We’re now into our fourth or fifth silly season update since March. In any other year, I’d be putting the finishing touches on the first. That’s it. I’m tapping out. This silly season has broken me.
So, not only did it the silly season start way too soon, but thanks to Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, and McLaren Racing, it’s continuing to gain momentum. To start, the stampede to claim Palou’s No. 10 CGR Honda for 2023 is on and it’s causing unanticipated ripples in the paddock.
Before we circle back to the No. 10 car and run through all the known vacancies, let’s crack open the biggest theme that’s emerged in recent months. According to many of the team owners and team principals I’ve spoken with, the volume of calls and emails from Formula 2 drivers searching for opportunities in IndyCar is at an all-time high.
If there’s an F2 driver running in the top 10 this season who lacks an existing link to a Formula 1 team, they’ve likely been in touch with a few IndyCar teams and inquired about testing in the offseason or going straight to racing next season. And the outreaches have also gone the other way, with a number of IndyCar teams telling me that in their search for drivers, the front-running pool of talent in F2 is more intriguing than most of those who are contending for the Indy Lights title at the moment.
The top name I hear as being interested in IndyCar and is also drawing interest from IndyCar teams is Brazil’s Felipe Drugovich, who leads the F2 championship. Another is New Zealand’s Marcus Armstrong, who holds sixth in the F2 standings with two wins so far, including a victory at the last event in Austria. Beyond breakaway Indy Lights championship leader Linus Lundqvist, I don’t hear the rest of the current class mentioned with similar excitement by IndyCar teams, and that’s why F2 drivers are drawing extra attention in the U.S.
All right, before something else explodes in the paddock, let’s fire through the silly season as it stands going into this weekend’s doubleheader.
A.J. Foyt Racing’s No. 14 Chevy is in need of a driver with its current pilot, 2021 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood, signed to drive for Andretti Autosport starting in 2023. The No. 4 Foyt Chevy driven by Dalton Kellett is up for a new contract to be executed between the team and driver, but that has yet to take place.
The hot rumor in early June was that Indy Lights sophomore Benjamin Pedersen was headed to the No. 14, and the mentions of the Danish-American driver graduating to IndyCar with Foyt on a multi-year deal continue to grow. There’s nothing official to offer on it being a done deal, but I’d place this in the “don’t be surprised if it’s announced soon” category.
On Kellett, he told me a few weeks ago that he wants to return to Foyt, and when asked if there were other teams he was speaking with — in the event the No. 4 was taken by another driver — he pointed to Foyt as his main focus as a team home. If it isn’t Foyt, I’m not sure the kind Canadian has an easy pathway to stay in IndyCar.
As for the third Foyt entry that ran through Mid-Ohio, I’ve heard nothing of late to suggest the No. 11 Chevy is coming back as a part- or full-time car. One item of interest, however, is the aforementioned F2 driver Marcus Armstrong, who the Foyt team tells me is meant to test for them once the IndyCar season concludes in September.
Andretti Autosport COO Rob Edwards reconfirmed what we’ve known: They’re staying at four cars.
Arrow McLaren SP has two of its three cars sorted with Pato O’Ward and newcomer Alexander Rossi. The situation with Felix Rosenqvist will be resolved at some undetermined point in the months ahead as McLaren — according to the press release published by the team — signed Rosenqvist to an extension that will have CEO Zak Brown decide whether to keep him in IndyCar or move him to Formula E in 2023.
Plenty has been written about all the possibilities of how the Palou/Ganassi/McLaren thing could work out, so there’s no need to rehash all of it here, other than noting that if McLaren does not get to run Palou, Rosenqvist would be primed to continue in the No. 7 Chevy and has lobbied for that to be formalized.
Chip Ganassi Racing was set to be status quo with its lineup of Palou, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson and Jimmie Johnson when I asked Ganassi about his roster a few weeks back. Things got outta hand pretty quickly there…
If a bet exists somewhere, I’ll put all my money on Palou finishing out the season in the No. 10 car and having his name peeled off the car right after the checkered flag waves in Monterey. We simply don’t know how the contractual situation will be resolved, and even if CGR does indeed hold the rights to his services as it said in a follow-up statement on the subject, a new driver will certainly be piloting the 10 car next year.
The last note to offer is with CGR development driver Kyffin Simpson. At 17, he’s got a lot of learning to do before he’s ready for IndyCar, but if his new move to HMD Motorsports coincides with a jump to Indy Lights podiums and wins in the next year or two, keep your eyes peeled for a Simpson-to-IndyCar-with-Ganassi story in 2024 or so.