More than any season in recent history, the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series is speeding towards a massive year-to-year change where some of the favorite drivers are moving to new homes, some of its legends are facing major transitions, and a few of the sport’s great crew members are heading off to new pastures.
Today’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey has a strong transitional feeling as polesitter Felix Rosenqvist starts his last race with Arrow McLaren in style before packing up his driving gear and bringing it over to the Meyer Shank Racing transporters soon after the checkered flag waves.
David Malukas will do the same after crossing the finish line — both literally and figuratively — with Dale Coyne Racing, and once Rosenqvist has cleared out his locker in the No. 6 Chevy transporter, Malukas will have space to drop his helmet and accoutrements off in the same cabinets.
Romain Grosjean’s two embattled seasons with Andretti Autosport will meet a welcome end for both sides, and as soon as they get back to Indianapolis, his replacement, Marcus Ericsson, will begin integrating himself with the No. 28 Honda crew. Linus Lundqvist, who will take over for Ericsson, has spent the last two weekends getting to know the Chip Ganassi Racing team and will embark on his rookie season with Brad Goldberg as his race engineer; Ericsson will work with Olivier Boisson at Andretti.
Juncos Hollinger Racing is doing everything it can to ensure Agustin Canapino’s IndyCar career lasts more than one year, but the Argentinian touring car legend’s American open-wheel future is filled with question marks until JHR solidifies its funding for the No. 78 Chevy.
While David Malukas and Marcus Ericsson are headed for new IndyCar seats next year, Romain Grosjean and Devlin DeFrancesco are still looking for one. Motorsport Images
Just as teammate Malukas is farewelling Coyne’s team, Sting Ray Robb is one of a few young drivers who aren’t sure if or where they’ll land for 2024. He has a great budget to offer, so it’s a question of whether he can find a team that has a seat to offer and a willingness to give him an opportunity; staying at Coyne is also known to be a possibility.
Andretti’s Devlin DeFrancesco is another driver on the move, and his elder teammate Grosjean has a few teams that are interested in his services, but the Swiss-born Frenchman is also bracing for today’s race to be his last, for now, in IndyCar. Andretti’s decision to downsize and run three cars or to stick with four is another topic of change that remains unresolved.
Ryan Hunter-Reay won’t be staying with Ed Carpenter Racing, and barring a few more Indy 500s, fans of the driver nicknamed “Captain America” are running out of chances to see him race in IndyCar. Helio Castroneves is in the same category as today’s laps represent the final he’ll tun in IndyCar outside of May at the Brickyard.
His longstanding Team Penske and Meyer Shank Racing teammate Simon Pagenaud had his season cut short with the big crash at Mid-Ohio, and with no team affiliation to fall back on, Pagenaud’s return to IndyCar — which he’s fighting to make happen — is by no means guaranteed. Continuing among the veterans, Tony Kanaan called time on his four decades of IndyCar racing at the Indy 500.
We’ve even had rather rare in-season driver swaps take place with ECR’s decision to pull Conor Daly in favor of Hunter-Reay, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing followed suit after World Wide Technology Raceway, bringing in Juri Vips to close the season in the No. 30 Honda Jack Harvey had driven since 2022.
Arrow McLaren team manager Billy Vincent is stepping down from Rosenqvist’s timing stand and turning his attention to the growing karting team he’s assembled, and Andretti team manager Paul “Ziggy” Harcus, winner of this year’s Robin Miller Award for his lifetime of service to IndyCar, is due to retire after spending five decades on CART, Indy Racing League and IndyCar Series pit lanes.
For one last time, the IndyCar paddock as we know it will convene and put on a motor race. Once it’s completed, a lot of handshakes and hugs will be offered and new destinations — some here and some in places unknown — will become the norm.