Photo: Kirkwood tests the car he thought he would be driving in 2022. Joes Skibinski, Indycar
There will be at least 25 cars on the grid when the NTT Indycar Series begins February 25-27 at St. Pete. There could be even more. What we still don’t know is who will be in those cars?
Some drivers are set, others are believed to be in place but not formally announced, and others are still looking for a ride. The biggest name seeking employment right now is Kyle Kirkwood. The 2021 Indy Lights champion became a free agent Monday when his contract with Andretti expired.
Andretti’s failed attempt to buy Sauber F1 probably cost Kirkwood a full time ride in the 26.
Kirkwood’s choices are limited. Filled and presumed seats make up most of the grid. Possible openings are at Foyt, Ed Carpenter Racing, Carlin, and Juncos /Hollinger.
Kirkwood has suddenly become the key to the silly season.
Foyt- More Questions than Answers
Until A. J. Foyt Racing resigns sponsor ROKIT, don’t expect a lot of movement. Dalton Kellett is likely to return in car 4, but car 14 is in limbo. Sebastien Bourdais may run a few races in the car, but who else? If ROKIT returns, Tatiana Calderon is good possibility. Kirkwood would not be likely to be in the 14. Could Foyt add a third car if a partner comes on board?
Second Car for Juncos/Hollinger? Carlin Merger?
It’s great to see Juncos racing back. They are set with Callum Ilott in the 77. Ricardo Juncos wants a second car. It’s possible that the team might partner with Carlin. I think Carlin is on shaky ground and also needs a second car.
A partnership could help both teams and keep the Carlin name in Indycar. I expected good things from Carlin. I liked the way they ran an Indy Lights program before they moved up to Indycar Things just haven’t worked out for them in this series.
Carlin has yet to confirm a driver. It is not known whether Max Chilton will be back. If he returns, another driver needs to run Texas, Gateway, and Iowa. Conor Daly has filled that role in the past and might do so again.
Carpenter Has Many Choices
Ed Carpenter Racing needs a driver for the road and street races in the 20, which he plans to drive on the ovals. The deal usually includes a third car for the Indianapolis 500.
It has been Conr Day’s seat for the past two years, and may well be again. ECR is waiting to see if the US Air Force returns as sponsor. If they do, Daly will probably get the ride. If not, Ryan Hunter-Reay or Oliver Askew have a chance at the seat.
Kirkwood wants a full time deal, so I don’t think ECR is where he s looking.
I think it is important for the series to have Kirkwood in a full time ride. He is the next link in the generational shift that we witnessed in 2021.