Today’s question: What is your biggest takeaway from the announcement Sept. 14 that Alex Palou will stay with Chip Ganassi Racing and Felix Rosenqvist will remain with Arrow McLaren SP in the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season?
Curt Cavin: My take? This feels right. Simple as that. I had been uplifted by the interest from other teams that Felix Rosenqvist has drawn in recent weeks, and it appeared he had really good options for the 2023 season had he left McLaren, but this is where he needed to be and quite frankly, it’s where he deserved to be based on his performance this season. Ask team members, including Pato O’Ward; they love him, and it’s easy to see why. As someone who works in the sport, I can say Felix is one of the nicest men in the paddock, always a joy to speak with and someone you can root for. The saying that good things happen to good people? Fits like a glove here. As for Palou and CGR, we all saw what happened at Laguna Seca. Yes, the new Honda engine likely played a role in their 30-second dusting of the field, but such drives happen when there is synergy in the system, and it sure now looks like they had come to their happy place in advance of the season’s final race weekend. So, let’s watch the magic happen with the 10 car in 2023, and it should again be a top championship contender, maybe even an Indy 500 winner based on how well they performed the past two years (second in 2021, taken out of contention by an untimely caution flag this year). As for the fans, I think they’re the big winners here because while some change in the driver lineup is interesting, too much of it can be too much. The 7 and 10 cars should be stronger with continuity and an offseason to focus on the areas they can improve. The only downside to today’s news is that it delays the inevitable, as Palou surely will be elsewhere in 2024, and Rosenqvist might well be, as well. But let’s save that for another day.
Arni Sribhen: After two months of Silly Season theater, we’re right back where we started. Alex Palou is in the No. 10 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, and Felix Rosenqvist stays in a Chevrolet-powered car for Arrow McLaren SP. These were the moves that made the most sense for both teams. Ganassi never wanted to lose Palou – who won the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship and was in title contention for most of 2022. He showed that even with distractions, he was still a vital part of the team. Though his form dipped once the battle for his services began, he was the strongest of the four CGR cars at Portland and WeatherTech Raceway (Could he have already known his 2023 plans?) Once Palou’s future was settled (either by a judge, team lawyers or financial arrangement), the best fit for Arrow McLaren SP was Rosenqvist – whose strong second half was enough to convince Zak Brown and McLaren Racing to keep the Swede alongside Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi. Everyone seemingly gets what they wanted. Well, except for those who wanted another storyline for the next few weeks. At least the drama was fun.
Paul Kelly: This contractual saga between Chip Ganassi Racing and Arrow McLaren SP had all the makings this summer of a Shakespearian tragedy, as it appeared for a moment that Alex Palou might be placed on gardening leave for 2023, paid not to drive, and Felix Rosenqvist may be flushed out of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES despite such a solid second-half performance. Instead, now that both drivers are staying put, I’ll instead quote a title of a comedy by Old Bill the Bard – “Much Ado About Nothing.” All this angst, clashing egos and legal fees, and we’re right back where we started. As Curt and Arni said, this outcome feels like the dust settling in all the right places. I’m glad both drivers are staying in the series and with their respective teams. Someday someone will write a superb in-depth story or book about this drama, revealing the real reasons behind why both teams thought they had dibs on Palou. Until then, I’ll still scratch my bald head over all of it. This dispute appeared – at least on the surface – to be messy and uncomfortable for many parties involved. At its boiling point, the squabble also stole media attention and fan oxygen from the incredible race for the Astor Challenge Cup during the second half of the season. I wouldn’t mind seeing a more conventional Silly Season in 2023, if normal exists anymore with sports contracts.