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

IndyCar Silly Season scorecard
Chris Owens/IndyCar

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.

Kyle Larson wins third consecutive High Limit Sprint race at Eagle Raceway, Rico Abreu second again

Larson High Limit Eagle
High Limit Racing - Twitter

It took four attempts for Kyle Larson to win his first High Limit Sprint Car Series race in the series he co-owns with brother-in-law Brad Sweet, but once he found victory lane, he has been undefeated with his win at Eagle (Nebraska) Raceway. For the second week, Abreu led early only to fall prey to Larson.

The win was Larson’s third straight victory and the fifth consecutive top-five, giving him a perfect sweep of the season after finishing 10th in last year’s inaugural race at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana.

Larson started third behind Abreu and Brent Marks but was embroiled in a fierce battle with Anthony Macri for third during the first dozen laps. Larson slipped by Macri in traffic until a red flag waved for a flip by Lachlan McHugh.

Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Marks retook the lead from Abreu on Lap 18. Larson followed one lap later and then caution waved again. Tyler Courtney lost power and fell to 24th after starting eighth.

Marks scooted away on the restart but tragedy struck in Lap 26. Leading the race, Marks hit a pothole in Turn 1, bicycled and then flipped, handing the lead to Larson.

Abreu caught Larson again during the final laps and in a reprise of their battle at Tri-City Speedway, the two threw sliders at one another for several laps until Larson built some separation and ran away to the checkers.

“I didn’t feel like my pace in [Turns] 1 & 2 slowed down a ton,” Larson said from victory lane. “I missed it once there and then I saw his nose in 3 & 4. I didn’t know if he nailed the bottom that well behind me and I think he might have slid me in the next corner, so he was definitely on the top.

“I was nervous to move up there because my car was really pogoing up in the entry of 1. I got up just in time, made a few mistakes and he threw a couple more sliders at me but he was just a little too far back and I was able to squirt around him. Then I really had to commit to hitting my marks – back my effort down a bit to avoid mistakes.”

After leading early, Abreu fell back as far as sixth, but faith in his car kept hope alive.

“I just needed to do a few things a few laps before I did and fix some angles, then my car got a whole lot better,” Abreu said. “I’m thankful for this team; they do an amazing job. They don’t give up on me. I know my car is going to be there right at the end of these races, so it’s just the discipline of being patient.”

For Abreu, it was his third near-miss this season. He was leading at Lakeside in the 2023 opener until a tire went flat in the closing laps and he lost the lead to Larson late in the Tri-City Speedway race. Abreu has finished sixth or better in his last three High Limit races with each result being progressively better until his pair of runner-up results.

Third-place finisher Scelzi was the hard charger, advancing from 17th.

“I had a very specific plan; don’t go near [the hole in Turn 1],” Scelzi said. “It worked out. No one wanted to start on the top. I think I gained a couple of rows there on the choose cone and ran the middle, which seemed to be better than right around the bottom.”

Michael “Buddy” Kofoid in fourth and Macri rounded out the top five.

World of Outlaws star and former NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne was one of 41 entrants, but he was not among the 26 starters. He failed to advance to the Main after finishing eighth in the B Main and seventh in his heat.

Feature Results

A Feature (40 Laps): 1. 57-Kyle Larson[4]; 2. 24-Rico Abreu[1]; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[17]; 4. 71-Michael Kofoid[5]; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri[3]; 6. 9-Chase Randall[9]; 7. 26-Zeb Wise[14]; 8. 1X-Jake Bubak[15]; 9. 8-Aaron Reutzel[10]; 10. 14D-Corey Day[18]; 11. 11-Cory Eliason[12]; 12. 5T-Ryan Timms[11]; 13. 88-Austin McCarl[13]; 14. 21H-Brady Bacon[22]; 15. 48-Danny Dietrich[16]; 16. 7S-Robbie Price[19]; 17. 21-Brian Brown[23]; 18. 22-Riley Goodno[26]; 19. 52-Blake Hahn[25]; 20. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[21]; 21. 3J-Dusty Zomer[6]; 22. 14-Cole Macedo[7]; 23. 19-Brent Marks[2]; 24. 7BC-Tyler Courtney[8]; 25. 25-Lachlan McHugh[20]; 26. 53-Jack Dover[24]

2023 High Limit Sprint Car Series

Race 1: Giovanni Scelzi wins at Lakeside Speedway
Race2: Anthony Macri wins at 34 Raceway
Race 3: Kyle Larson wins at Wayne County Speedway
Race 4: Kyle Larson wins at Tri-City Speedway