IndyCar silly season is already getting crazy, and there are still quite a few things that are not certain about the 2022 driver lineup.
For several weeks, we have all been waiting for that first domino to topple over as it pertains to the 2022 IndyCar driver lineup, and after last week’s big announcement, it is clear that silly season is beginning to heat up.
Earlier this year, two expected deals were announced when Andretti Autosport confirmed that Colton Herta had signed a multi-year contract extension and when Team Penske confirmed that Will Power had done the same.
Last week, however, the first big driver change was announced, as it was confirmed that Helio Castroneves, who hasn’t competed in the series on a full-time basis since 2017, is set to return full-time next year for Meyer Shank Racing, the team for which he won his record-tying fourth Indy 500 this past May.
Even with their expansion to running two cars full-time, however, the team confirmed that Jack Harvey will not be back next year.
And that’s only where things start to get interesting.
There are several candidates to be Castroneves’s teammate in 2022, but Meyer Shank Racing have not indicated who that teammate might be quite yet. As for Harvey, he has been rumored to join Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in a third car alongside Graham Rahal and presumably Takuma Sato.
The third Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry is an entry that is discussed every year but never seems to come to fruition on a full-time basis. However, 2022 looks like it will be different, as the team have run an expanded schedule for their third car this year with Santino Ferrucci behind the wheel in preparation for that addition.
No change is expected at Chip Ganassi Racing, but elsewhere throughout the Honda camp, change is all but assured.
Andretti Autosport will look different next year, with only Herta and Alexander Rossi currently under contract.
There are rumors that Romain Grosjean, who currently competes part-time for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing, will replace either Ryan Hunter-Reay or James Hinchcliffe, and the other could be replaced by a younger driver such as Andretti Autosport Indy Lights driver Kyle Kirkwood, to name just one possibility.
Dale Coyne Racing’s lineup could and probably will look drastically different as well, as Vasser-Sullivan are mulling splitting off from the organization and finding another team with which to partner after a trying 2021 season.
They current field the #18 Honda for Ed Jones, though a driver change for 2022 is likely no matter what their partnership situation looks like. One thing they have ruled out is running their own program, separate from any other teams, next year. That is an option for 2023.
As for the Chevrolet side, there are quite a few talking points as well. There are also talks about Arrow McLaren SP expanding to become a three-car program in 2022, an expansion which would automatically create one of the most highly coveted seats on the grid. As of now, only Pato O’Ward is under contract there for next year.
Simon Pagenaud is not under contract to return to Team Penske next year, and there are rumors that they could move him to their Porsche sports car program in 2023. If that isn’t something he wants and can’t get a long-term deal done because of it, perhaps he could inquire about that Arrow McLaren SP seat?
He did drive for Sam Schmidt’s team from 2012 to 2014 before making the move to Team Penske, so this would mean somewhat of a reunion.
This would also leave Team Penske’s fourth seat open alongside Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, another highly coveted seat.
As for two of the other three Chevrolet teams, nothing has been confirmed for Carlin or A.J. Foyt Enterprises. The former will likely stick with Max Chilton in the road and street course events, while the latter’s future is still up in the air. Sebastien Bourdais will likely be able to return if he wants to do so.
Ed Carpenter is set to return to Ed Carpenter Racing for another year as the oval driver, while the team’s road and street course driver hasn’t yet been decided. Rinus VeeKay is slated to return as their full-time driver after a breakout second season which has seen him secure his first victory and qualify on the front row for the Indy 500.
Bottom line, the confirmation of the full-time return of the newest four-time Indy 500 winner is only the beginning. Next year’s IndyCar driver lineup may very well look quite a bit different than this year’s. For some teams, that is already a certainty.