It started in February at St. Petersburg with Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward visiting multiple teams to explore his options and could end as early as Friday as a rapid-fire succession of driver announcements are anticipated.
There’s nothing official to offer from the three remaining teams with seats to fill for the upcoming NTT IndyCar Series season, but 11 months after it started, I’m pleased to say we’re moments away from closing the door on the longest silly season in recent history.
To date, 25 full-season entries have been confirmed, leaving the oval driver for Chip Ganassi Racing’s fourth car alongside road racer Marcus Armstrong, Dale Coyne Racing’s second entry to complement sophomore driver David Malukas, and Juncos Hollinger Racing’s new second car that will run next to the returning Callum Ilott as the final vacancies.
Having trailed the likely solutions for the three opportunities over the last month, there might not be a lot of mysteries or surprises when they’re announced. At CGR, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato is still the leading candidate to share the No. 11 Honda with Armstrong. Provided he’s confirmed, CGR would have three Indy 500 winners on its roster with Scott Dixon (2008) and Marcus Ericsson (2022) welcoming Sato (2017, 2020) to its roster of stars.
For Sato, who turns 46 at the end of the month, it would mark his first part-time IndyCar schedule and place him with the most successful team he’s driven for since moving over from Formula 1 in 2010.
DCR’s No. 51 Honda recently had 2022 Indy Lights race winner and championship runner-up Sting Ray Robb strapped in and testing at Sebring International Raceway. At this point, it would be a surprise if the Idahoan doesn’t stay in the car for the rest of the year. Provided that happens, DCR would have the youngest lineup in IndyCar with both 21-year-old drivers born 24 days apart in September of 2001. It would also give DCR a pairing of Indy Lights drivers who finished second in the standings in 2021 and 2022.
JHR’s No. 78 Chevy has been the subject of considerable speculation since December as Robb was once believed to be the top candidate for the ride before questions emerged as to whether the entry would go forward. Prior to Robb, it was believed touring car ace Agustin Canapino, who tested at Sebring for JHR and performed the recent IndyCar demonstration runs at home in Argentina, was primed to make his American open-wheel debut in the expansion entry.
Everything I’ve heard points to things coming full circle for Canapino as new funding is said to have emerged that would place the 32-year-old in the car for his rookie campaign.
Once the final details get resolved, IndyCar should have 27 cars at every round with all of the new and returning drivers ready to make their 2023 debuts at Spring Training in February.