Arrow McLaren SP is interested in Kyle Busch’s participation in the Indy 500 as the NTT IndyCar Series team strengthens its leadership roles. after the departure of the President.
On Thursday, the head of McLaren Racing held a meeting at his IndyCar store to introduce new employee Brian Barnhart and allay any concerns about Taylor Keel’s sudden departure this week.
Zach Brown didn’t give the title to Barnhart, an industry veteran who spent last season as Alexander Rossi’s strategist at Andretti Autosport. Next season, Rossi will be part of the expanded three-car Arrow McLaren SP lineup, with Barnhart reporting to Brown.
Brown told The Associated Press that he is still finalizing the IndyCar division’s senior management team structure and is “hiring like crazy” ahead of an optional third car. McLaren is also building a state-of-the-art store in Indianapolis that will be similar to the Formula One factory in England.
And the team is seriously discussing the possibility of a fourth Indianapolis 500 for two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Bush, who has been wanting to race Brickyard in May for several years. The effort is likely to be backed by Menars as Busch, who left Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing last week after 15 years to sign with Richard Childress Racing, has permission to race in the Indy 500 with the Chevrolet team.
Bush is a Las Vegas native, and Arrow McLaren SP was founded by longtime Las Vegas resident Sam Schmidt. Bush’s older brother, Kurt, was the last NASCAR driver to race the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. Kurt Busch was the 2014 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year with a sixth-place finish in Andretti Autosport.
It’s been a busy season for McLaren and Brown as the organization has been trying to bolster its multi-series lineups with top talent. This led to a F1 dispute with rival Alpine team over the rights to Oscar Piastri, which was won by McLaren, and a $15 million buyout of Daniel Ricciardo to make room for Piastri.
Then there was a lengthy legal battle at IndyCar over the rights to 2021 champion Alex Palou, who will eventually stay with Chip Ganassi Racing for the final season of his contract. But he was allowed to test a Formula One car for McLaren last week and is expected to make a full move to McLaren in 2024 when his Ganassi deal is finalized.
Now the team has lost Kiel, who joined the organization nearly 15 years ago when Sam Schmidt Motorsports was an Indy Lights team.
“It has been an honor to have worked for Arrow McLaren SP for over a decade. When I leave, I am most proud of the fact that I have turned this team into a powerful center that can fight for the championship and win every week. Now I look forward to spending time with my growing family and everything that comes next!” Keel posted the shocking statement on social media.
Although he was unsure of his next move, it was widely believed that Kiel would be represented by Ganassi as soon as his non-compete clause expired. It is unclear what the role of Kiel will be. Mike Hull, his stepfather, has worked with Ganassi for over three decades and, as managing director, effectively runs the organization.
McLaren only said of Keel: “Taylor Keel is stepping down as president of the Arrow McLaren SP after two seasons. As the team grows to three cars for the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season, announcements will be made about team management in due course.”
Barnhart, meanwhile, is the former president of racing operations and racing director of IndyCar. He joined Harding Racing in 2017, which then became Harding Steinbrenner Racing before being taken over by Andretti Autosport.
While he remains unsure about his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson will not be racing full-time in 2023, having cut his schedule after competing in the full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.
“It was a difficult choice for me, but deep down I know it was the right choice,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not entirely sure what’s in the next chapter, but if an opportunity presents itself that makes sense, I’ll consider it. I still have a list of races that I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar was a great experience for me.
“I couldn’t ask for a better racing team than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. In the last two seasons, everyone has worked very hard to get the best results from me every week. The support from my team and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Canaan), Marcus (Eriksson) and Alex (Palou) was beyond anything I could ever ask for.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMY JOHNSON: Analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season.
Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson finished 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth on July 24 at Iowa Speedway.
After driving only road and street circuits in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.
“I have a desire to return (to IndyCar), it’s just that at the moment I know what it takes for a full schedule, and I don’t have it,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have the passion I need for myself to dedicate myself to a full season.”
This leaves open the question of Johnson returning part-time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on the ovals.
“We fully support Jimmy,” said team owner Chip Ganassi. “He was a valuable member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to.”
During the weekend of the final race of the IndyCar season, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he plans to explore options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told The Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or twoand he mulled over the idea of competing in the World Endurance Championship due to its international presence.
Johnson did not rule out the use of sports cars IndyCar and IMSA or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. After retiring from NASCAR full-time after the 2020 season, he competed in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance racing in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for Garage 56 (a joint venture between NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).
Johnson told AP he’s interested in being the last rider to try the Double and run the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the last being Kurt Busch in 2014).
“You know me and endurance sports, and The Double sounds amazing,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I have always respected the guys who made The Double. I’d say it’s more respect than a wish list item and I’d like to put some energy into this idea and see if I can make it happen.”
It is unlikely to return to IMSA endurance racing because its top-of-the-line prototype series is under overhaul, limiting the amount of inventory available for new LMDh vehicles in the rebranded GTP division.
I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in @indycar series. Looking ahead, I will not be returning to INDYCAR full-time in 2023, but will continue to look for new ways to challenge myself and participate in bucket list activities. More: https://t.co/H3e7X6PTLG pic.twitter.com/0kujpWdCaw
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) September 26, 2022
Johnson confirmed that he would leave the main sponsor Carvana, which has supported him in IndyCar for the past two years. He announced his decision on Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel”, An eight-part documentary series by Carvana Racing about its 2023 season.
“I am grateful to partner with a company like Carvana for letting me go on this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value of our partnership and for being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They really showed me that there is no finish line in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August have been there every step of the way and I couldn’t have made it without them all. Most importantly – and the real rock stars in all of this – are my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always let me pursue my dreams and we are all very excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these past two years.”
Carvana co-founder Ryan Keaton said: “The last two years with Jimmie Johnson have been so great to work with. Our team admires his enthusiasm, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement and fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”