NASHVILLE – The NTT IndyCar Series driver lineup for 2022 still is taking shape with many drivers and teams being mentioned on the Silly Season scorecard this weekend at the Music City Grand Prix.
Among the most prominent is Arrow McLaren SP, whose CEO Zak Brown confirmed Sunday that the team will expand to a third car by the 2023 season – and could do so as early as 2022 with the right driver because funding already has been secured.
“It’s just about getting the right package together,” Brown said. “We’ve got the resources, so the economics are not a concern, but we want to run three cars that win races and compete for the championship.
“This is very much a driver championship as much as it is a team, so we need to make sure we can get the right pilot in the race car. There’s not a lot of them on the market. We’ve got a very short list, and if we can land someone that we think is capable of winning, we’ll go for it in ’22. If not, we’ll spend ’22 making sure we find the right driver for ’23, but we definitely want to be there with three cars in ’23.”
In a news conference to announce @ArrowMcLarenSP restructuring its ownership stakes to make @McLarenIndy the majority owner, @ZBrownCEO days the plan is to add a third car in @indycar, possibly for 2022 but definitely for 2023. #IndyCar pic.twitter.com/S5S980zXH4
— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) August 8, 2021
Of the 27 drivers starting Sunday’s race on the streets of Nashville (the most for an NTT IndyCar Series race in eight year), at least 14 have yet to announce or confirm an IndyCar ride for 2023. Colton Herta, Will Power and Helio Castroneves announced deals or extensions with their existing teams this year, and Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Graham Rahal, Rinus VeeKay and Jimmie Johnson are believed to be in deals beyond the 2021 season.
Brown also confirmed Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist will return to their Dallara-Chevrolet rides with Arrow McLaren SP next year. In addition to Arrow McLaren SP potentially adding a third car, Meyer Shank Racing has said it will be announcing a new driver in a second full-time car to pair with Castroneves.
Here’s a look at some of the prominent impending free agents and their prospects for the 2022 season:
Marcus Ericsson: The Chip Ganassi Racing driver still is nailing down his 2022 plans but took another major step forward by winning the inaugural Music City Grand Prix (after scoring first IndyCar victory at Detroit in June).
“You would think so, right,” Ericsson said with a laugh when asked if it would help his negotiating leverage. “No, I mean, it’s no secret I want to stay with Chip Ganassi Racing.”
In his third IndyCar season, the Formula One veteran seems to have found a home here much like rookie Romain Grosjean this year. With five races remaining, Ericsson is ranked fifth in points for Ganassi’s No. 8 Dallara-Honda, which was added last season with the remnants of the team’s sports car program.
“When I came here a year and a half ago, we created a new team within the team,” Ericsson said. “I was the new guy that came with some IndyCar experience, but (the team) came mainly from the GT program.
“It took time for us to sort of get going last year. We gelled straightaway. We worked really, really hard. I have a great relationship with my engineer Brad Goldberg, the rest of my crew, a core group that really works well together.
“My biggest wish is to continue here in the 8 car, continue in this program for many years to come because I think we’ve shown, especially the last month or so, that we can definitely be up there and compete against the best. Yeah, I want to see where that can get us. Yeah, nothing is done yet. Hopefully, (team owner) Chip (Ganassi) took notice today.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: The 2014 IndyCar champion is on a one-year deal that seems likely to be his last with Andretti Autosport after more than a decade at the team. Hunter-Reay, who also is an accomplished sports car driver, said he still expects “to be in an Indy car for sure at some point. I don’t know to what extent that is or what the options are.
“We’re working on those right now. They’re in discussions. They’re constantly moving. Depends on how enticing and attractive one (option) is vs. the other. I’ve got to make some decisions on that side and also have to continue the communication on all fronts.”
Romain Grosjean: He could be the most likely candidate to replace Hunter-Reay at Andretti. The Formula One veteran says he will be in IndyCar next season and when asked Friday by NBC Sports if it would be full time, Grosjean replied, “I wouldn’t say no.” Is he still house hunting in Indianapaolis? “Well, school hunting first,” the father of three said with a smile. “When we find a French school, then we’re going to house hunt.”
Simon Pagenaud: The 2019 Indy 500 winner and 2016 series champion said he’s in “an ongoing discussion with Team Penske” about his future. When asked about he’s in talks with other teams, Pagenaud replied, “No, it’s just ongoing with Team Penske. The rest you can ask them. It’s ongoing like any ongoing conversation. It’s very interesting about the future.”
Sebastien Bourdais: He signed a multiyear deal starting this season with AJ Foyt Racing, but 2022 is an option year, and a team official said his status is to be determined.
Jack Harvey: When Helio Castroneves was announced as a full-season driver for Meyer Shank Racing in 2022, Harvey’s impending exit from the team after ’21 also was revealed. Harvey has been mum on what’s next but has indicated he has a solid lead.
James Hinchcliffe: With sponsor Genesys seeming unlikely to return after moving to full-time status this season, the Andretti Autosport driver is mulling career options that include rides in IndyCar and sports cars as well as returning to more work as a highly regarded TV analyst and pit reporter.
Dalton Kellett: In his first full season, the AJ Foyt Racing driver is TBD for next year. “We don’t have anything to announce yet,” he told NBC Sports. “But obviously I’d love to be back with the Foyt guys. It’s been a learning year, a little bit up and down. There’s definitely some potential with the development. So stay tuned I guess.”
Takuma Sato: The two-time Indy 500 winner could be in his last full season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Ed Jones: After returning full time to IndyCar this year, his future at Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan is undetermined.