With Alex Palou’s future at Chip Ganassi Racing in doubt for the 2023 IndyCar season, is a new favorite emerging as his potential replacement?
The status of reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou for the 2023 season remains unclear, but after Chip Ganassi Racing and McLaren announced in July that they had signed him for next year, it’s clear he intends to leave Chip. Ganassi Racing and racing for McLaren.
Palou responded to the Chip Ganassi Racing press release stating that he did not clear it and, although the specific series was not confirmed, he announced that he was happy to join the McLaren family next year.
While things are far from settled, especially after a somewhat worrying development on the McLaren side, there’s still a good chance someone new will be behind the wheel of the #10 Honda next year.
And it seems that a new favorite has emerged to replace Palou.
Rookie David Malukas was reported to have a long-term deal with Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports, as HMD Trucking is owned by his father Henry. In fact, the team insisted last weekend that this deal remains in place for 2023.
However, the 20-year-old Lithuanian-American also recently admitted that things might not be as clear cut as they seemed.
A day before taking a career-best second in the race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Malukas, who now sits just five points behind Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard in the Rookie of the Year battle, said that he would be happy to spend another year behind the wheel of the #18 Honda.
Given the feedback from the team, that still seems like the most likely option. But Malukas added that there are “different options” and that those options are currently “very quiet,” according to IndyStar.
Overall, Malukas leaving Dale Coyne Racing after just one season might make sense. HMD Motorsports is currently fielding an Indy Lights entry for Linus Lundqvist, who is close to securing the 2022 championship and thus securing funding for at least three IndyCar races, including the Indy 500, next year.
HMD Motorsports is keen to see Lundqvist in a full-time IndyCar role, but unless another Honda team reduces the number of cars or Takuma Sato decides to retire, there won’t be enough engines for Dale Coyne Racing to expand from two to three cars.
So loaning Malukas to Chip Ganassi Racing to fill a supposedly vacant #10 Honda could benefit all parties involved.
Malukas would get a chance to race for a championship-caliber team, his father would get a chance to watch him do it, all while promoting his best Indy Lights driver to the highest level of the sport, Lundqvist would get a full-time IndyCar ride to Despite the fact that there are currently limited options available, and Chip Ganassi Racing would have a perfectly viable replacement for Palou.
Given the current uncertainty surrounding the legal situation at Chip Ganassi Racing, it also makes sense that from now on, only the fact that Malukas has a deal with his current team will be published.
Eventually those things will be resolved, and it’s entirely possible that Malukas will stay as advertised. But the “never say never” element has already been at an all-time high this silly season, and that might as well continue.
And we all know what happened the last time Chip Ganassi Racing signed a rookie from Dale Coyne Racing; he seemingly emerged from nowhere and won the 2021 title.
Malukas, of course, could still win this year’s Rookie of the Year title, but it’s worth noting that Palou ironically finished that battle in second place in 2020 as well.
Of course, some have suggested that Chip Ganassi Racing should opt for a short-term replacement for Palou, such as a veteran in Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Hunter-Reay or Tony Kanaan, before trying to sign a young driver like Colton Herta. whose contract with Andretti Autosport expires after the 2023 season, for 2024.
But amid Herta’s – and interestingly enough Michael Andretti’s – recent ties to the AlphaTauri Formula 1 team, which could see him leave IndyCar early next year, the 22-year-old Californian may not be available, and Chip Ganassi Racing can be smart. secure the services of a young driver sooner rather than later.
However, if Malukas is already out of the mix, who else might be under consideration, as long as the legal process doesn’t result in a surprise return from Palou?