Andretti names Devlin DeFrancesco as fourth driver for the 2022 IndyCar season

Andretti IndyCar Devlin DeFrancesco
Joe Skibinski/IndyCar
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Andretti Autosport has announced Devlin DeFrancesco as its fourth confirmed NTT IndyCar Series driver for the 2022 season, joining Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean.

DeFrancesco will drive the No. 29 Dallara-Honda for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport (the team’s entry co-owned by George Steinbrenner IV), replacing James Hinchcliffe.

DeFrancesco has been driving for Andretti in the Road to Indy ladder system the past two seasons, finishing second in Indy Pro 2000 in 2020 and earning Indy Lights rookie of the year last season.

Here’s the release from the team:

Graduating from the Road to Indy ladder, Devlin DeFrancesco has been confirmed to pilot Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport’s No. 29 Honda for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season. The Italian-Canadian driver made his first outings behind the wheel of an Indy car at two recent test days with Andretti Autosport and will make his first official race start on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida in February.

“We’re thrilled to keep Devlin in the Andretti Autosport family as he makes his final jump up the Road to Indy ladder into IndyCar,” said Michael Andretti, CEO and Chairman, Andretti Autosport. “Devlin has been a great addition to our Indy Lights program and has showed a lot of growth and strength at the recent test days. I think he’ll continue to grow with IndyCar and I’m really glad that we could again partner with George and the Steinbrenner Racing team for the No. 29.”

“Two years ago, we started a journey with Devlin with the intent to one day take him all the way to the NTT IndyCar Series and I’m thrilled that day has come,” said George Steinbrenner IV, CEO, Steinbrenner Racing. “From Indy Pro 2000 to Indy Lights and now to IndyCar, he really impressed with his two initial days in an Indy car and we’re excited to see him in action in 2022.”

After making his Road to Indy debut in 2020 with Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport in Indy Pro 2000, DeFrancesco has quickly ascended the Road to Indy ladder moving into Indy Lights in 2021 and ultimately into the NTT IndyCar Series in 2022. DeFrancesco earned the Rookie of the Year title and finished second in the Indy Pro 2000 Championship in 2020 and scored two podiums, nine top-five finishes, and 18 top-10 finishes in his Indy Lights debut season in 2021.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michael (Andretti) and George (Steinbrenner IV) for the belief they have shown in me over the past two seasons moving up the Road to Indy ladder,” DeFrancesco said. “To now take that final step into INDYCAR with two of the world’s biggest names in sports – Andretti and Steinbrenner – is an incredible opportunity that I can’t wait to take full advantage of. I have three very experienced teammates to learn from and that is what makes this opportunity even more exciting. To get to race in the NTT IndyCar Series with Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport and to contest the Indianapolis 500 is a dream come true and I’m so looking forward to getting started.”

DeFrancesco rounds out the Andretti Autosport 2022 NTT IndyCar Series lineup joining already announced drivers Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation Honda), Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda) and Romain Grosjean (No. 28 DHL Honda).

The 21-year-old’s debut IndyCar season will again be supported by his 2021 Indy Lights sponsors including hydrogen production and dispensing fueling infrastructure innovators, PowerTap Hydrogen; Kimoa – the fashion, clothing, and accessories brand founded by Fernando Alonso; world-class racing simulator manufacturer AIS; Apple’s largest premium retail partner, Simply Mac; Seattle, WA-based Jones Soda Co; software and services company Fyllo; Seattle-WA and Miami, FL-based Sol Yoga.

Alexander Rossi ‘fits like a glove’ with his new IndyCar teammates at Arrow McLaren Racing

Alexander Rossi McLaren
Nate Ryan
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – There are more than three dozen fresh faces on the Arrow McLaren Racing IndyCar team, but there was one that Felix Rosenqvist was particularly keen to know – Alexander Rossi.

The driver of the No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet is the most high-profile new hire for McLaren, which has expanded to a third car to pair with the No. 6 of Rosenqvist and No. 5 of Pato O’Ward.

And there is another layer than Rossi just being the new kid. McLaren marks only his second team in NTT IndyCar Series after seven seasons at Andretti Autosport, where he began with a victory in the 2016 Indy 500 and was a championship contender for several seasons.

Rossi is a mercurial talent, and when things go wrong, the red mist quickly descends (and sometimes has led to feuds with teammates). He went winless during two of his final seasons at Andretti and was out of contention more often than not, often bringing out the prickly side of his personality.

Yet there has been no trace of the dour Rossi since joining McLaren. The pragmatic Californian is quick to remind everyone he hasn’t worked with the team yet at a track (much less been in its car), and there surely will be times he gets frustrated.

But it’s clear that Rossi, who made five Formula One starts in 2015 after several years racing in Europe, already is meshing well with an organization whose England-based parent company has deep roots in F1.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Rosenqvist said Tuesday during IndyCar’s preseason media availabilities. “I think Alex kind of has that bad-guy role a little bit in IndyCar. He’s always been that guy, which is cool. I think we need those guys, as well.

