IndyCar: Shocking silly season rumor shot down — for now

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images)
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images) /

Arrow McLaren SP’s third seat has been the subject of IndyCar silly season speculation, and Scott Dixon’s name has been brought up.

Arrow McLaren SP have been the focal point of this year’s IndyCar silly season since before the green flag flied on the 2022 campaign back in February on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Pato O’Ward made public the fact that he wasn’t satisfied with his contract, but he and the team have since been able to work things out. He signed a multi-year contract extension to continue driving the #5 Chevrolet through the 2025 season.

It had long been speculated that Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi would be signed by the team for 2023, especially with them expanding from two cars to three.

Early last month, the “worst kept secret” of the year was formally confirmed, with Rossi making the decision to leave Andretti Autosport after seven seasons and join O’Ward next year.

But one thing that wasn’t confirmed was which car Rossi is going to drive. Is he really driving their third driver for next year, or will Felix Rosenqvist be replaced behind the wheel of the #7 Chevrolet?

Rosenqvist just signed an extension with McLaren as well, but that contract doesn’t tie him to the IndyCar team; he could end up in Formula E next year. Several drivers have been linked to Rosenqvist’s IndyCar seat, with Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay being brought up as a prime candidate to replace him.

However, Tony Kanaan recently stated on Twitter that it won’t be Rosenqvist nor VeeKay in that seat and that the when the third Arrow McLaren SP driver is confirmed, “people will fall off their chairs”.

Kanaan has competed for Chip Ganassi Racing in each of the last two Indy 500s, and given his connection to the team, that led some to speculate that perhaps reigning series champion Alex Palou might make a rather surprising decision to vacate the #10 Honda to join Arrow McLaren SP.

While Chip Ganassi Racing drivers are generally not able to speak publicly about their contract situations, Palou’s recent comments on the matter indicate that he hasn’t been talking to other teams and that he would have no reason to leave Chip Ganassi Racing, especially since he is reportedly already under contract through next season.

So could the announcement of the third driver result in more people falling off their chairs than if it were Palou?

Could that third driver be Scott Dixon?

Dixon, who has competed for Chip Ganassi Racing since the 2002 CART season (2003 to present in IndyCar), has reportedly been approached by Arrow McLaren SP about joining the team as not only a driver but a part owner in 2023.

Dixon has since denied the talks regarding him potentially moving to Arrow McLaren SP, and it was also revealed that his current contract with Chip Ganassi Racing, like Palou’s, runs through 2023 “at a minimum”.

But when you think about the possibility, perhaps for some future season, it is an interesting one to consider.

Back in 2018, Dixon confirmed that he was approached by McLaren about potentially joining the team. Then a four-time series champion, the 2008 Indy 500 winner ended up re-signing with Chip Ganassi Racing to continue driving the #9 Honda on another multi-year deal.

But when McLaren pursued Dixon in 2018, they were not yet competing in IndyCar. Now, after entering the series full-time in 2020 by forming a partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, they are not just competing in the series, but they have evolved into an established frontrunner capable of winning races — and championships.

Let’s also not forget that McLaren pursued Rossi a few years ago, and Rossi opted to re-sign with Andretti Autosport. Now Rossi is Arrow McLaren SP-bound.

Dixon, now a six-time champion, leaving Chip Ganassi Racing is one of those moves that you never think is possible.

Would he really end his career with a car owner other than Ganassi? Would he really end his career with a race engineer other than Mike Hull?

At some point, things change. And it’s worth asking, how much longer will Hull be doing what he’s doing? Interestingly, the president of Arrow McLaren SP is Taylor Kiel, who happens to be Hull’s stepson.

And these kinds of moves do seem to be happening quite often lately, not just in racing.

Believe it or not, Dixon leaving Chip Ganassi Racing would be the second move of a certain variety: a six-time champion leaving his organization after two decades in an attempt to add to his legacy.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did just that, joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following a rough final season as a Patriot with head coach Bill Belichick. He won the Super Bowl in his first season as a Buccaneer.

Could Dixon, who hasn’t won a race since May 2021, win a seventh championship, which would tie A.J. Foyt’s all-time record, at a new organization?

While he would probably be leading the championship standings through eight of 17 races on this year’s schedule if not for the pit road speeding penalty he was issued in the Indy 500, which presumably robbed him of a victory, it can’t be ignored that Dixon is currently the third highest Chip Ganassi Racing driver in the standings, behind both Palou and Indy 500 winner — and points leader — Marcus Ericsson.

Of those three drivers, Dixon was the only one without multiple victories last year. Since he earned his most recent victory at Texas Motor Speedway 22 races ago, Palou has won two races and a championship, and Ericsson has won three races, including the Indy 500.

This season, Palou and Ericsson each have three podium finishes. Dixon, who is riding his longest win drought since 2003 to 2005 (39 races), has one.

While it would be foolish to write Dixon off as washed up, could change come sooner rather than later?

There are no plans for it to happen in 2023, but it might just be the right move for the 41-year-old New Zealander at some point down the road, especially after he recently stated that he wants to compete for at least another five years.

He would be moving to another competitive team, and he would have the opportunity to continue his involvement in the sport for long after he retires from driving in a new role as a team co-owner.

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Sure, the team would need to bring on somebody else for 2023 to fill their third seat, and that would leave them without any vacancies. But everybody is aware that O’Ward still has his eyes on Formula 1, so perhaps his seat could be vacated before his contract expires. Could Dixon fill it?