DHL are reportedly considering moving on from Andretti Autosport after the 2023 IndyCar season, which could create a whole new element to silly season.
IndyCar silly season has been underway for quite some time, yet none of the major dominoes have fallen.
Nobody truly knows where Chip Ganassi Racing’s points-leading Alex Palou is going to end up in 2024, and the same is true for 2022 Indy 500 champion Marcus Ericsson, who has been allowed to negotiate with teams other than Chip Ganassi Racing for almost two weeks now.
There are several competitive seats up for grabs at a number of mid to top-tier organizations, and there are quite a few high-profile drivers who are candidates for each. Even after last year’s bizarre silly season — which even led to a legal battle — this year’s could be even crazier.
And the driver and team elements to the IndyCar free agency equation aren’t the only factors that could play a role in the chaos.
According to IndyStar’s Nathan Brown, DHL could be looking for a new home, opening up the possibility of them no longer sponsoring the No. 28 Andretti Autosport entry. DHL signed with Michael Andretti’s team back in 2011 and have been with them ever since.
Absolutely nothing is set in stone, but the possibility is an intriguing one. DHL have recently scaled back their sponsorship commitment from what it once was when Ryan Hunter-Reay drive the No. 28 car for 11 years, but they are still the major primary sponsor of Romain Grosjean’s entry.
However, DHL hasn’t been to victory lane as a primary sponsor since 2018, and Hunter-Reay’s two victories that year were his first since 2015. Since Hunter-Reay’s 2014 Indy 500 win, DHL has just five total IndyCar victories.
There have been rumblings that Grosjean himself might not be back for a third year behind the wheel of the No. 28 Honda in 2023, as he recently went on an eight-race streak of finishes outside of the top 10.
Selecting a new driver for the DHL-funded ride probably would not have been difficult for Andretti Autosport, with many talented drivers such as Ericsson, David Malukas, and others on the market. But what happens if that sponsorship is no longer available?
All things considered, it likely wouldn’t change Andretti Autosport’s recently announced new approach in terms of their plans to hire four drivers rather than open up a car for a pay driver. DHL certainly isn’t the only backer of the team. But it wouldn’t necessarily make things easier either.
Devlin DeFrancesco is currently in his second season of bringing funding to the Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport entry, and he has yet to place higher than 12th in a race. So this change in approach was long overdue.
But what happens if DHL opts to sign with a team such as Chip Ganassi Racing? All of a sudden, Chip Ganassi could have the sponsorship he needs to retain Ericsson, whose longtime backer Finn Rausing is said to be ending his sponsorship of the former Formula 1 driver after 2023.
Now Ericsson, whose contract dispute with Ganassi over wanting to be paid like a top driver instead of being a pay driver has been public for several months, could end up driving the DHL Honda after all — but the No. 8 (or perhaps the No. 10 if Palou leaves) Honda, not the No. 28 Honda.
A similar situation unfolded last year when longtime Chip Ganassi Racing sponsor and current series title sponsor NTT left for Arrow McLaren, but Chip Ganassi Racing was still able to find sponsorship for Palou’s No. 10 entry for 2023 and not much was made of the change.
But during a silly season in which sponsorship has been one of the focal points, a longtime primary sponsor leaving one big team for another would certainly shake things up a bit.