After the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series ended there were driver changes, staffing changes and other happenings that influenced how the 2023 championship looks going into the season-opening race on the streets of St. Petersburg.
There were positives and negatives following last September’s season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, so let’s get into who came out on top and who didn’t in IndyCar’s offseason.
IndyCar’s Marketing and Social Media Departments
After jettisoning former VP of Marketing SJ Luedtke in December, IndyCar proclaimed that their marketing budget will increase for the 2023 season. IndyCar should now be able to finally promote itself the way it should have been doing for several years now, especially with added competition from Formula 1.
Alexander Rossi’s departure from Andretti Autosport means that 75 percent of the team’s 2021 IndyCar lineup is now no longer with the team. Colton Herta remains in the 26 car while Kyle Kirkwood replaces Rossi in the No. 27 Honda. Romain Grosjean replaced Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 entry ahead of the 2022 season and Devlin DeFrancesco likewise replaced James Hinchcliffe in the No. 29.
The most celebrated driver in the IndyCar ladder system rejoins the team that he won the Indy NXT (Formerly Lights) championship with in 2021. Kirkwood was near the top of the timesheets in every session, setting the third fastest lap across both days. With the right circumstances, expect the Jupiter, Fl. native to impress.
Chip Ganassi Racing
After legal trouble regarding Alex Palou’s contract, the team and 2021 IndyCar Series champion resolved their differences and the Spaniard will return to Chip Ganassi’s team.
With Marcus Armstrong sharing the No. 11 seat with Takuma Sato, CGR gained one of the best driver pairings for their fourth entry. A proven Formula 2 race winner will share his ride with a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and a driver that has nothing to lose to enhance his reputation at Indianapolis.
CGR had perhaps one of the best off-seasons in the IndyCar paddock.
IndyCar’s Marketing and Social Media Departments
Wait, they’re both a winner and a loser? In fact, yes. Despite garnering a larger budget and losing a vice president that may have been more of a hindrance than an asset, the departments did not capitalize on opportunities offered to them in the offseason.
The series did not tweet or post on Instagram when Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward respectively participated in Friday practice at Austin and Abu Dhabi. With two of your greatest young drivers taking part in practice for what is arguably the most marketed racing series on the planet, why not put out more content?
What is there to lose by posting more content? Even bland content is better than no content.
IndyCar’s social media department took a large hit when one of their best employees left for 23XI Racing in NASCAR. Meanwhile, an Instagram meme account has been posting IndyCar memes left, right and center at a rate that is nearly unheard of.
The operator of that account is still unknown.
A. J. Foyt Racing
The team did not perform well enough in 2022 to keep one of its cars in IndyCar’s Leaders Circle program that pays guaranteed purse money to the top 22 entrants, with a few exceptions. That alone would put them in this category, but changes were made.
After a difficult season, the team hired Michael Cannon to help out in engineering and revamped their driver lineup with Santino Ferrucci and Benjamin Pedersen. Owing to the eponymous team owner turning 88 years old, Pedersen’s entry was slated to run No. 88 out of respect to Foyt alongside Ferrucci in the No. 14.
However, Pedersen’s entry was renumbered to 55 when the team was made aware of the symbolism that hate groups have involving the two numbers that the team was planning on using. While the team should be applauded for changing the number as a middle finger to white supremacist groups, the negative reaction from some was, quite frankly, appalling and upsetting.
The team’s placement in this category isn’t because they changed the number. Someone on the team should have known that those two numbers together are used by hate groups.
The 2022 Indy NXT champion does not currently have any prospects for an IndyCar seat in 2023, and that’s frankly a shame. Lundqvist dominated the top series in the IndyCar ladder system in 2022 and proved his worth over the rest of the field.
However in racing, cash is ultimately king. Without it, a driver will more than likely be on the sidelines unless a team owner is willing to take a chance. Lundqvist is the first Indy NXT champion without a seat in the following IndyCar season since JK Vernay won the 2010 championship and went sports car racing.
To add insult to injury, the 2023 Indy NXT champion will have a larger scholarship fund. It is unclear if Lundqvist will get any additional funds since his scholarship check was for $500,000. One can only hope to see the Swedish talent race an Indy car in anger in 2023.