We are getting down to the final answers on how the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series grid will be filled.
Arrow McLaren SP is set. Chip Ganassi Racing has its house in order. Meyer Shank Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and Team Penske can say the same as their plans are solidified.
Teams with seats to fill or confirm include Andretti Autosport, A.J. Foyt Racing, Carlin Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, and Ed Carpenter Racing, and we have varying degrees of insight to offer on where some might be headed.
Among the most welcome items to emerge is the possibility of a third full-time entry from Foyt. As RACER recently wrote, Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean is known to be among the drivers of interest. With Charlie Kimball mentioned as unlikely to return to the No. 4 Chevy he drove for Foyt last season, part-time teammate Dalton Kellett — who is seeking to become a full-timer — could be a prime candidate to step into the car. Provided Grosjean or another capable driver with funding emerges, fielding a third Chevy-powered car is known to be a serious consideration.
As we shared in our last update, Ryan Hunter-Reay’s return to Andretti Autosport in the No. 28 Honda is nearing confirmation. Revealing the identity of his teammate in the No. 26 Honda is also on the horizon; news of both could land before Christmas, and if someone other than James Hinchcliffe, who finished the season the No. 26, is announced, it would come as a surprise.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Carlin Racing and Max Chilton are preparing for another season of IndyCar competition in the No. 59 Chevy, and a desire to run two cars remains.
Is Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci headed for NASCAR’s Xfinity Series? Or another IndyCar team? Multiple sources have told RACER the young American is not currently slated for a third season with DCR due to a significant reduction in personal sponsorship.
Coyne is believed to hold an option on Ferrucci’s services for 2021, but keeping the seat in the No. 18 DCR with Vasser Sullivan Honda is said to be contingent upon bringing a similar level of sponsorship to the team that was offered over the last two seasons. Many of the same sources have suggested new concerns over Ferrucci’s funding have turned a sure thing as recently as September into a situation riddled with doubt.
The list of drivers coveted or contacted by DCR is extensive, with Formula 2 front-runners, F1’s Grosjean and a variety of IndyCar veterans like Kimball and Spencer Pigot on the call sheet. Of particular appeal, former DCR driver Pietro Fittipaldi — who was working with Tony Kanaan to fill one of Foyt’s vacancies — is positioned as a quality candidate for a return with the team where he made six starts in 2018.
With the departure of Alex Palou to Chip Ganassi Racing, and the ambiguity on who will pilot DCR’s second car, an unrivalled streak will continue: The team will enter its 38th IndyCar season without carrying the same two drivers over in full-time roles. Individual drivers have returned for multiple full-time campaigns, but dating back to its formation in 1984, DCR has yet to field the same consecutive pairing in every round.
Ed Carpenter Racing has most of its line-up in position with Rookie of the Year Rinus VeeKay signed to a new deal and team owner/driver Ed Carpenter preparing to continue with his oval program. Conor Daly, who shared the No. 20 Chevy with Carpenter, is on the clock to learn whether the budget offered by his sponsors will allow for an expansion into a full-time seat at ECR, or if another part-time run on road and street courses is a better financial fit.
And finally, an interesting rumor could be confirmed on Thursday as Team Penske is tipped to reveal a pair of USF2000 entries on the Road to Indy. It would be part of a Race for Equality & Change driver development program designed to identify and support “African Americans and other minorities from underrepresented communities,” according to the NTT IndyCar Series.
In a collaboration with veteran RTI team Cape Motorsports, the Race for Equality & Change made its on-track debut last summer with African American college student and karting standout Myles Rowe, who completed two tests in a Cape Tatuus USF-17 chassis powered by a four-cylinder Mazda engine.
Penske veteran Jon ‘Myron’ Bouslog, who cut his teeth in 1980s junior open-wheel racing, along with a number of personnel from the recently shuttered Acura Team Penske IMSA DPi effort, are said to be attached to the in-house RE&C USF2000 project. It’s unclear whether the proposed team would carry Penske’s name, or compete under a different moniker.