Today’s question: INDYCAR’s three Writers’ Roundtable participants were involved with last week’s Content Day in Indianapolis, where drivers participating in the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season provided media content for the upcoming season. Given the behind-the-scenes access, what was the most interesting or revealing fact you learned, and why?
Curt Cavin: There are many possibilities for this, but I’ll go with Ed Carpenter’s visit to the deadline media room. As background, it was in 2014 that Carpenter gave up full-time driving for the betterment of his race team. Now, Carpenter is yielding his all-oval seat in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 car to Conor Daly’s full-season program backed by BitNile. No, it wasn’t a surprise announcement, and Carpenter didn’t reveal anything Earth-shattering about the decision, but he also didn’t commit to driving in a race other than the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. The three-time Indy pole winner did say he has “a desire” to race more this season and that the team is “working toward me doing some more (races),” but it was the calmness of his delivery that got me thinking about this latest inevitable turnover in INDYCAR’s driver lineup. Mind you, the series is always evolving, and the new generation led by Alex Palou, Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward is loaded with talent, with at least six rookies and two wily veterans (Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean) set to experience the “500” for the first time. But we’re about to head into the 2022 season without former season champions Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who have combined for 55 race wins, James Hinchcliffe (six wins), and two legends (Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Kanaan) having only one INDYCAR race on their schedules, and now there is conversation about Carpenter scaling back, and Graham Rahal, a 15-year veteran, acknowledging he is “getting closer to the end.” It’s strange, that’s all. It’s time to celebrate what this group of 40-somethings -- Helio, Dixie, Montoya, TK, RHR, Seb, Power, Sato and Ed – have contributed to the sport.
Zach Horrall: I’m going to break this answer into two parts. The most interesting factoid was Graham Rahal’s honesty in the fact that he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and that the plan is for him to take over Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing one day. That he was willing to talk about it to the media makes me wonder if this is happening sooner than we realize. What Graham said: “It never really was my mindset that someday I would be a team owner. The minute that (new team shop in Zionsville, Indiana) was built, I got a phone call from Mike and my dad. It was very clear that the expectation is that I'm going to assume that role with Pat Lanigan.” Now, the most revealing factoid for me was how big of a personality David Malukas is. He’s not afraid to be goofy in front of the camera, he answers questions pretty honestly, and he has a lot of interests outside of racing that make him an intriguing person (he’s a gamer, likes coding and works at his dad’s trucking company in his spare time). Not to mention, his family has an incredible story that makes him a first-generation American. He was the dark horse of Content Days, and I think he could be a dark horse fan favorite in 2022 even as a rookie.
Paul Kelly: Devlin DeFrancesco is the least heralded of the three NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookies climbing from Indy Lights this season, joining 2021 Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood and runner-up David Malukas. I knew a bit about Kirkwood and Malukas entering last week but knew very little about Canadian DeFrancesco, who will drive for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport in 2022. De Francesco was reserved during his session with the media, but he divulged or confirmed two interesting nuggets. One, he has a mutual sponsor association with Mike Tyson and ate dinner with the former Baddest Man on the Planet a few months ago. I’m a boxing fanatic, so that intrigued me. But my eyes really opened and ears peeled back when Devlin talked about weighing less than a pound when he was born 15 weeks premature. He said a priest gave him Last Rites as an infant because doctors were unsure whether he would survive. That’s an amazing story. “I've come a long way but will never forget where I came from and will always be grateful,” DeFrancesco said. That gratitude has led him to work with the Sunnybrook Foundation, a hospital and medical research center in his native Toronto.