Kanaan to drive 4th AMSP entry for 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500, details and an early look at next May’s entry-list

INDIANAPOLIS — Tony Kanaan’s “last lap” has now lasted last two extra years. It will push to a third lap in 2023. Kanaan is back. He’ll drive for Arrow McLaren SP in next May’s 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500. The organization has run 3 cars in each of the last 3 ‘500’s, but will now branch out into a 4th car for 2023.

That’s because that 3rd car has moved up to full-time with Alexander Rossi coming onboard. They found a way to get a 4th engine package for Indy only and while there was speculation that this seat could go to either NASCAR driver at Kyle Busch or Kyle Larson, the team never wavered and wanted a veteran in this seat instead.

Kanaan, a veteran of 21 Indy 500’s, makes the upmost sense for this season and has now been announced as the driver of it.

“I feel extremely lucky to get another shot racing in the Indianapolis 500,” Kanaan said. “I’m excited to work with Pato, Felix and Alexander and race with the Arrow McLaren SP team. My biggest battle in last year’s race was against these three drivers so working with them and driving with them will be exciting for all of us.”

In 2020, Fernando Alonso drove the part-time car to a 21st place finish. Juan Pablo Montoya drove it the last two years in finishing 9th and 11th respectively. So there’s reason to believe Kanaan can be a factor in this part-time car next May.

Also, it now gives AMSP the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th placed drivers in last year’s Indy 500 with the team for the 2023 race.

The 47-year old said in early 2020 that the upcoming Indy 500 would be his last. However, COVID later happened which forced the Indy 500 not only from May to August but did so behind closed doors without any fans. The fan favorite from Brazil didn’t want to go out like that so he wanted to come back. 2021 led him back to Chip Ganassi Racing when Jimmie Johnson called him up in the Fall of 2020 and said that he wanted to try out the NTT INDYCAR Series on a part-time basis. He’d do the road/street courses, Kanaan on the ovals. It was a two-year deal.

Jimmie Johnson and Tony Kanaan chat on pit road at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Then Johnson decided that he’d race full-time in 2022 for which Ganassi obliged and offered to field a 5th Indy only ride for Kanaan. That 3rd place finish left Kanaan wanting more. It was his 3rd top 10 in the last 4 years here.

“I’m proud,” he said this past May after his 12th top 10 finish here. “Sitting in the car when the red flag was there, hearing the crowd cheering for me, this place never stop amazing me. It’s a great feeling.

“I left it all out there.”

He sounded then that this may be it.

“I said it, I wanted to do it one more. Right now it’s wide open,” he also said after this past year’s Indy 500. “I have one year to try to figure that out. But, yeah, I mean, even if I say next year will be the next one, you’re going to ask me that question. I might call it quits, but I still might want to come back.

“I was very emotional on the cool-down lap, talking to the team. I know my days are numbered. I have a plan, like I said. I think next year will be probably, if I can make it happen, will be really the last one.

“As of right now, this was the last one.”

In saying that, Kanaan was never ready to retire yet either.

“I still race quite a bit. I’m doing 23 races this year, more than actually I did when I was in INDYCAR. I don’t feel like I’m retiring. I mean, I know I can still drive. Of course, we have this thing that people like to talk about, age and age and age.

“But I think I’m in pretty good shape. I’ll keep doing it as long as the opportunity presents. Obviously to come back here, especially in the last two years with the team that I’m at, if it’s not there, I’m going to evaluate my chances. I don’t want to just be here to participate. I’ve done that plenty of times.

“So if I have one more shot, and that is for real, one more shot, we’ll give it a go.”

So where does this leave the Month of May entries?

We have 28 entries already announced. 15 for Honda, 13 for Chevrolet. For both Honda and Chevy though, I can make a case to where each only have 1 engine/chassis package open.

We know Ganassi wants to field a 4th full-time car for a singular yet to be named driver. If they do so, then they’d just keep their Indy only car from Kanaan’s package this past year and use it for Jimmie Johnson. That pushes that number up to 17 for Honda with one engine package left.

