INDIANAPOLIS — There’s not many rides available for the taking not only for the full-time NTT INDYCAR Series season, but as well as for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 either. On the full-time level, there’s 27 full-time seats with the only two left that are available being at the Dale Coyne Racing/Rick Ware Racing shop in Illinois and the Juncos Hollinger Racing headquarters located here in the shadows of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There’s also a part-time opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing too, for which once these three rides are filled, the full season slate is closed.
That’s it. That’s all that’s available for the championship eligible rides.
For the Indy 500 only rides, you have 3 engines available within the Chevrolet camp, a fourth seat at RLL (Honda) and then waiting to see how the other full-time rides and the Jimmie Johnson scenarios play out.
As far as what I’m hearing on these ventures?
Takuma Sato’s full-time trek is looking slimmer and slimmer by the day, which leaves the 51 seat at DCR/RWR open. I’ve since learned that Sato is in play for the oval only ride at Ganassi to share with newly announced driver, Marcus Armstrong, in the No. 11 Dallara-Honda. I mean it is a perfect match in a sense that Sato has already won two Indy 500’s with two different teams and the Japanese driver comes with a full engine lease from the Japanese manufacturer. This in turn helps fill the gap for the 11 ride and can help push some sponsorship towards the 8 and 10 seats as well and giving them a full budget for all parties. If not Sato, then I keep hearing Ryan Hunter-Reay’s name mentioned as a candidate. I mean he’s already under contract with Ganassi, but his name is also listed on the wish list at RLL too in terms of that fourth Indy 500 only seat. With two former Indy 500 champions seeking rides, I can see each landing with the bigger teams left in some fashion and I’d be stunned if neither are strolling Gasoline Alley in a firesuit next May.
So what about that 51 ride then should Sato truly decide to depart? I’ve heard a wide cast of drivers interested in it, ranging from Sting Ray Robb to Linus Lundqvist to Danial Frost or even to pairing with RC Enerson who oh by the way, owns equipment. Enerson and DCR also have a history and would make a ton of sense here to continue on with RWR’s backing. In turn, it could also give them the resources that they’ve been seeking for a 3rd ride, since Enerson already has some budget and equipment. He just needs an engine and this could be the perfect pairing.
Again, just comes down to Jimmie Johnson for that 3rd venture.
JHR had Marcus Armstrong on their radar but now could pivot back to Agustin Canapino in the 78 or even someone like Sting Ray Robb or Linus Lundqvist too.
The rest is pretty much secured with DRR being the lone ticket and they’ve not discounted names like Kyle Busch or Kyle Larson for that seat. Chevy has 2 Indy only packages open and I can’t see Foyt expanding to a 3rd or even 4th car so what can Paretta and even DragonSpeed work out here?
So do we have a path for 36? Sure.
An example being Sato in the 4th Ganassi seat and DCR/RWR/HMD (a combo of the 2) using Enerson’s equipment and having him in a car and someone like Frost or Tatiana Calderon or Sting Ray Robb in the 51. Hunter-Reay to RLL gives Honda a full house with 18 cars. JHR will obviously fill their TBA seat and DRR could very seriously end up with Larson or Busch or even date I say, Jimmie Johnson? If he’s not with Honda, DCR would snag that engine and Enerson having equipment seals that deal.
Johnson now has US Air Force as a sponsor that he’s an owner of with Petty GMS Racing. Cross promotion for the double on Memorial Day weekend and do so with bowtie power? Makes more sense than it does to see him back with Ganassi.
DragonSpeed could lease some equipment from Foyt and get a Chevrolet engine which gets us to 35. With 1 left, this is where Paretta could come into play….
Andretti Autosport (5) – 4 of the 5 from last year return (Herta, Grosjean, DeFrancesco and Andretti) while Kyle Kirkwood replaces Alexander Rossi in the 27. Marco Andretti is Indy only.
Chip Ganassi Racing (4) – 3 of the 4 from last year also return here with Armstrong and an oval specialist sharing the 11 entry. Can they get a 5th package for Jimmie Johnson?
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (4) – All 3 drivers are back in 2023. Only change is the number/sponsor swap between Jack Harvey (Now in the 30) and Christian Lundgaard (Now in the 45). They should have an Indy only seat for the Month of May.
Meyer Shank Racing (2) – They’ll have both drivers back.
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. RC Enerson, Sting Ray Robb and Linus Lundqvist are in play. The final moment is down to them or Jimmie Johnson for this final engine package.
Arrow McLaren SP (4) – They’ll use all 3 engines full-time next year with O’Ward, Rosenqvist and Rossi in them. A fourth will come out for Indy only for Tony Kanaan.
Team Penske (3) – All 3 drivers are returning
Ed Carpenter Racing (3) – Both full-time drivers are back. I don’t see Ed Carpenter walking away from his oval only schedule either.
AJ Foyt Racing (2) – They’ll have 2 new drivers in Benjamin Pedersen in the 4 replacing Dalton Kellett and Santino Ferrucci in the 14 replacing Kyle Kirkwood.
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. Agustin Canapino is the favorite now for that 2nd seat.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (2) – They have 2 packages and will have Stefan Wilson is one with a joint entry from Cusick. The 2nd car is open.
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?
- 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 that opens up a wild set of possibilities for the 51. It’s down to DCR/RWR ride or Ganassi for him.
- Ryan Hunter-Reay – Linked to RLL’s fourth seat, Ganassi’s 4th seat and even JHR if their 2nd driver isn’t ready for Indy.
- Sage Karam – Shocking departure from DRR leads him here. The kid can flat out drive and would be a great addition for any team looking for a driver.
- 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 has been mentioned for that JHR seat too.
- Sting Ray Robb – Down to the 2nd JHR or DCR/RWR seat if he’s going to be in INDYCAR next season.
- Agustin Canapino – Also in the mix for that 2nd JHR seat.