Note: The INDYCAR Writers’ Roundtable is taking the opportunity of the summer break in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule to analyze the first 10 races of the season and offer discussion and opinions about a variety of topics in the first half of the season. This is the final installment of a multipart series.
Today’s question: What is the biggest Silly Season move remaining in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season?
Curt Cavin: In my opinion, the 2022 lineup hinges on what Team Penske does with Simon Pagenaud. If he doesn’t re-sign, does he land at Arrow McLaren SP, at Andretti Autosport or somewhere else? And if there’s a vacancy on Roger Penske’s team, is it filled by Rinus VeeKay? Of course, things will get calm quickly if Pagenaud returns, which I expect, and that tilts the focus to the Andretti organization, which could have two seats to fill. Is Romain Grosjean taking one of them? And what becomes of Indy Lights points leader Kyle Kirkwood, who has won five of the past six races? It would seem Michael Andretti wouldn’t let him get away. A silly season to come? You bet it is.
Zach Horrall: I’m going to be laser focused on what Romain Grosjean does this offseason. He told the media in May that he was in the market to buy a house in the United States, as he lives in Geneva, Switzerland, hinting that he wants to go full-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES racing in 2022. Granted, that probably hinges on if he makes his oval debut at World Wide Technology Raceway, but I suspect he will and it will go well. Michael Andretti has made no secret that he plans to shake up the Andretti Autosport driver roster for next season, and I think Grosjean and Andretti are a perfect pair that can contend for wins and a series championship.
Paul Kelly: Ever since Michael Andretti confirmed to RACER.com that his team’s four-driver lineup likely will change for 2022, I’ve been intrigued by who stays and who goes at Andretti Autosport for next season. It’s widely known that Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi are under contract for next season, so where does that leave Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe? Are both looking for new rides next year? Just one? Will they possibly get part-time seats that include the Indy 500, either with Andretti or other teams? Does the hottest free agent in INDYCAR, Romain Grosjean, land at Andretti? What about Andretti’s Indy Lights dominator, Kyle Kirkwood, who is probably the hottest Road to Indy prospect since Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward? There’s also attention on Simon Pagenaud, the only Team Penske driver not yet publicly signed for 2022. But I have a hunch – and it’s just a hunch – that he stays at Penske for at least another year, perhaps moving to one of the factory LMDh prototype sports car rides that will open at Porsche, BMW, Audi and Acura in 2023 and beyond. But hey, I’m a writer/editor, not an INDYCAR team owner. So, what the heck do I know?