Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe who this weekend is driving the No.29 #ShiftToGreen Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport Honda confirmed in Mid-Ohio on Friday that his contract with the team is up at the end of the season. The Mayor of HinchTown who by his own admission has endured an extremely difficult 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season has also confirmed that he and his team have yet to open talks with Andretti about next year or beyond.
The Canadian had a solid start to the Honda Indy 200 presented by HPD Ridgeline on Friday as he ended the opening practice session in tenth place but between reliability issues and a lack of pace from the car, it has been a disastrous year not just for Hinch but the entire Andretti Autosport team with the exception of Colton Herta in the No.26 Gainbridge Honda who took victory in the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg earlier this season.
Andretti Autosport team owner and CEO Michael Andretti admitted earlier this week that he is looking to make at least one change in the driver line up for 2022 and Paddock Eye understands that one of those changes could see Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s Romain Grosjean head to Andretti to drive the No.28 DHL Honda in partnership with Ryan Hunter Reay as it is understood that RHR could potentially move to an oval only program similar to Tony Kanaan at Chip Ganassi Racing.
BMW i Andretti Motorsports Formula E Team Principal Roger Griffiths believes that highly-rated American driver Kyle Kirkwood could end up racing in the NTT IndyCar Series instead of Formula E, given that he is doing a stellar job in the Indy Lights series this season.
So where would that leave James Hinchcliffe? Paddock Eye understands that the Mayor of HinchTown is not worried about the 2022 season as there are a number of options open to the Canadian in the NTT IndyCar Series as he revealed that he is not ready to give up full-time IndyCar competition.
One destination for Hinchcliffe could be to bring Genesys to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing who are planning to expand to a three-car full-time program in 2022 however, Santino Ferrucci who is set to make his final appearance for RLL this season this weekend in Mid-Ohio is effectively auditioning for that third seat.
It is also possible but not likely that if Takuma Sato who is out of contact at the end of the season decides to hang up his gloves that Hinch could take over the No.30 Honda alongside Graham Rahal and Santino Ferrucci.
Dale Coyne Racing could have an opening if Andretti Autosport are successful in luring Romain Grosjean to the team which could be an opportunity for Hinchcliffe, that is pretty much it when it comes to Honda-powered teams as all of Chip Ganassi Racing’s drivers are locked up in on long term contracts and despite selling his NASCAR operation earlier this week it is unlikely that Chip would expand to a five-car full-time program in the NTT IndyCar Series.
A move to a Chevrolet-powered team is just as unlikely for Hinchcliffe given his close relationship with Honda. It is likely that Arrow McLaren SP will expand to a three-car operation in 2022 however, given the acrimonious parting of ways between Hinch and the team at the end of 2019 such a move back there is unlikely.
Ed Carpenter Racing is happy with their two drivers with Rinus VeeKay doing a great job for the team alongside Conor Daly while Carlin is expected to continue with one car full-time in 2022 with Max Chilton competing on road and street courses while Conor Daly continues on ovals for the team.
AJ Foyt Racing could be a destination for Hinchcliffe alongside Sebastien Bourdais however, for such a move to take place the team would likely have to switch back to Honda which is highly unlikely.
As for Team Penske, Paddock Eye understands that Simon Pagenaud is expected to sign a new long-term contract with the team over the Summer break which will include a move to IMSA in 2023 and continuing to run the Indianapolis 500 for the Captain.