIS — It may be the offseason but the NTT INDYCAR Series isn’t taking any breaks. This is the 3rd straight week that newsworthy additions came out of the series, so here’s what you may have missed.

MORE: This Week In INDYCAR week of Sept. 22

MORE: This Week in INDYCAR week of Sept. 29

AMSP Announces Organizational Changes

The writing was on the wall that changes were going to occur at AMSP. With Taylor Kiel’s unexpected departure and Brian Barnhart’s arrival, you had to know something was going to happen.

On Tuesday, the uncertainty was revealed in the fact that Gavin Ward, who joined the team in July this year as Director of Trackside Engineering, will take on the role of Racing Director at Arrow McLaren SP. Barnhart is a new addition to the McLaren Racing family in the role of General Manager for the team.

In the role of Racing Director, Gavin will lead the technical performance team of Max Neyron (Director of Operations), Nick Snyder (Director of Performance) and Billy Vincent (Director of Competition), which will collectively drive the future performance of the racing team in the 2023 season and beyond.

“I’m honored to step into this role and work alongside the other leaders to continue elevating Arrow McLaren SP and our competitiveness on the track,” Ward said. “Max, Nick, Billy and I have worked really well together this past season, so we already have established an impressive baseline that will lead to a smooth start for 2023. I’m really excited to see what the team will do and welcome Brian to the team as well.”

The car communicator for Pato and the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet is still being finalized, while Billy will stay in his role on the radio with Felix Rosenqvist for the No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, and Brian will be the car communicator for Alexander Rossi and the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

“I’m excited to join McLaren Racing as General Manager for Arrow McLaren SP,” said Barnhart. “The team has made incredible strides in challenging the top teams for the championship over the past two seasons. AMSP is full of talent, from their drivers to the mechanics and every position in between, and I’m honored to join them.”

O’Ward, Palou Get Another F1 Test

Another tidbit out of the McLaren camp was revealed on Wednesday morning in the fact that Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou will get another testing opportunity in an F1 car which will take place in Austria this week.

This is the 2nd test for the duo as they also tested in Spain the week after the INDYCAR season ended.

Callum Ilott’s No. 77 Dallara-Chevrolet from this past season. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Juncos Hollinger Racing Sets Up Exhibition Events In Argentina

Juncos Hollinger Racing announced on Tuesday that the team will be bringing the No. 77 JHR NTT INDYCAR SERIES car to Argentina for an exhibition during November 4th through the 9th. The car will be presented at the Michelangelo, Buenos Aires and then head to the Circuit of Buenos Aires and the Circuit of Termas de Rio Hondo, Santiago del Estero to be driven by Argentinean driver Agustin Canapino.  Juncos Hollinger Racing also announced that the team will be bringing the No. 77 JHR NTT INDYCAR SERIES car to Argentina for an exhibition during November 4th through the 9th too. The car will be presented at the Michelangelo, Buenos Aires and then head to the Circuit of Buenos Aires and the Circuit of Termas de Rio Hondo, Santiago del Estero to be driven by Argentinean driver Agustin Canapino.  

After 51 years, an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car will return to the track for the first time in Argentina. The last time the series visited Argentina was in 1971 during the USAC Rafaela Indy 300 race held at the Autodromo, won by Al Unser.  

“For many years we have been trying to bring a NTT INDYCAR SERIES car to Argentina and today to be in the position to officially announce the car will be returning for an exhibition after 51 years is amazing,” said JHR Co-owner and Team Principal Ricardo Juncos. “This gives us a lot of pride as Argentineans and for all that this means. Since we are linked to Chevrolet in the United States and to have Agustin Canapino as the driver will be one of the greatest moments of motorsports in our community. When Alberto Canapino was with us at the 24 Hours of Daytona, we thought of what a great moment this would be to see Agustin in an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car and from that point on, on my promise that is what we were going to make happen. Regardless of the team and effort it would take, today it is a reality and I am sure Alberto would be so proud of this moment.”

“To make this all possible, many people and companies have been involved,” said Juncos. “I am very grateful for the government of the Providence of Santiago del Estero, through the Governor Gerardo Zamora and Emanuel Moriatis, the President of the Turismo National series, who opened the doors allowing us to be a part of this great event. Also, Juan Carlos Lucio Godoy, the President of Rio Uruguay Seguros, one of the companies that have been supporting us for several years, Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet and General Motors of USA, Firestone, Luis Angel Machi the owner of Michelangelo who allowed us to hold this event that will take place on Friday before the exhibition, and to the President and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. Mark Miles and INDYCAR President Jay Frye, and the Governor of Indiana Eric Holcomb. Through all of these people and companies this would have not been possible to show the fans of Argentina an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car on track running at the Autodromo of Buenos Aires and then at the Autodromo de Termas de Rio Hondo in Santiago del Estero.”

