PRUETT: IndyCar silly season update - the Portland edition

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PRUETT: IndyCar silly season update - the Portland edition

Insights & Analysis

PRUETT: IndyCar silly season update - the Portland edition

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Ed Carpenter Racing

Team owner Ed Carpenter and Rinus VeeKay will continue in their respective roles, leaving the organization to figure out whether it has the budget to add a second full-time car, or if Carpenter’s ride share in the No. 20 Chevy will continue with a Daly or similar for the road and street courses.

Plenty of drivers appear to be on ECR’s radar, and as we’ve written a few times, everything hinges on whether the Air Force sponsorship returns. If so, we know there’s a need for an American driver to represent the military branch; Daly’s been the key to the partnership for many years across multiple teams. Hunter-Reay, Kirkwood, and Malukas have all been spoken of as prime fits for ECR, and of the three, Malukas is the only one with a budget to add on top of whatever an Air Force or other sponsor would contribute.

Would an ECRwHMDM link-up be something to consider with Carpenter in the No. 20, or in a full-time car for the Indy Lights frontrunner? It wouldn’t be the first time, following the recent ECR with Scuderia Corsa alliance than ran through 2019.

Juncos Hollinger Racing

It’s too early to add much here, but Ricardo Juncos and Brad Hollinger are serious about getting ready for a single-car, full-time campaign next season with the No. 77 Chevy, and they’ve been clear with every driver on their radar about those intentions.

They’ve nixed one or more driver options to close the 2021 championship because those pilots had 2022 seats secured elsewhere in the racing world, so while F2 runner up and F1 test driver Callum Ilott isn’t a sure thing to return next year, JHR would not have signed him for the last three races if there wasn’t a chance of keeping him if all goes well.

Meyer Shank Racing

Although I’m not ready to formally state that Simon Pagenaud will be driving for Meyer Shank Racing next year, I can say about a dozen solid people have told me it will happen. Assuming Pagenaud is confirmed, and at this point, I have no reason to believe he won’t be named for the No. 60 Honda, that would be one heck of a year-to-year makeover for MSR.

The outgoing Jack Harvey can win races for RLL; that’s not a question, and who knows, he and MSR could take one of the three left to run this year. But having a new two-car lineup with Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, who have five years of chemistry developed at Team Penske, and five combined Indy 500 wins, and 40 combined CART/IndyCar victories, is an altogether different animal.

Will Ilott’s name remain affixed to the side of Juncos Hollinger’s No.77 through 2022? James Black/IndyCar

Rahal Letterman Lanigan

There’s an interesting debate that’s said to be taking place inside Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing regarding its third car. Co-owner Mike Lanigan is reportedly keen on having Santino Ferrucci as the No. 45 Honda’s full-time driver next year; co-owner Bobby Rahal is supposedly curious to see if Oliver Askew could be the right solution, and RLL president Piers Phillips is said to covet his Danish find, Christian Lundgaard.

Lundgaard was thought to be under serious consideration for the second Williams F1 seat, but with that door closed, the fourth-place qualifier at the recent Indy road course round appears to be facing an overabundance of availability. Another interesting name I’ve heard for the third RLL car is Hunter-Reay.

Quality opportunities appear to be diminishing for RHR, and with Graham Rahal and Jack Harvey set to steer the team forward in 2022, maybe the presence of a series champion and Indy 500 in the program would bring a stronger foundation – and a higher profile for sponsors – if the other drivers from the No. 45 evaluation group aren’t converted to full-time members of the RLL family?

As has been the case since we first reported Harvey will take over from two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato in the No. 30 Honda, I don’t know what the Japanese star has planned for the future. Whatever it is, I hope he stays in the series and continues to chase his third Indy 500 win with RLL or another strong team.

Team Penske

Josef Newgarden, Will Power, and Scott McLaughlin are all under contract for 2022. Unfortunately, I’ve heard nothing to suggest a new contract has been offered to Simon Pagenaud. But I have heard on numerous occasions that Team Penske will be trimming its full-time roster to three entries. Provided that’s true, Penske would be the only team I’m aware of that will downsize for next season.

Top Gun Racing

I recently spoke with TGR’s Bill Throckmorton (who owns and runs the team with his wife Stephanie), and after a stellar debut with RC Enerson on the Indy road course, he says the new fan favorites are looking to do a slightly larger program next year with more runs at Indy with the 500 and the road courses, and hopefully a few more events within a reasonable driving distance from their Indianapolis base.

Miscellaneous

* A number of team owners found themselves with mixed emotions after the return to Iowa Speedway was recently announced. Everyone’s happy to be going back. But after pleading for IndyCar to take oval doubleheaders off the schedule for 2022 and beyond, and having been assured that request would be heeded, many have said the confirmation of Iowa as a doubleheader, in the second half of the season, where a bad wreck in Race 1 could have bigger championship ramifications in Race 2, was not met with universal cheer.

* A return to Homestead-Miami Speedway was being explored – to the point where the series was looking to hold Spring Training on the combo oval and road course – but track owner ISC is said to have shot it down.

* Although everything looks like it’s a go to run the last three races without interruption, I’ve heard IndyCar is ready to use the IMS road course as a fallback option if COVID or Lord knows what else gets in the way of Laguna Seca or Long Beach from being held.

* A 9/11 tribute will be held Saturday morning at 7:28 a.m. on pit lane in Portland.

* We focus on driver movement and team growth or contraction with each silly season edition, but changes among race engineers—coming or going—can be just as impactful. There are a few that are already in motion, which will make for some interesting reporting in the weeks ahead.

* Some of Robin Miller’s friends plan on donning sweatpants and retro racing t-shirts in his honor this weekend. It’s easy to hear Miller, in his patented sing-song Uncle Bobby voice, saying, ‘Son, they all look like meeee!’

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