IndyCar: Ed Carpenter Racing decision leaves one question unanswered

Conor Daly, Ed Carpenter Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Conor Daly, Ed Carpenter Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Ryan Hunter-Reay is set to replace Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing, but will he drive the No. 20 Chevrolet beyond the 2023 IndyCar season?

The Ed Carpenter Racing IndyCar team announced on Wednesday that Conor Daly, who had been with the team since 2020, will no longer be driving the No. 20 Chevrolet.

The announcement came as somewhat of a surprise, given the fact that silly season announcements generally don’t go into effect until the end of the current season. But in Daly’s case, his final race with Ed Carpenter Racing has come and gone, just seven races into the 17-race 2023 season.

All in all, the decision itself wasn’t surprising. While Ed Carpenter Racing haven’t had the best of seasons, Daly has consistently been outperformed by teammate Rinus VeeKay since the two became teammates three years ago. He recorded just three top 10 finishes in three-plus seasons with the team.

But now the bigger question is who replaces Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2024 IndyCar season.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is set to replace Conor Daly for the remainder of the 2023 season, but is he the long-term answer for Ed Carpenter Racing?

Hunter-Reay certainly seems like the logical choice for the present, given his experience. Ed Carpenter Racing haven’t been nearly as competitive as they once were over the last couple of seasons, so they are hoping that going with the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner for the final 10 races of 2023 to help make appropriate changes on the setup side pays off.

Many thought that the team would instead go with Linus Lundqvist, who tested for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at Texas Motor Speedway in April and lined up a test with Ed Carpenter Racing at Sebring International Raceway last week. The latter test took place on Thursday.

Lundqvist, the reigning Indy NXT (Lights) champion, has not yet gotten the chance to make his IndyCar debut, putting him at risk of becoming the first reigning Indy NXT champion since 2010 champion Jean-Karl Vernay not to compete in any IndyCar races the following year. Vernay never ended up competing in IndyCar.

Many believed that Lundqvist would land a full-time ride behind the wheel of Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Honda, but Indy NXT runner-up Sting Ray Robb got that seat instead, largely due to funding.

It makes sense why Ed Carpenter Racing also opted not to go with Lundqvist. They are clearly in somewhat of a rebuilding stage, and pairing a rookie with a 22-year-old who is only in his fourth season in the series simply wasn’t the best course of action. It probably would have done more harm than good.

But could the long-term replacement behind the wheel of the No. 20 Chevrolet (for 2024 and possibly beyond) be somebody other than Hunter-Reay? Will they give Lundqvist an opportunity, provided he doesn’t get the call from any other teams? Will they go with one of the many active full-time drivers set to become free agents at the end of the year?

The decision to put Hunter-Reay, a driver who is undoubtedly nearing the end of his IndyCar career, in the car for the rest of the 2023 season leaves one key silly season puzzle piece unsolved, and it will likely remain that way for quite some time.

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The Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR, Hunter-Reay’s first scheduled race with Ed Carpenter Racing, is set to take place on Sunday, June 18, with practice scheduled to begin on Friday, June 16. The race is set to be broadcast live on USA Network from Road America beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don’t miss it!