Zak Brown (center, above photo) is bullish on Arrow McLaren’s present in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES as well as its future, points he drove home Friday on Miller Lite Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Arrow McLaren’s CEO said plans are in the works for a fourth full-time entry, although the timing of the expansion is still to be determined. He said the team has maximized its space in its current Indianapolis facility, and the new U.S. headquarters planned in nearby Whitestown likely won’t be ready until before the 2025 season.
So, it’s a balancing act based on timing, he said.
“We’re having a lot of commercial success, and we’re finding INDYCAR is very popular,” Brown said. “We have interest in putting out a fourth car, and we have the economics for that. It’s just a matter of (not) biting off more than we can chew.
“But given how the team’s responded in the Indy 500 so far, it encourages me to maybe go one step further. We’ll take that decision into the summer.”
A fourth full-time car would align Arrow McLaren with Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport as the teams with the largest full-season presentation. Team Penske and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing field three full-time cars each.
Arrow McLaren has all four of its drivers starting in the top eight of Sunday’s race. Felix Rosenqvist (No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet) will start in the third position with last year’s runner-up, Pato O’Ward, in the fifth spot in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Former “500” winners Alexander Rossi (No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet) and Tony Kanaan (No. 66 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet) are together in the third row, in the seventh and ninth starting positions, respectively.
O’Ward and Rossi are committed to multiyear contracts with Arrow McLaren, and Kanaan will move into a consulting role with the team after completing his final INDYCAR SERIES race Sunday. But Rosenqvist is in the final year of his deal, and Brown isn’t sure he can retain him.
“Felix has been doing a fantastic job (starting from the third position in this race), and he’s been very fast – the team loves him,” Brown said. “(But) someone might snap up Felix before we make a decision.”
Brown was asked if Arrow McLaren’s timeline might be adjusted if Rosenqvist wins the “500.”
“That would put some pressure on me,” Brown said, smiling. “I hope to have that pressure.”
Brown didn’t shy from answering a question about Marcus Ericsson, who drove for the former iteration of the team in 2019. Like Rosenqvist, the “500’s” reigning champion also doesn’t have a contract for 2024 and beyond. Ericsson has stressed he wants to be paid by a team rather than his contract dependent on him bringing sponsorship, as he has had to do since joining the INDYCAR SERIES.
Alex Palou, who will start from the pole in Sunday’s race for Chip Ganassi Racing, is projected to join Arrow McLaren after the season. NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson will drive an Arrow McLaren machine in next year’s “500.”
Brown wants another full-time entry because, as he said, another entry improves the team’s chances of winning races, and this one is, obviously, an important one to win. He said Sunday’s 33-car field is deep.
“I think Rinus (VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing) is very quick, (Santino) Ferrucci (of AJ Foyt Racing) is very quick, the (Team) Penske cars look definitely there, the Andretti (Autosport) will be there, so I think there are 15 or 16 cars that can win this race,” he said. “So, I think it will be a mistake to think there is only one team we’re racing against.
“It’s good to have four race cars (as you can) get caught by a yellow in the wrong way, a bad pit stop, and it’s hard to pass here. So, having four cars starting up front (is helpful), and hopefully they’ll be there at the end and work together like they did in (PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying). That was really good to see.”