“As an Argentinean and understanding what motorsport of this hierarchy means, it fills us with pride, the whole Juncos Hollinger Racing team, our friends and all the immense amount of people who in different ways collaborated to make this possible. I think this is a very important step forward in terms of promoting INDYCAR not only in Argentina but also in all Latin America and I hope it will be the basis that will allow us in the near future to have our country more involved in the INDYCAR SERIES championship.” 

Many South American countries, including Argentina, have a major following in motorsports. JHR will promote the NTT INDYCAR SERIES throughout the visit by showcasing the car during the exhibition beginning November 4th with a presentation at the Michelangelo of Buenos Aires. The car will be on track for a private session during the Turismo National November 5th and 6th and will conclude at the main event at the Termas de Rio Hondo, Santiago del Estero November 9th.  

Gerardo Zamora, the Governor of Santiago de Estero, visited with Ricardo Juncos, Mark Miles, President and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corporation, and Eric Holcomb, Governor of Indiana during the 2022 Indianapolis 500. 

“For me it is an honor to have an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car test in our International Circuit of Termas de Rio Hondo,” said Hector Farina, Director of the International Circuit of Termas de Rio Hondo. “The last time we had this car in our country from the United States was back in 1971 and has not returned since then. To have this car in our providence, with a first-class driver will be something extraordinary. Thank you everyone for coming and for thinking of Santiago del Estero.”

“It will be an honor to have the team here in Argentina,” said Nelson Bravo, Secretay of Tourism of the providence of Santiago del Estero. “We are projecting to have a full house in Santiago del Estero.”

“Argentina is proud to be the homeland of Juan Manuel Fangio, the greatest driver in history in my opinion, and continues to be present in different ways with international perspectives,” said Juan Carlos Lucio Godoy.

“Now we have the privilege of hosting Ricardo Juncos and his NTT INDYCAR SERIES team. To have the Argentinean talent with an American backing, come to our country to show us this engineering and to showcase the car on track in Buenos Aires and then at the circuit of Termas de Rio Hondo. This is a great opportunity that will open expectations and the hopes for the future. To be part of this process in providing our motorsports fans in Argentina is something that greatly interests us, because investing in the growth and showing what is being done and how we can grow and advance. The competition of the Turismo National is special to Argentina and will be in the city of Buenos Aires November 6th. To have these fans see a car of such a high level like the NTT INDYCAR SEREIS car and to be driven by an experienced Argentinean driver, Agustin Canapino, will be an incredible moment and hopefully the start of a new future. What prevents us from dreaming when there are those who are thinking about the possibility for one to two years from now? We want to help Argentina grow and we are convinced we can reach that goal with the shared effort.”

Agustin Canapino made his debut with JHR in the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driving the JHR Cadillac Dpi entry during the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Canapino has had great success throughout his career claiming multiple championships in Argentina, including three consecutive championships in the Turismo Carretera class.  

“For me, to have this chance to be the driver of the Juncos Hollinger Racing NTT INDYCAR SERIES in Argentina is a great privilege, a great honor, and great responsibility for which I have been preparing myself for a long time,” said Canapino. “I would like to thank Ricardo Juncos, Brad Hollinger, and the entire Juncos Hollinger Racing team, as well as those who have made it possible for the car to come to Argentina. I only have words of gratitude, and at the same time I want to invite everyone to come to this incredible event that we will have with the National Tourism in which I will also be competing in the race of two drivers was the big icing on the cake which is the Indy Exhibition. This is not just another car, it’s the team of Argentina. They finished the final event qualifying on the front row in the most competitive and demanding category in the world. I want to thank everyone who made this dream come true and I hope everyone can make it to the exhibition as it will be a historic event for Argentina.” 

The Argentinean will make his first appearance in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES next week during a private test at Sebring International Raceway. 

“To be able to test with Ricardo and the team is a huge honor and huge commitment,” said Canapino. “It is very exciting for me, because it is something that Ricardo had talked with my dad about a lot, who unfortunately is no longer here and will not be able to see me live this moment, but I know he will be watching. Thank you to Ricardo and Juncos Hollinger Racing for giving me this opportunity to test the car before the exhibition. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES car is demanding and the complexity of it is essential to testing beforehand so that everything goes the way we want it to.”  

Santino Ferrucci had a top 10 in 4 races for 3 different teams at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Ferrucci Joins AJ Foyt Racing

There was chatter that this move would occur. It’s the main reason as to why car numbers weren’t revealed in the announcement that Benjamin Pedersen would be joining AJ Foyt Racing on a new multi-year contract. If Foyt could land the driver that they were after, then the rest was history.

On Thursday, that driver that they were after was announced.

