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.

Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi bring their storied rivalry to a new level at Rolex 24

Ganassi Penske Rolex 24
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To measure the impact of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi squaring off for the first time in overall sports car wins (starting at the Rolex 24), look at the auto racing titans’ lineups.

There are 12 combined drivers across four entries representing Chip Ganassi Racing (competing as Cadillac Racing) and Team Penske (as Porsche Penske Motorsport) in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.

And with the possible exception of six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, none of those behind the wheel is as famous and accomplished as the U.S. motorsports icons who will be sitting atop the pit stands at Daytona International Speedway.

In the NTT IndyCar Series, Penske and Ganassi are synonymous with success, having combined for 23 Indy 500 victories and 30 championships. They also competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for two decades with several signature wins for each.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

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Until now, the rivalry never extended to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they competed in different classes from 2018-19 and have competed in the top category in differing times over the years.

But the 2023 season opener at Daytona will mark the beginning of a new era in which Ganassi and Penske will compete for sports car overall victories on two continents. A Ganassi Cadillac Racing V-LMDh and Porsche Penske Motorsports Penske 963 will run full time in both the premier prototype divisions of IMSA and the European-based World Endurance Championship – whose crown jewel is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Having two of the world’s biggest sports car races welcome the Ganassi-Penske battle seems only fitting in a season in which IMSA’s new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class is expected to introduce a stiffer level of competition.

“We obviously like beating each other,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “I think if you beat Penske, you know you’ve beaten someone. You’ve accomplished something great. It’s going to be the same as always. Just another platform at another track, but the rivalry will be just as heated I’m sure.

“On one hand, he’s always the first guy to call us out for a penalty or something. On the other hand, he’s also the first guy to congratulate me on a win, so I think it’s a healthy rivalry, but we certainly pound each other’s heads into the ground on race day. Monday through Friday it switches to more of a good relationship.”

After starting his career in sports cars, Penske also is looking forward to having a new arena to race Ganassi.

“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about the Rolex 24 and the upcoming sports car season overall,” Penske said in a statement to NBC Sports statement. “With the new hybrid prototype formula ready to make its debut, and some great competition expected on the track between teams, drivers and manufacturers, there is a lot of momentum building right now. Porsche Penske Motorsport is excited to compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, this season and I can’t wait to see the No. 6 and No. 7 Porsche 963s in action at Daytona this weekend. We also look forward to bringing some new rivalries and storylines to the sport.

Roger Penske confers with Chip Ganassi before the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“In the new IMSA GTP class, there should be a good competitive balance between Porsche, Cadillac, Acura and BMW. We have seen how the rivalry between Team Penske and Ganassi Racing has developed in the NTT IndyCar Series in recent years, and that could certainly extend to sports cars as our teams and drivers continue to develop the new formula and push the production on track in both IMSA and WEC. We will see how the competition plays out, starting this weekend, as we always enjoy racing against Chip and his teams.”

Though there have been some fiery moments over the years (Dario Franchitti vs. Will Power, anyone?), Ganassi vs. Penske mostly has been a story of respect between two organizations whose main strengths are people.

“It’s just the depth of the organizations going up against each other,” Ganassi said. “It’s not just he and I. It’s at every level of the organization.

“We’re smaller. I’d like to think we’re a little more nimble. This is all I do is race cars. I don’t have 200 car dealerships or a truck rental company or a transportation company. I just have racing is all I have.”

Heading into Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, here are the thoughts of Ganassi and Penske drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona:

Earl Bamber, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “When I grew up as a kid, I remember watching Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske battle each other for many years, obviously following Scott Dixon and his career in IndyCar (Bamber is a New Zealand native like Dixon). And when the opportunity came up to come and race for Chip, it’s a no-brainer. It’s one of those teams you want to drive for in the world. It’s one of the biggest and most successful teams in the world. And then we’ve got Porsche, where I used to drive, with Penske. It’s going to be a phenomenal rivalry over the next couple of years and that rivalry continues between two absolute legends of our sport. Two people who have been the most successful. I hope we can get Cadillac and Chip their first Le Mans win. That’s obviously the ultimate goal for us and beat his old rival, Roger.

“Those two powerhouses of the sport, they definitely raise the bar. You’ve seen it in IndyCar for years and years. One finds something and the next pushes it forward and forward. You’ll see the same in sports car racing. We all saw what Chip Ganassi Racing did back in the day with the GT program. So no doubt we can do the same again. It’s the ultimate highest level of motorsport when it comes to sports car racing, and there’ll be no stone unturned to make sure that we’re winning these races. It will be a really great fight, great for the fans and great for the sport, because both of them love winning.”

Dane Cameron, No. 6 Porsche Penske: “I think anytime you have Chip and Roger come to town to start fighting for wins, it raises the profile of the whole thing. Hopefully it brings a few more eyes to everything. Certainly brings a lot of expectation with it as well, and I also think it reflects really strongly on the championship to show how competitive it is. They respect the championship and challenge, but when they come to town, they come to win for sure.”

Scott Dixon, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “The battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske is always a fierce one. I obviously know it well from the IndyCar side. But I think it’s a lot more than that. It’s impressive to see a lot of the manufacturers that have come in for this battle. I imagine if it’s not from the first race but during the season that Penske and Ganassi will fight it out pretty hard.

“I think the rivalry between Chip Ganassi racing and Penske has always been strong and in a good way. There’s been some battles and the 2010s for me and other drivers when it gets fierce. Some disagreements here and there. But it’s always been a great pure battle, which is what I think these championships are made of and what brings the fans to the track. So I’d sum it up as a very healthy rivalry.”

Alex Lynn, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “Even as a little boy (growing up in England), you knew exactly who Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were. You knew what their teams represented. For me to represent Chip and his team is a huge honor. I’m extremely motivated to try to add to his legacy and be part of the fabric of this team. I think having the battle between Penske and Ganassi is iconic. Also Porsche and Cadillac as brands, respectively, just adds to the occasion. Makes me smile even thinking about it knowing what we get to represent when the flag drops.”

Felipe Nasr, No. 7 Porsche Penske: “I think it’s fantastic especially because we’re merging the IMSA and WEC Series and giving the opportunity for teams like Penske and Ganassi to fight for overall victories. You look at the history of those teams, they’ve been on top. We always hear it from the IndyCar guys or the NASCAR side, you’re talking two big names in motorsports. You expect nothing but them fighting for wins. For sure Ganassi has strengths, and we have strengths as well. I’m pretty glad I have the opportunity to be representing Team Penske and continue to write history with them and Porsche is a great opportunity.”

Richard Westbrook, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “The chance for the two most famous teams in America to go head to head in the Daytona 24 Hours and also the Le Mans 24 Hours. I expect that rivalry to keep going up more notches.”

Renger van der Zande, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “Obviously, it’s such the big houses of racing in the U.S. Penske and Ganassi are taking it at each other. The rivalry is big. The best of the best. The most famous ones in the U.S.

“Ganassi is part of Cadillac. We’re the race team that runs the factory program for Cadillac. Penske is running it for Porsche, obviously a high brand as well. Those teams have their little rivalry, but they’re working for a bigger company, a bigger brand, which is Cadillac and Porsche. So those two premium brands taking on each other and then two of the best teams in America taking on each other. It’s very simple: Cadillac got the best team in the U.S. and Porsche got the best team in the U.S. So let’s see what happens. It’s going to be a cool fight.”