Chevy will likely have 2 of their openings go to DRR and the other to ECR leaving them with 2 open. I’ve heard the Enerson’s own 1 of the 2 leaving just 1 vacancy for the bowtie camp.

Confirmed

Honda (15)

Andretti Autosport (5) – They have 5 drivers already named with the four full-timers (Herta, Grosjean, Kirkwood, DeFrancesco) and Marco Andretti as the Indy only.

Chip Ganassi Racing (3) – I once thought 5 cars at Indy was a one-time deal but recent rumor is that Ganassi will run four full-time drivers and roll out the 5th for Johnson if he wants to race with them. Right now though, we know if 3 drivers (Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Alex Palou).

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.

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. They’re also after a 3rd package too.

Chevrolet (13)

Arrow McLaren SP (4) – They’ll use all 3 engines full-time next year with O’Ward, Rosenqvist and Rossi in them. Now Kanaan was announced as the 4th driver for the part-time car.

Team Penske (3) – All 3 drivers are returning

Ed Carpenter Racing (2) – Both drivers are back.

AJ Foyt Racing (2) – They had 3 engines this past year but sounds like they’ll scale back to running 2 with rookie Benjamin Pedersen and veteran Santino Ferrucci in their cars.

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.

Waiting Confirmation

Chevrolet (5 open, 4 could be spoken for)

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.

Ed Carpenter Racing (1) – I don’t get a sense Ed Carpenter wants to expand to 4 cars and I can’t see him stepping away so expect Carpenter to be in the 3rd ECR car next May. If he doesn’t, which would be a massive shock, this would be a direct path for Paretta.

Word is the Top Gun/RC Enerson saga has ended with Enerson in possession of the equipment and looking for a team to pair with. AJ Foyt had 4 chassis/engine programs for 2021, went down to 3 for 2022 but could scale back even further to just 2 in 2023 which opens up some leeway.

Cusick, DragonSpeed and Paretta want in but may be fighting for 1 engine/chassis package. The other could be best to pair with Enerson.

Honda (3 open)

There’s 3 openings here with 2 of them likely going to Chip Ganassi Racing. We know they want to run a 4th full-time car again and if they do so for just one full-time driver, then there’s reason to believe they keep that 5th part-time ride for Jimmie Johnson to do Indy only.

Which means there’d be just 1 Honda engine left for the taking. RLL appears as the lead target for it and could have an announcement within the next month. It used to be Vasser Sullivan’s that wasn’t used a year ago. MSR is in the market for it too. So is DCR/HMD.

Drivers With Ties

  • Jimmie Johnson – Obviously is free to run for whomever he wants but Ganassi makes the most sense here.
  • Ed Carpenter – Clearly the favorite for the 3rd ECR seat.
  • Simona de Silvestro – Locked in with Paretta. Can they pair with someone or get that final Chevy lease?
  • Stefan Wilson – Tied with Cusick. Similar situation as De Silvestro.
  • RC Enerson – Has an car, can a team help them out and field Enerson who can bring funding and a chassis?
  • Takuma Sato – Truly up to him on what he wants to do in 2023. If he’s back full-time, then the three drivers after him on this list could be in the mix for a part-time role. If Sato moves to part-time, then either Armstrong, Frost or Lundqvist gets the nod in the 51 and Sato in the final Honda engine available which could steer him back to RLL.
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay – Linked to RLL’s fourth seat and even JHR if they’re 2nd driver isn’t ready for Indy.
  • Marcus Armstrong – The New Zealand native that ran in F2 had a strong test with Coyne in Sebring. He’s also in the conversation for the 2nd seat at Juncos Hollinger Racing.
  • Danial Frost – He too had a strong test with Coyne.
  • Linus Lundqvist – Won the Indy Lights championship for HMD. Doesn’t have a full-time budget but could be in the mix for that potential seat though. He, like Armstrong, has been mentioned for that JHR seat too.
  • Sting Ray Robb – Down to the 2nd JHR seat if he’s going to be in INDYCAR next season.
  • Agustin Canapino – Also in the mix for that 2nd JHR seat.

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