Santino Ferrucci is once again a full-time driver in the NTT INDYCAR Series as he has been named to pilot the No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet in 2023. Ferrucci is the latest hire for the legendary team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

Last week, AJ Foyt Racing announced that Pedersen would make his INDYCAR debut in a Chevrolet-powered Dallara fielded out of their Indianapolis race shop.

For the last two years, Ferrucci seemed to be the “go-to” guy when race teams needed a substitute driver. While appreciative to receive the calls, Ferrucci is thrilled he won’t be available for subbing in 2023.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full-time,” said Ferrucci. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a racecar driver and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Team President Larry Foyt consulted with his famous father about bringing Ferrucci into the fold for 2023. The senior Foyt had chatted with the curly-haired youngster on several occasions this year and liked his attitude.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said via a team release. “He’s shown a knack for getting towards the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci is equally enthused about the move to AJ Foyt Racing.

“It’s going to be a very unique opportunity to work with both A.J. and Larry closely to build a new program,” he said. “To race for a legend like A.J. Foyt — it’s a dream come true. I like to think of myself as an “old school” driver who likes loose race cars and gets behind the wheel of anything with four wheels and an engine. So driving for a guy like A.J., knowing that he drove everything throughout his career, it’s going to be a chance of a lifetime for me.”

The Connecticut native made his debut in America’s premier open wheel series in 2018 when Dale Coyne Racing tapped him to drive for Pietro Fittipaldi, who was injured in a sports car crash. Until then, Ferrucci had been focused on driving in Formula 1, having moved to Europe at the age of 14 to compete in various junior formulas. Ferrucci holds the record for the youngest British Formula 3 Series winner at the age of 16 and has also raced in the FIA Formula 2 Championship. He has also driven for the Haas F1 team as a development driver from 2017-2018.

“INDYCAR became my goal after leaving F1 in 2018,” Ferrucci revealed. “I finished up my season in Europe and was asked to fill in for Pietro (Fittipaldi) in the Detroit Grand Prix. I instantly fell in love with the cars, the style of racing and the people. That’s when I knew that INDYCAR needed to be my new home.”

Ferrucci signed a full season deal with Dale Coyne Racing in 2019 and earned Rookie of the Year honors in his first Indianapolis 500 after finishing seventh. Since, he has competed in three additional Indianapolis 500 races, and Ferrucci has never finished outside of the top-10. In 2020, Ferrucci had his best finish of fourth.

When a full season ride didn’t materialize in 2021, Ferrucci found himself in the role of an INDYCAR “supersub” driver. However, Ferrucci didn’t sit idle waiting for the phone to ring. He inked a deal to drive for Sam Hunt in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – making nine starts over the last two years. In just his second start, he had a career- best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Ferrucci participated in the 2021 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals where 300-plus midgets race over the course of six nights on a quarter-mile clay track inside the Tulsa, Okla. Expo Center. Ferrucci didn’t make it to the final 24 car field, but his debut in midgets was memorable enough that he’s interested in doing it again.

When Ferrucci was asked if his varied experience helped him to adapt quickly to the Indy car, he replied, “Yes and no. I’ve driven everything from dirt cars to stock cars to go-karts to Indy cars to F1 cars, and driving Indy cars demands a very unique driving style. It’s definitely the type of car where uncomfortable is fast — and it’s very hard to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Apparently the 24-year-old has figured out how to enjoy being uncomfortably fast, as he added,

“There’s nothing like being on a short oval ripping through the gears three-wide at a place like Iowa Speedway or going 240mph at Indy. There’s just nothing like that in existence anywhere else in motorsports. Bring on 2023.”

And that is something his 87-year-old boss can appreciate.

Takuma Sato – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Silly Season

AJ Foyt Racing is now filled. For the 2nd time in the last 4 years, the organization will show up to a new NTT INDYCAR Series season with 2 new drivers. Last week, it was unveiled that Benjamin Pedersen will be with the team. This week, it was announced that Santino Ferrucci will team up with Pedersen with the famed organization.

Pedersen’s number is either 4 or 11 but that’s dependent on Dalton Kellett while Ferrucci is in the No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet. Kellett and Foyt are due to talk again soon on what both sides would like to do for 2023. I keep hearing Kellett may be looking for endeavors outside of INDYCAR but could take his sponsorship to Foyt on a part-time role instead. He could even wind back up full-time or not at all. All options are on the table which would then affect Pedersen’s team.

The 4 car will be housed in Indianapolis. Does Pedersen get that car or the 11? It’s truly up to Kellett and Foyt.

Nevertheless, silly season is almost wrapped up. The next domino to likely fall is what Juncos Hollinger Racing does with their 2nd entry. I would think Agustin Canapino is the lead target there.

As far as what else?

