INDIANAPOLIS — Chip Ganassi Racing and Arrow McLaren Racing are in an intense no holes barred on track battle for NTT INDYCAR SERIES supremacy. They’re 1-2 in points. They have eight of the top 10 starters for Sunday’s 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Most consider this Sunday’s race that will run in front of a near capacity crowd to come down to a battle of Ganassi vs. McLaren.
You have a budding rivalry between Scott Dixon (Ganassi) vs Pato O’Ward (McLaren).
However, their on track rivalry has spilled over to off the track now too. Last year, Zak Brown and McLaren shocked the world in announcing that they had signed Alex Palou for the 2023 season. That came shortly after Chip Ganassi Racing announced that they had exercised their option to retain the same driver, Palou, for their team for the 2023 season.
A lengthy battle in litigation resulted in Palou coming back to Ganassi for one more year before the expected moved to McLaren in 2024.
One under the radar move in this whole process was McLaren taking Ganassi’s sponsor, NTT DATA with them too.
Now, it appears that McLaren could be courting another Ganassi driver – Marcus Ericsson.
“First, I don’t think people steal things. I think people lose things,” Zak Brown said during a Friday news conference from Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Marcus has done an outstanding job. I’ve known him from Formula 1 for some time. He’s very humble. He’s done an awesome job. He’s won the Indy 500; led the championship for some time. He would definitely be in the consideration if we decided to do a fourth car.”
Brown called Ericsson the likely top free agent so he was a little surprised with how strong things were commercially within Ganassi and reading the quote that they don’t have the confidence to sign him out right.
“I think he’s probably the top free agent, so I’m a little surprised, given how strong things are commercially that, reading the quotes, that his current team doesn’t have the commercial confidence that they can sell the Indy 500 winner and championship contender and sign him up,” Brown continued. “I understand they probably have a little bit of time so I’m sure they’re working at it, but I wouldn’t let him go if he was driving for me, and I would have the commercial confidence that I could get the sponsorship. But that’s not my issue. So, if he does become a free agent and we run a fourth car, he would definitely be heavily under consideration.”
McLaren is running a fourth car this year for Indy only. We already know that they’ll do so next year again for Kyle Larson. However, if they decide to add a fourth full-time car to the mix, does Ganassi allow Ericsson to get away?
McLaren would snag him.
“Yeah, I want him to stay. Yeah, I’m working hard to do it,” Chip Ganassi said of Marcus Ericsson during the Fast Friday press conference.
So what’s the hold up? Ganassi says the same thing as everything else.
“I’m not a big guy to be talking about our deals or our contracts or anything, but Marcus has a big future in the sport, and I want it to be on this team, sure, “he says. “Yeah, we just need to finalize some sponsorship, and away we go.”
He says they’re close despite Ericsson saying the ball is in Ganassi’s court. So we’ll see.
Ericsson wants to finally be a pay driver and not one who’s required to bring funding. With an Indy 500 win and being third in the championship again this year, he feels like he’s earned that right. It’s all about feeling wanted and right now, you get the sense that Ericsson doesn’t feel “wanted” by Ganassi.
Ericsson drove for the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports camp in 2019, so could he in theory make a return? Sounds like it.
Can Ganassi stand to lose Palou (2021 champion and current points leader) and Ericsson (defending Indy 500 champion and 3rd in points) in the same free agent cycle?
Brown has signed Tony Kanaan (Ganassi last year), NTT (sponsor with Ganassi) and Kyle Larson (former Ganassi drivers in NASCAR) already. Does Palou and Ericsson both join that list next?