I sure hope the camera people who’ve been filming content for IndyCar’s upcoming scripted reality show have captured behind-the-scenes footage of the insane efforts to place a 33rd Indy 500 entry on the grid.
Having tracked these developments on almost a daily basis since the calendar rolled over to 2022, I’m fairly confident a book could be written on all of the plot twists that have happened so far. And the crazy thing about it is the drama — with the opening of Indy 500 practice just 26 days away — isn’t over.
To start, I’m told the desire to find an additional entry which would give the series 34 cars and the need for bumping has been abandoned; once the 33rd entry is locked in, the entry list will be considered closed and final.
Based on all I’ve learned since our last update, the baton on running the last car is close to being passed and if everything comes together, the 33rd car will be formed among a trio of entrants joining forces to bring the things each other lacks. We’ll circle back on that to close the update once we’re done working through the major change that’s prompted a possible shift in teams.
A perfect solution was in place. With the encouragement and support of the NTT IndyCar Series, Juncos Hollinger Racing would run 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in a second entry alongside rapid rookie Callum Ilott. That high-profile initiative was, of course, contingent upon Hunter-Reay agreeing to drive the last entry needed to complete the 11 rows of three.
After thinking about it over the weekend, RACER understands the 2012 IndyCar Series champion politely declined the opportunity and will focus on coaching Ilott at the Indy 500 while developing longer-term plans to rejoin the Speedway’s entry list in 2023.
With Hunter-Reay out of the picture, it appears JHR could also be out of the running to enter a second Dallara DW12. On a related topic, and in a change from last week, RACER understands the likelihood of JHR leasing one of its numerous Dallara DW12s to another team is slim.
On the heels of the JHR+RHR effort falling through, it’s believed the A.J. Foyt Racing team is now on the clock to decide whether it will lease one of its DW12s to solve the chassis availability issue.
As we reported last week, two-time Indy 500 entrant DragonSpeed entered the frame as a team with a full pit crew of F1, WEC/IMSA and IndyCar veterans to run the 33rd car on behalf of Juncos or Foyt. Foyt, which entered four cars in last year’s Indy 500 and has trimmed its upcoming effort to three, has an unused chassis that is ready to accept a Chevy engine. Charlie Kimball drove the car in 2021 but did not make the show at Indy.
Team president Larry Foyt’s last update to RACER stayed true to his previous comments on being unable to run a fourth car due to staffing limitations, but with DragonSpeed being ready and able to solve that problem, conversations are said to be under way. The last hurdle to clear is funding.
Stefan Wilson and Don Cusick of Cusick Motorsports, who sponsored the Briton at Indy last year in an Andretti Autosport entry, are newly aligned with DragonSpeed and waiting to learn if the proposed A.J. Foyt Racing/Cusick Motorsports/DragonSpeed collaboration will go forward. If so, the Indy 500 has its 33rd entry with one team’s car, another team’s crew, and yet another team’s budget and driver.
And if, by chance, the trio does not come together, JHR could reenter the conversation in an alliance with Cusick and DragonSpeed.
So, to recap: 33 entries, not 34. Not JHR+RHR. But probably AJFR+Cusick+DragonSpeed. But if that falls through, it’s probably JHR+Cusick+DragonSpeed. Probably.
Man, let’s pray those cameras have been rolling.