Even as the celebration of Will Power’s second title goes on, INDYCAR’s driver and team changes could make for a very different landscape in 2023.
The soap opera surrounding two teams in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has reached its end. Maybe. Early on September 14th, Arrow McLaren SP (AMSP) released statements showing its three-car team in the series will be comprised of Patricio O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi. This trio finished seventh, eighth and nine, respectively at the close of the 2022 standings. Stating that Rosenqvist, who remained under contract even as Zak Brown and McLaren Racing attempted to poach then-reigning INDYCAR champion Alex Palou from Chip Ganassi Racing, would continue with the INDYCAR team.
Rosenqvist, who joined the team in 2021 after earning Rookie of the Year while racing for Chip Ganassi Racing (who had pursued him for more than a couple of years), won his sole INDYCAR race while driving for CGR. In all, the Swede has secured five podiums and three pole positions, finishing fourth in this year’s 106th Indianapolis 500. Happy with the continuity after not knowing which way the wind was blowing, he said, “There’s no better way to enter the off-season than with this news! I love this team and I’m so happy to continue working with all the incredible people I’ve gotten to know over the past two seasons,” Rosenqvist said.
At the same time, Chip Ganassi Racing and Alex Palou have agreed to an extension of their partnership for next season, but still allowing the Spaniard, winner of last weekend’s season finale, the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, to join McLaren Racing’s Formula 1 2021 MCL35M car testing program (TPC). Palou began his first test with the team as the news was being distributed. Ganassi’s team stated Palou “remains in the No. 10 car but also has the opportunity to test cars in separate racing series, provided that it does not directly conflict with his INDYCAR commitments.”
This time around, Palou tweeted, “I’m excited to announce that Chip Ganassi Racing and I have come to an agreement and I’ll be back in the No. 10 car next season.” He had demurred in July when this merry-go-round first alit. Chip likes winners, as he’s always said. Alex Palou is a winner.
This news ends the standoff that began in mid-July when McLaren Racing announced they had Palou under contract next year. When Chip Ganassi Racing stated that wasn’t so, Palou took to Twitter to make some comments that were critical to CGR as he said he’d be leaving for McLaren. This kind of acrimony doesn’t work well in the paddock or pits, but it didn’t faze a team that is focused on the job at hand. Seeing Julian Robertson (engineer), crew chief Ricky Davis and strategist Barry Wanser exultant in the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Victory Lane was a preamble to the following Wednesday’s announcement.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES year-end celebration was held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Museum with a Victory Lap celebration held September 17th, less than a week after the series finale on the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca undulating road course. The celebration centered on now two-time champion Will Power, whose first Team Penske title was earned in 2014, eight years ago. This year was a special one for the Australian, who earned his 68th pole position award, relegating legend Mario Andretti to second overall. Andretti was among the first to congratulate Power at the season finale. Power was also the winner of the season-long NTT P1 Award for his five pole positions in 17 contests.
Power earned his title by finishing third in the season finale while Palou was the winner and Power’s Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden finished second, also his finish in the championship. Scott Dixon was third overall in the title chase after a less-than Dixon-like 12th place race result. The Kiwi had qualifying issues, started 13th and was only really in the mix by trying alternate strategies that ultimately didn’t work.
Following that Saturday celebration, which was not available for fans to watch, news was light in INDYCAR. But then came Tuesday morning and the announcement that Taylor Kiel, president of Arrow McLaren SP (AMSP) was resigning that position. The reason given was wanting to spend more time with his family, now that his daughter is a year old. No doubt there will be a period of what the Brits call “gardening leave” before Kiel is allowed to work with another iNDYCAR team, but the changes wrought in this team – and the drama of July through September concerning Palou, Rosenqvist et al – had to have something to do with this.
Speaking with Racer.com Kiel noted, “Ultimately I’ve just made the decision to step away, and there’s obviously a lot of change going on in the organization, which is good. I’m looking into exploring some other opportunities and to spend some more time with my family. All that considered,” Kiel explained, “the timing is probably right for a bit of a change for me, personally, and for the team.”
To acknowledge Kiel’s decision, AMSP put out comments on Twitter confirming the Indiana native’s departure. “Effective Tuesday, September 20, Taylor Kiel is stepping down as Arrow McLaren SP President after two seasons. As the team grows to three cars for the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, announcements on team management will be made in due course.”.