“Actually having gotten to know him, he’s been super nice, super kind. He fits like a glove in the team. I think it fills a role where Pato is kind of like the crazy guy, I’m somewhere in the middle, and Alex is the more engineering guy in the team. I think Alex has more experience, as well. He just feels like a guy who knows what he wants.

“Yeah, good addition to the team and great guy at the same time.”

There are many reasons why Rossi’s transition from Andretti to McLaren should be smoother than his abrupt move from F1 to IndyCar seven years ago. Namely, he no longer is the only newcomer to the team’s culture.

“It’s been kind of a good time to come in because everyone is finding a new role and position and kind of learning who’s who, finding everyone’s strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

But while Rossi might have questions about the team, he has none about the series. Unlike when he arrived at Andretti without any oval experience, Rossi joins McLaren with his IndyCar credentials secured as an established star with eight victories, seven poles and 28 podiums over 114 starts.

Even in his swan song with Andretti, Rossi still managed a farewell victory last July at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course that snapped a 49-race, three-year winless drought. It seems reasonable to believe he immediately could re-emerge in his 2017-19 title contender form.

“I know the series, and I know kind of everything that goes into American open-wheel racing vs. the European open-wheel racing, which is really the biggest transition,” Rossi said. “Certainly it’s the largest kind of team switch. I’ve obviously driven for different teams in the past in Europe, in sports cars, whatever, but never really in my full-time job. I’ve driven for the same organization for a very long time and have a lot of respect and fabulous memories with those people.

“So it has been a big kind of shift, trying to compare and contrast areas that I can bring kind of recommendations and experience to maybe help fill the gaps that exist at Arrow McLaren. Again, all of this is in theory, right? I don’t really know anything. We’ll have a much better idea and plan going into St. Pete (the March 5 season opener).”

He has gotten a good handle on how things work at its Indianapolis headquarters, though, and has been pleased by the leadership of new racing director Gavin Ward (who worked in F1 before a championship stint with Josef Newgarden at Team Penske). McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown also seems omnipresent on both sides of the Atlantic, making appearances at IndyCar races seemingly as much as in the F1 paddock.

“I think what’s very cool about Arrow McLaren is we do have the resources of the McLaren F1 team,” Rossi said. “They very much are being integrated in a lot of respects. It’s not two separate entities. McLaren Racing is one organization that has its people and resources and intellect in kind of everything. It’s been pretty cool to see how that can be an advantage to us in terms of people, resources, simulations, software, kind of everything. We’ve been able to kind of rely on that and use that as a tool that maybe other teams certainly don’t have.”

That will be helpful for Rossi with the methodologies and nuances of racing a Chevrolet for the first time after seven seasons with Honda.

And of course, there will be the relationship with O’Ward, who has been McLaren’s alpha star since 2020.

Rossi was in a similar role for Andretti, which raises questions about how McLaren will handle having two stars accustomed to being the face of the team. But O’Ward said IndyCar regulations should allow each driver to maintain their own style without being forced to adapt as in other series.

“At the end of the day, as much as teammates will help in order to gather data, it doesn’t mean they’re going to specifically help you in what you need because it’s a series where you can really tailor the car to what you want,” O’Ward said. “Rather than in Formula 1, (it’s) ‘This is the car, you need to learn how to drive this certain car.’ In IndyCar, it’s very different where you can customize it to what you want it to feel like or drive like.

“From past experience, I think Alex likes a car similar to what I do. I do think we have a very strong car in certain areas, but I definitely think he’s coming from a car where that other car has been stronger than us in other racetracks. I feel like if we can just find gains where we haven’t quite had a winning car, a podium car, that’s just going to help all of us.”

Though Thursday at The Thermal Club will mark the first time the trio works together at a track, Rosenqvist said he’s hung out a lot with Rossi (both are 31 years old) and deems his new teammate “well-integrated” in the simulator.

“I think the fit has been good with him, me and Pato,” Rosenqvist said. “On a trackside perspective, it’s obviously huge to have always a third opinion on things. Every driver’s opinion is valuable in its own way.”

Said O’Ward, 23: “It’s been great. (Rossi has) been great to have around. I think he needed a fresh start. I think he’s excited to really work with all of us, create the strongest package.”

Ever the realist, though, Rossi still is tempering some of his enthusiasm.

“Again, we haven’t really done anything yet other than some meetings and some team activities together,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done in IndyCar and also their prior careers. I think that we all bring something a little bit different to the table, which I think is really unique in terms of not only personalities but driving styles and experience levels.

“I think we have the ingredients to really be able to develop the team and continue to push the team forward to even a better level than what they’ve shown in the past. It’s been a really positive experience. Really I have nothing at all negative to say and can’t actually wait to get to work, get on track and start working together.”