After what felt like an endless IndyCar silly season that provided more weekly twists, turns, and lawsuits than we could keep track of, I’m happy to say the first stretch of the offseason has downshifted a few gears.
Well, except for that ongoing contractual messiness between Andretti Global and Romain Grosjean, but hey, some things never change.
Of IndyCar’s 10 full-time teams, there are six – Arrow McLaren, Chip Ganassi Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Juncos Hollinger Racing, Meyer Shank Racing and Team Penske – that have completed their lineups.
At Arrow McLaren, it’s Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi, David Malukas, and Kyle Larson for the Indy 500.
At Chip Ganassi Racing, it’s Alex Palou, Scott Dixon, Marcus Armstrong, Linus Lundqvist, and rookie Kyffin Simpson.
At Ed Carpenter Racing, it’s Rinus VeeKay and a combo entry for Ed Carpenter and Christian Rasmussen.
At Juncos Hollinger Racing, it’s Romain Grosjean and Agustin Canapino.
At Meyer Shank Racing, it’s an all-new lineup of Felix Rosenqvist and Tom Blomqvist with Helio Castroneves making another run at winning his fifth Indy 500.
And at Team Penske, we have the only outfit with a complete carryover of its 2023 roster with Josef Newgarden, Will Power, and Scott McLaughlin.
That leaves A.J. Foyt Racing, Andretti Global, Dale Coyne Racing, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as the remaining teams who need to fill or confirm one or more seats in order to join the list of outfits who are ready to go racing.
Of those four, Coyne and Foyt will have a significant influence on the silly season, and Andretti holds the keys to another angle of interest. We’ve covered some of the items below in individual team updates, but since it’s been a little while since our last silly season update, it’s worth packaging all of the recent info into this story for those who might have missed the standalone pieces we’ve filed in recent weeks.
As we’ve chronicled since August, Andretti Global has been debating whether it would be better to downsize from four cars to three, continue at four with the fourth being an entry where funding was brought to the team, and if outsourcing the running of that fourth car to longtime partner Bryan Herta would be the smarter play.
Herta, whose Indy-based Bryan Herta Autosport team — which fielded IndyCar entries from 2010-2015 before merging with Andretti — has been dominant in IMSA’s Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR class, winning its latest title in October with Robert Wickens and Harry Gottsacker. BHA has been mentioned along with former IndyCar entrant Beth Paretta as an option to run part-time 2022 Foyt driver Tatiana Calderon in a fourth entry, provided Andretti elects to go forward with the effort, and does not run it directly alongside Colton Herta, Kyle Kirkwood, and Marcus Ericsson.
And while the topic of Andretti’s final car count is of interest to fans of the team and for those who are eager to know exactly how many full-time entries will be on the grid, the question of three or four Andretti cars is of particular interest to some of its Honda-powered rivals.
Calderon might get a second swing at IndyCar, although her chances depends on a lot of moving parts elsewhere. Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment
By contract, Honda Performance Development is obligated to supply Andretti with four season-long engine leases, and if a fourth entry is confirmed, it would dash the hopes of Coyne and Rahal to expand their stables.
The tipping point on engine availability can be traced to Ganassi’s late decision to field a car for Kyffin Simpson, whose fifth entry was considered little more than a remote possibility throughout summer. But with Simpson’s elevation to full-time IndyCar status by HPD’s defending series champions, a key engine lease was apportioned to Ganassi which, in a knock-on effect, removed the one ‘floating’ motor Honda had left to offer and has placed Andretti’s fourth car in the spotlight.
If Andretti were to hold at three and HPD elected to make the unused fourth available, a Coyne could entertain running a third entry on occasion, and/or an RLL could put Juri Vips to work in a part-time fourth car. As Andretti recently told us, it has yet to make the call on three or four, so watch this space.
By the middle of the season, Coyne’s team looked poised to have another all-new lineup on its hands as David Malukas was headed out the door and Sting Ray Robb had the appearance of a rookie who’d be one-and-done.
Malukas ended up signing with Arrow McLaren, which was an amazing development for both parties. Robb, whose management group shopped him to most of the teams with rides in need of funding, and despite improving in the latter stages of the season, wasn’t gaining much traction to continue in IndyCar. But all of that changed when Robb’s team found an almighty amount of funding to offer — rumored to be just under eight figures — and it’s here where a return to Coyne is said to be possible. But DCR is not his only option.
Two-year Andretti driver Devlin DeFrancesco (main image) is another free agent whose future might be tied to Coyne, and between the Italian-Canadian and his Idahoan rival, I continue to hear DeFrancesco could be a better fit for Coyne than Robb. When possible, Coyne is fond of pairing veteran with a quick newcomer, and while DeFrancesco and Robb aren’t overly experienced in IndyCar, they would fit the bill as veterans and have sizable budgets to commit to the team if Coyne found a rookie he wanted to run. Veterans Callum Ilott and Jack Harvey would also present Coyne with better chances to compete at a higher level, but they wouldn’t financially enrich the team.
Finding the next Malukas is Coyne’s other initiative and Enzo Fittipaldi would be a nice addition to the same program where his older brother Pietro made his IndyCar debut in 2018. The 22-year-old Brazilian-American, who tested this week with DCR at Sebring, isn’t Coyne’s only solution for the young-and-fast role, and Coyne is under no pressure to name his drivers for 2024 in a timely manner.
Expect Robb to be part of any conversation about a seat that requires funding. Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
As the only IndyCar team with wide-open opportunities to offer, Coyne can wait and see who reaches out from the IndyCar paddock, or from Indy NXT, Formula 2, and Super Formula, and go with whomever meets his needs.
RLL delivered a nice surprise with the announcement of Pietro Fittipaldi’s signing in the No. 30 Honda to join RLL’s other confirmed driver, Christian Lundgaard. Only two of RLL’s three drivers have completed contracts with the team, but co-founder Bobby Rahal says an agreement is in place for his son Graham Rahal to return for what will likely be his final full-time driving contract. Until that piece of the puzzle is completed, RLL will live among the four teams with vacancies to fill. The fact that we’ve reached November and Rahal has yet to be confirmed by RLL is a curiosity to ponder.
Separate from Rahal, RLL’s desire to occasionally run Vips is a meaningful gesture. With the Estonian under contract to RLL, he might not be overly active next season, but with the duration of Graham’s full-time career in question, and Lundgaard on the shopping list for at least one of IndyCar’s biggest teams after 2024, Vips is a high-caliber insurance plan for the team if a vacancy appears leading into 2025.
The Foyt team is keen to move ahead with Santino Ferrucci, which would offer a welcome return to consistency. The last time Ferrucci completed two consecutive seasons with an IndyCar team was 2019-2020 with Coyne, and thanks to his hard-charging ways, the Foyts want the young American to continue as their team leader. Finding the budget to execute that plan is the difficult part of the plan.
Once and if a complete budget is acquired to bankroll the No. 14 Chevy, Ferrucci will be back in the car, but if there are any hiccups with funding, he might need to step aside for a paying driver on the road and street courses.
Robb’s name has been routinely associated with the second Foyt entry, the No. 55, which Benjamin Pedersen drove last season. One or the other is likely to get the seat, but at the moment, the Foyt team isn’t talking about the car.
After the swift confirmations of Agustin Canapino, Christian Rasmussen, and Romain Grosjean helped to resolve some of IndyCar’s bigger entry questions, the silly season will eventually reach its end, but it’s poised to inch towards the finish line at a much slower pace.