Two months remains in the calendar year, but the motorsports season is approaching its final act. More and more hardware is being distributed and it will continue for another month. October is not the crescendo it once was but it remains a notable part of the year.
IndyCar Silly Season
It didn't really happen until a week ago, but IndyCar silly season sparked off and caught everybody's attention with a series of moves and decisions that have yet to be made.
In the last decade, IndyCar silly season moves quick. In recent years, 95% of the grid is settled come Thanksgiving and we are at 100% before Christmas. In the last few years, we have known about 30 Indianapolis 500 entries before the calendar has even changed to the New Year. The final week of October may have gotten the ball rolling on the final act, but we aren't sure how it will play out.
What has brought us here to this moment?
It started with a surprise. Pietro Fittipaldi, nearly three years removed from his most recent IndyCar appearance, was announced as the full-time driver for the #30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda entry in 2024, a pairing nobody had previous heard coming prior to the unexpected announcement.
Then something rather expected occurred. Ed Carpenter Racing confirmed it would have the 2023 Indy Lights champion Christian Rasmussen drive the #20 Chevrolet in 2024. However, Rasmussen would not have a full-time ride, as ECR announced Ed Carpenter would return to the #20 Chevrolet for the oval races, shuttering the oval-only third entry Carpenter had driven the previous two seasons for the team, meaning Rasmussen would only contest the 11 road/street course races in the #20 entry. However, ECR did confirm the Danish driver would run an additional car for the team at the Indianapolis 500.
The final surprise was Callum Ilott's dismissal from Juncos Hollinger Racing after two seasons with the team and having an option for the 2024 season. Ilott's dismissal was a little more than a week after JHR confirmed Agustín Canapino would return for his second season with the organization.
Where do these recent moves leave us on the final day of October in the year 2023?
Twenty-two seats are officially accounted for.
Andretti Autosport, or soon to be known as Andretti Global, is keeping Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood with Marcus Ericsson joining the fray.
Arrow McLaren has Patricio O'Ward and Alexander Rossi returning, and it is adding David Malukas.
Chip Ganassi Racing is retaining Scott Dixon and Álex Palou, promoting Marcus Armstrong to full-time while bringing in Linus Lundqvist and expanding to accommodate the paycheck from Kyffin Simpson.
We have covered Ed Carpenter Racing running the Rasmussun/Carpenter partnership, but Rinus VeeKay will be back as well.
Add Canapino remaining at Juncos Hollinger Racing.
Meyer Shank Racing has Felix Rosenqvist taking over the #60 Honda entry while Tom Blomqvist's full-time move will be in the #06 Honda.
Along with the addition of Pietro Fittipaldi, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard back for another season.
No changes at Team Penske with Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin and Will Power staying where they are at.
What is left undecided?
A.J. Foyt Racing has not confirmed either Santino Ferrucci or Benjamin Pedersen will be back.
Andretti Autosport has to make a decision about the vacant fourth seat that will not be receiving around $1 million in Leader Circle funding.
Neither Dale Coyne Racing seat has been claimed, though the team has announced plans to test Enzo Fittipaldi, younger brother of Pietro.
There is the open Juncos Hollinger Racing seat now that Callum Ilott is out.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has left open the possibility of a fourth full-time entry for Jüri Vips, who remains contracted with the team as a reserve driver though Vip was passed over for the #30 entry. Of course, with 15 Honda entries already confirmed for full-time competition, the additional RLLR seat could come down to whether or not Andretti Autosport keeps its fourth entry.
We are likely looking at a minimum of 27 full-time entries again with an outside chance of 28, and that isn't even factoring that we have four Indianapolis 500-only entries set. Those would be Marco Andretti in an additional Andretti car, Kyle Larson's Double attempt with McLaren, Rasmussen in his ride with ECR and then Hélio Castroneves with Meyer Shank Racing.
A few tests will be held over the coming weeks before the holiday testing break goes into effect and there are over a dozen drivers who competed in IndyCar last year without a seat at the moment for 2024 while a host of drivers from other disciplines also have interest in the series. Silly season is only heating up as the seats begin to dwindle.
I wanted to take a moment to point out how different November is from Novembers of the past because this coming Sunday is the final race of the NASCAR season. Meanwhile, MotoGP and Formula One each have three races remaining in November.
Not long ago, it was the opposite. NASCAR would go deep into November and MotoGP and Formula One wouldn't even race in November. They would be over by the end of October at the latest.
Here we are in 2023 with the two global series running through most of autumn, which is actually most of spring in the Southern Hemisphere, and America’s biggest series isn’t even making it a week into November.
MotoGP will end with a three-week global jaunt from Malaysia to Qatar to Valencia. Three weeks, three continents and a championship battle worth the excessive travel.
Formula One has its race in Brazil but after a week off it will run an absurd event late on a Saturday night on the streets of Las Vegas before ending seven days later with another night race in Abu Dhabi.
Twenty years ago, such ends to the seasons were unthinkable, borderline crazy to an extent. Perhaps the world has gone mad, and motorsports wasn't immunity to the insanity.
Other events of note in November:
The FIA World Endurance Championship ends in Bahrain.
The World Rally Championship has a dead-rubber in Japan.
Supercars has a championship decider in Adelaide between Brodie Kostecki and American-bound Shane van Gisbergen.