INDIANAPOLIS — With the drop of the green flag only a handful of weeks away for the NTT IndyCar Series season, the landscape of the series and teams are looking a little different this year.
Several drivers have moved around, come, or gone during the off-season, after a season that saw the series whether through 14 races, of which Scott Dixon won four en route to his fifth IndyCar Series championship.
Dixon’s team in Chip Ganassi Racing will have a new lineup this year with Dixon being partnered with Alex Palou, Marcus Ericcson, and seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson in the Ganassi stable.
Palou, who had a superb rookie season in 2020 with Dale Coyne and Team Goh, is eager to prove himself in his new ride but is wary of making sure he learns all the ropes first.
“There’s no specific result I want to accomplish,” he said. “I just want to get used to the car again, test a couple of ideas we have for this preseason, and hopefully it’s going to help us during the street courses and road courses. I think there’s a lot of things to try and learn.”
Team Penske will be looking mostly the same with Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power. However, they are adding former Australia Supercars champion, Scott McLaughlin, into the fold with a fourth full-time IndyCar ride.
“I’m so excited for the opportunity to take the next step in my career and compete against some of the best drivers in the world in the IndyCar Series,” said McLaughlin. “I’m looking forward to the challenge of joining one of the most iconic motorsports programs of all time.”
Under the Penske flag in a technical partnership will be Paretta Autosport, a team run by Beth Paretta, who announced Simona de Silvestro as their driver. They only have plans to run in the Indianapolis 500, but hope to expand to other race in the future and eventually have a racing team run entirely by women.
The Andretti Autosport stable is keeping pretty much all its top talent from last year, but there has been some shuffling around. Alexander Rossi stays in his seat and Ryan Hunter-Reay has re-signed with the team and is keeping DHL as the primary sponsor. Colton Herta is now exclusively with Andretti, and James Hinchcliffe has also secured a full-time ride with the team after splitting time last year between the broadcast booth and the track.
“Being back full time has always been the goal and it feels so great to know that I will be back on the grid,” Hinchcliffe said.
Marco Andretti is stepping back from full-time racing this upcoming season and plans to only run in the Indianapolis 500. He’s only had two wins and 20 podiums in his full-time career with Andretti.
Arrow McLaren SP is getting a big overhaul for the upcoming season. Team owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson have named Taylor Kiel as president of the team. He previously served as a race strategist for Pato O’Ward.
O’Ward is back in the McLaren fold this year after finishing fourth in the point standings as a full-time rookie, but joining him will be former Ganassi driver Felix Rosenqvist.
Those two will be the full-time drivers, but AMSP will also be bringing on two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya for the team’s third entry for the Indianapolis 500.
“I have some great history with McLaren from my F1 days and I’m looking forward to making some more at next year’s Indianapolis 500,” said Montoya.
It will be the first time he’s run in an Indianapolis 500 since 2015 when he won for the second time.
There no changes in the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan camp with Graham Rahal and two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato returning for full-time rides.
Meyer Shank Racing is expanding to two full-time drivers bringing on three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves to compliment Jack Harvey. This will be the first full-time season Castroneves will spend with a team not called Team Penske. Harvey will be running a true full-time schedule, while Castroneves will run in six races, including the Indy 500.
Dale Coyne Racing is welcoming back Ed Jones, who finished third in the Indy 500 in 2018 with the team. He spent the 2019 season with Chip Ganassi Racing before spending the 2020 season without a ride. He will take over for Santino Ferrucci, who has moved on to the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Ed Carpenter Racing is bringing in Conor Daly to exclusively run with the team in 2021 after he split time between ovals and road/street courses last year with ECR and Carlin Racing. Daly will run the road/street courses full-time while being the team’s third Indy 500 entry. Team owner Ed Carpenter will run the oval circuits in the Air Force #20 car at Indy and Texas.
Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton are expected to return in full-time rides with Carlin Racing. And former series champion Sebastien Bourdais is returning full-time to IndyCar with AJ Foyt Enterprises, opposite Dalton Kellett.