Early Offseason Update : Tracking Driver and Team Changes

By: Spencer Neff
October 29, 2020

Less than a week after the season finale on the Streets of St. Petersburg, “silly season” has shifted into top gear, with multiple drivers switching rides.

While several drivers continue test out aerodynamic changes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, others have spent the past few days finalizing their plans for next year.

Palou joins Ganassi

Last week, Chip Ganassi Racing announced sponsorship plans for Jimmie Johnson’s rookie campaign during the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season. Since then, more details of the team’s plans for the upcoming season have been unveiled.

After a successful rookie season with Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh, Alex Palou will join the No. 10 at Chip Ganassi Racing for next season.

In his first IndyCar season, Palou earned a best finish of third (Road America 1) and a best start of third at Road America during the Rev Group Grand Prix on July 11 and 12.

Following success in Formula 3 and Super Formula, the native of Sant Antoni de Vilamajor, Spain impressed the IndyCar paddock throughout the season, including a seventh-place qualifying effort at the Indianapolis 500.

Palou chats with NBCSN following his first podium at Road America 1 Race 1 on July 11 (Image By Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR)

“To say I’m thrilled or excited to be making this step in my career would be an understatement. Driving for Chip Ganassi is just a dream come true,” Palou exclaimed in today’s press release announcing his new ride.

“I’ve followed the team for as long as I can remember, and it’s the kind of team and owner any driver would want to race for. Scott has had another tremendous season, reaching 50 wins and a sixth title, so you absolutely couldn’t ask for anything more in a teammate. I can’t wait to work with Marcus and Jimmie as well, and to start contributing to the team and getting to spend more time with everyone.” 

During what has been a difficult season for many, especially the sport’s newest drivers, Chip Ganassi Racing Managing Director Mike Hull lauded Palou’s efforts and highlighted Team Owner Chip Ganassi’s high regard for his newest driver.

“I love to watch the growth of young drivers. This year racing Indy cars has been very difficult for young drivers like Alex who hadn’t had the opportunity to visually see the tracks in advance, nor have days of practice in private team testing, or open testing or three-day weekends,” he offered.

“Putting that into perspective, he did a heck of a job. We had an opening, and he became available, and Chip has a great eye for talent. Alex has that spark, that intangible thing you combine with talent that is a lot of fun. It’s a great exploration thing, actually. You’re exploring how far you can go, and he has one year of experience with a quality team, quality engineering and a quality teammate. He stood up to that test extremely well.”

Image By Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR

Rosenqvist joins Arrow McLaren SP

Image By Arrow McLaren SP

With Oliver Askew leaving the organization after the 2020 season, the No. 7 opened up at Arrow McLaren SP. Thursday morning, the team confirmed 2019 INDYCAR Rookie of the Year Felix Rosenqvist will take over alongside Pato O’Ward in 2021.

“I can’t wait to take the next step in my career and join Arrow McLaren SP. The team has shown itself to be a consistent challenger this year and I’m looking forward to working with Pato to help take it forward,” Rosenqvist noted.

“I want to thank Sam, Ric, Zak, and the entire team for giving me this opportunity and I’m already working to be as prepared as possible for next season. It’s going to be fun.”

Rosenqvist earned his first win at Race 2 of the Rev Group Grand Prix at ROad America on July 12 (Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR0

After competing in a multitude of international racing series from Formula E to Indy Lights, Rosenqvist joined Chip Ganassi Racing in 2019. In 31 starts, Rosenqvist has one victory (Road America 2-2020) and one pole position (Indianapolis GP-2019).

In Thursday’s announcement, Rosenqvist’s Car Co-Owners echoed his excitement for 2021.

“We’ve been watching Felix since he came over to Indy Lights in 2016 and have been constantly impressed by his performance over the past two years,” said Arrow McLaren SP co-owner Sam Schmidt. “We think that he and Pato complement each other well and together we believe they will help us on our journey forward as a team.”

“It’s not very often that you get the opportunity to combine two young, established talents like Pato and Felix,” said McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown. “I think this pairing gives us a strong driver lineup and I’m excited to see what they can do together on and off the track.”

Ericsson staying at Ganassi

On Wednesday. Chip Ganassi Racing announced Marcus Ericsson will continue in the No. 8 entry for the team after signing a multi-year deal.

“I’m very happy to continue my relationship with Chip Ganassi Racing, Honda and HPD into 2021 and beyond,” Ericsson proclaimed.

Image By Chris Jones/INDYCAR

“I want to thank Chip and the whole CGR organization for their trust in me. Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the best teams in motorsports and I’m proud to be part of the team. The season we’ve just finished has been full of potential and I feel confident that with what we’ve learned together this year will help us succeed in 2021. I’m looking forward to getting back in the No. 8 Honda!”
 

In his first season with the team, Ericsson earned a best finish of fourth (Road America 2) and a best start of fourth (Gateway 1-the best of his career) In 30 starts with Ganassi and Arrow McLaren SP over the past two years, the ex-Formula 1 driver has earned a best finish of second (Belle Isle 2-2019).

“Marcus proved that he belongs here, and this season he contributed to the success of our team greatly,” Hull stated in reflecting on Ericsson’s first year with Ganassi.

“That includes being unselfish to his teammates, especially with Scott Dixon who won the INDYCAR championship. He’s a great foundational piece of our overall program and he fits well within our group. That translates into success on the track, and we’re glad to have him continue to grow and move the team toward into the future.”

O’Ward continuing with Arrow McLaren SP

After a stellar first season of full-time IndyCar Series competition, Pato O’Ward will be back behind the wheel of the No. 5 entry for Arrow McLaren SP, the team announced on October 13.

“I am beyond excited to be racing with Arrow McLaren SP next season to build on what we have accomplished so far this year. Such a great group of people who truly have welcomed me like a second family,” said O’Ward.

“Given how much change I have seen in my career to this point, it is invaluable to get the opportunity to put down roots and build on a foundation year over year.” 

O’Ward celebrates his first career pole position for Race 2 at Road America (Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR)

During his first season with the team, O’Ward earned three runner-up finishes (Road America 2, Gateway 2 and St. Petersburg) On July 12, he earned his first career pole position for the second Road America event, where he finished second to Rosenqvist, his 2021 teammate.

A month later, he finished sixth at the Indianapolis 500 and earned Rookie of the Year honors.

“The entire team and I are thrilled to have Pato back in the car next year,” said Schmidt.

“He has shown incredible form this year and has kept himself in the championship hunt all season long. I think he has the potential to compete at the highest level in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for a long time.”

Next week, more testing is planned. This time, Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama will host drivers on the 2.38-mile, 16-turn road course. With several teams rumored to be working on additional entries, offseason testing will be worth viewing closely.

Header Image By James Black/IndyCar

Published by Spencer Neff

I am a lifelong auto racing fan. Through IndyCar1909, I look forward to sharing my passion for the series and its illustrious history with you.

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