Today’s question: What remaining driver or team move during this Silly Season interests you the most?
Curt Cavin: Easy choice for me. It seems apparent that Dale Coyne will have Takuma Sato in one of his cars next season, and if that happens, it could be a winning combination. While that might seem optimistic, consider that only five drivers since Sato won the 2017 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge have won more races than his five. They are Josef Newgarden (16 wins), Scott Dixon (11), Will Power (10), Alexander Rossi (six) and Colton Herta (six). Since 2016, Coyne’s team has two race wins, three NTT P1 Award poles and has had at least two top-five finishes each year. This year, Romain Grosjean won a pole and scored three podium finishes, and before that Alex Palou, Sebastien Bourdais, Santino Ferrucci and Conor Daly were frequently in contention for race wins and Bourdais twice won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Sato and Coyne each have six career INDYCAR victories. Together, I could see them winning No. 7 in 2022.
Zach Horrall: Which potential car/driver combination do I find the most intriguing? What the hell will happen with the Ed Carpenter Racing No. 20! Given ECR driver Rinus VeeKay’s performance in 2021 (one win, two podiums), and the entire organization’s performance in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge (led by Ed Carpenter’s fifth), it’s clearly the most coveted ride still open in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock. Conor Daly has a best finish of 11th with this organization over the last two seasons. Does he get a third season in the No. 20 to prove bad luck was just that? Ryan Hunter-Reay hasn’t won in three years and had one top five on road and street courses in 2021 (fourth at Nashville). Does the team pivot to the 2012 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner and give him a chance to show he’s still got it after years with Andretti Autosport? My eyes are glued to this outcome.
Paul Kelly: Curt and Zach both dropped the mike with excellent picks. So, I’m going to go a bit left field and wonder out loud what will transpire from the rumored merger between Juncos Hollinger Racing and Carlin. Nothing has been announced, but Nathan Brown of The Indianapolis Star tweeted a photo of a Carlin transporter backed into a bay at Juncos’ shop in the last month, so something is afoot. It’s just so hard to run a single-car team, with only one car’s worth of data, in the ultra-competitive NTT INDYCAR SERIES. So, a blending of Juncos Hollinger and Carlin could kick-start both teams’ operations into a solid unit that can contend with all of the other multi-car teams in the paddock. It also will be interesting to see if longtime Carlin INDYCAR driver Max Chilton will join rookie Callum Ilott at the new-look team or if someone else will race in that seat.