IndyCar surprise coming? ‘People will fall off their chairs’

Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Tony Kanaan indicated that “people will fall off their chairs” when Arrow McLaren SP announce their third driver for the 2023 IndyCar season.

Arrow McLaren SP confirmed the move that everybody had been waiting for last week when they announced that Alexander Rossi is set to join the team alongside Pato O’Ward for the 2023 IndyCar season, ending Rossi’s seven-year run at Andretti Autosport.

While the move had been expected for several months, it became inevitable the day prior when Andretti Autosport announced that Kyle Kirkwood, the rookie who currently competes for A.J. Foyt Enterprises behind the wheel of the #14 Chevrolet, is set to replace Rossi behind the wheel of the #27 Honda next year.

But one thing Arrow McLaren SP didn’t announce was which car Rossi would be driving, and that omission should prove significant in the long run.

Naturally, O’Ward is set to return to the #5 Chevrolet after signing a multi-year contract extension prior to the Indy 500, and we know that Arrow McLaren SP plan to expand to three cars.

So will Rossi be replacing Rosenqvist behind the wheel of the #7 Chevrolet? If so, who will drive the third car? If not, will Rosenqvist be back, or will somebody else replace him?

With so many questions still unanswered, the “worst kept secret” of this year’s silly season is surely the first of many dominoes to fall. And let’s not forget the fact that we are still only six races into the 17-race 2022 campaign.

Following the Rossi announcement, the hot silly season topic has become the third Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

Rosenqvist is obviously in the mix to return, especially given a recent improvement in form which produced a sixth place finish at the Indy road course and a fourth place finish in the Indy 500.

Another driver who has been linked to the seat is Rinus VeeKay, who is in a contract year with Ed Carpenter Racing in his third season as the driver of the #21 Chevrolet.

But Tony Kanaan, who finished in third place in the Indy 500 in a one-off attempt for Chip Ganassi Racing, stated that it won’t be Rosenqvist or VeeKay behind the wheel of Arrow McLaren SP’s third car in 2022, noting that “people will fall off their chairs when they know”.

With Kanaan at Chip Ganassi Racing, it can be assumed that he is at least somewhat tuned into the goings-on there as he aims to return for another Indy 500 attempt in 2023.

This has led to the speculation that perhaps Alex Palou, who has not signed anything since joining Chip Ganassi’s team ahead of his championship-winning 2021 campaign, could make a shocking move to Arrow McLaren SP,  a move that would indeed have people falling off of their chairs — and much more, for that matter.

A move to Arrow McLaren SP could also technically open up the possibility of a switch to Formula 1 with McLaren.

But in an interview with IndyStar’s Nathan Brown from earlier this weekend, Palou, who is in contention to win the title again in 2022, addressed the rumor and insisted that he is happy where he is for a variety of obvious reasons, though he also admitted that he isn’t really allowed to discuss his contract situation.

The 25-year-old Spaniard added that he isn’t talking to other IndyCar teams and that a move to Formula 1 at this stage in his career isn’t his primary interest.

So if not Palou, who else could have people falling out of their chairs upon confirmation at Arrow McLaren SP?

The most obvious answer would have to be Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo is under contract with the McLaren Formula 1 team through the 2023 season, but it is far from secret that neither he nor the team are satisfied with his performance since he joined the team last year — even though he did deliver them their first win since 2012 and lead their first 1-2 since 2010 at Monza last year.

While there are believed to be “mechanisms” that would allow the pair to end their Formula 1 deal early, those exact “mechanisms” have not been revealed.

However, if the two sides were to come to some sort of an agreement to end things on the Formula 1 side after 2022 instead of 2023, it’s not all that hard to imagine McLaren giving Ricciardo the opportunity compete for the organization in America’s premier open-wheel series next year.

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Or maybe we have to wait and see who is behind door number five; perhaps the confirmation of somebody truly unexpected — not Rosenqvist, VeeKay, Palou, or Ricciardo — would really cause people to fall out of their chairs, as Kanaan stated.