IndyCar Silly Season scorecard: Which drivers remain uncertain about the 2022 season

IndyCar Silly Season scorecard
Chris Owens/IndyCar
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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.”

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.

IndyCar Nashville results points
Marcus Ericsson takes a selfie with fans after winning the Music City Grand Prix (George Walker IV / Tennessean/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“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.”

IndyCar Silly Season scorecard
Ryan Hunter-Reay might be leaving Andretti Autosport after more than a decade with the team, but the 2014 Indy 500 winner believes he still race in IndyCar next season (Chris Owens/IndyCar).

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.”

Romain Grosjean is driving the road and street circuits for Dale Coyne Racing and will make his oval debut in a few weeks at Gateway (James Black/IndyCar).

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.

James Hinchcliffe gets a kiss from his wife, Becky, after a third-place finish in the Music City Grand Prix, his first podium in more than two years (Chris Owens/IndyCar).

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.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.