Well it’s then down to Takuma Sato and if he wants to return full-time or not. If he does, then it stays status quo with Dale Coyne Racing with them having David Malukas back in the No. 18 Dallara-Honda with HMD’s partnership and Sato in the No. 51 for the partner car with DCR/Rick Ware Racing. If Sato doesn’t want to come back, then Linus Lundqvist makes the most sense.

Linus Lundqvist Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Word is the HMD/DCR have been actively seeking a 3rd car to place Lundqvist into so long as Sato comes back. That decision was dependent also on Jimmie Johnson’s. Now that Honda knows Johnson’s future is part-time at best, they can release another engine package.

Even with Chip Ganassi Racing potentially using the 48 car (or whatever number it could be) on a full-time basis and team Johnson with another driver, Ganassi likely isn’t going to show up to Indy with 5 drivers again so that part-time engine package could go to HMD/DCR if they want it.

In terms of the rest of the silly season, it’s just down to minor details.

We know Colton Herta isn’t going to F1. We know Alex Palou is staying with Ganassi and Felix Rosenqvist will as a result remain with Arrow McLaren SP.

We know Penske is remaining status quo. So will Andretti Autosport. So will Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing. So will Meyer Shank Racing. So will Ed Carpenter Racing. AMSP has Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward coming back and Alexander Rossi as the 3rd driver.

That’s 6 teams solidified.

Foyt is open to the option of the 3rd car again, but it doesn’t necessarily have to happen either. They at least know of their 2 full-time drivers go make 7 teams solidified per se. It’s only up to Kellett for the 3rd seat and only him.

Chevy currently has 13 full-time engines being used. That counts Ed Carpenter’s 33 entry as there’s a strong chance they partner with Paretta again with that entry.

Foyt had a full-time engine (No. 11 car last year) and a part-time (4th entry in 2021’s Indy 500). Do they let both go at this point? They sound like the 4th engine won’t be used and the 3rd would only be brought out for Kellett.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has 2 part-time Indy only engines and would need a replacement now for Ferrucci. Between these 2 and the 13 already, that’s 15 of their 18 max allotment.

AMSP is open to entertaining a 4th Indy only ride. They could get 1 of the 2 from Foyt. Top Gun/RC Enerson hold the keys to the other package but there’s not been a word said on the status of this legal battle.

Cusick and DragonSpeed each want back in but I don’t see any full-time engines available for them to snag.

What about Honda?

I keep hearing Ganassi is likely to keep their 4th package and Andretti is set with 5 (4 full-time, 1 part-time). RLL is back with their 3, MSR has 2 and DCR still with 2 as of now. That’s 15 full-time entries on their side so combine that with Chevy’s 13 that’s 28 full-time cars. Factor in Andretti’s part-time Indy only ride and you get 16 of Honda’s 18 engines spoken for.

It comes down to that extra from Ganassi’s Indy only entry for Tony Kanaan last year and the last one from Vasser Sullivan.

Which is why silly season is pretty much wrapped up.

Chevrolet (16)

Team Penske (3) – All 3 drivers are returning

Arrow McLaren SP (3) – They’ll use all 3 engines full-time next year with O’Ward, Rosenqvist and Rossi in them. Do they get a 4th for Kyle Busch? Tony Kanaan or Juan Pablo Montoya are the lead candidates now.

Ed Carpenter Racing (3) – Both drivers are back. Ed is likely back on ovals. Do they pair on a grander scale with Paretta for 2023?

AJ Foyt Racing (3) – They had 3 engines this year but will they use all 3 next season?

Juncos Hollinger Racing (2) – They’ll have 2 cars next year with Callum Ilott in 1 of them and a TBA driver in the 2nd car.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (2) – I don’t get any indication that they’ll scale back to 1 or 0 cars in 2023 after a strong show this past May. I also don’t get any sense they’ll add more races outside of Indy either.

The Top Gun/RC Enerson saga has 1 engine. AJ Foyt has another but do they use all 3? That leaves 1 engine left. Cusick and Paretta are interested. Can they each secure 1?

Honda (17)

Andretti Autosport (5) – They have 4 drivers signed for 2023 and all will be back. I’d expect Marco Andretti to return in the Indy only role again.

Chip Ganassi Racing (4) – I don’t see them running a 5th car for Indy only next year. They can let go of 1 of their chassis/engines now.

Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (3) – All 3 drivers are back in 2023.

Meyer Shank Racing (2) – They’ll have both drivers back. They’re eyeing expansion but I don’t see how that gets done yet.

Dale Coyne Racing (2) – They’re after a 3rd engine but can they secure it? Malukas is back but is Sato? They could have 1 seat open. If they don’t, then they want a 3rd engine for Linus Lundqvist.

There’s 1 engine left out there (Vasser Sullivan’s) that could be used. Then the rest gets interesting. Does Ganassi drop 1 of their engines and can DCR gain it? Does MSR secure a 3rd one to use part-time?

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