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Andretti Autosport could downsize to 3 cars in 2024; Romain Grosjean says he won't return

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

PORTLAND, Oregon – Andretti Autosport team owner Michael Andretti has yet to assemble a fourth IndyCar entry for 2024 and might downsize to three cars next season — either way, the team no longer will have Romain Grosjean.

Andretti told NBC Sports last week at World Wide Technology Raceway that he is committed to a three-driver lineup that includes recently signed Marcus Ericsson and current drivers Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood. Andretti hopes to put together the necessary financing for a fourth entry but revealed that he could return to just three cars in 2024.

Saturday morning in the paddock at Portland International Raceway, NBC Sports asked Andretti if he still was noncommittal on a fourth team for 2024.

“That is correct, we are still very much non-committal,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “We are working on a fourth right now. To be honest with you, we really don’t know what we want to do yet. We hope to have an answer by Laguna Seca.

“There are a lot of things that go into a fourth car, not just sponsorship. We have quite a few different options we are looking at and see what the best one is that works for us.”

Romain Grosjean also told NBC Sports on Friday that he is out at Andretti, but “I’m a Phoenix. I will always find a place to land.”

Grosjean’s landing spot, however, may not be in IndyCar, but in sports cars Grosjean has a contract with Lamborghini and is helping the manufacturer develop its new hybrid prototype for the World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship series.

Here’s how things stand now for Andretti:

—Herta returns to the No. 26 Honda after signing a contract last year that made him the highest-paid driver in IndyCar, for now. Two-time IndyCar Series winning driver Kyle Kirkwood returns to the No. 27 Honda. Ericsson, the winner of the 106th Indianapolis 500 in 2022, signed a lucrative, long-term deal with Andretti on Aug. 23, but doesn’t know if he will be in the No. 28 or 29.

Grosjean is currently in the No. 28 Honda, and Devlin DeFrancesco is in the “paying” Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing No. 29.

—George Michael Steinbrenner, IV, his sister Julia Steinbrenner and their stepfather, Sean Jones, the chief operating officer at Steinbrenner Racing, told NBC Sports on Saturday that they are unsure what they will do next year. They could get out of team ownership and move into a mentoring and marketing role that would keep them involved in IndyCar.

—DeFrancesco is expected to take his financial backing to Dale Coyne Racing for next season, which would keep the driver from Canada with Honda.

There is a potential dilemma for Andretti Autosport, however — by dropping to three cars, the team permanently relinquishes its position in IndyCar’s “Leaders Circle Program” that rewards participation to the top 22 entrants in the series.

Andretti Autosport was grandfathered with a fourth Leaders Circle entry when Harding-Steinbrenner Racing was absorbed by Michael Andretti’s team in 2020.

Once Andretti becomes a three-car team, even if it eventually returns to a fourth entry, it won’t qualify for a fourth “Leaders Circle” entrant because IndyCar puts a maximum cap on three entrants per team.

Andretti is waiting for a potential sponsor to “show him the money” before he can move forward on fielding a fourth entrant in 2024.

At one time, it appeared that David Malukas was in line for a ride at Andretti, but the Dale Coyne Racing driver is expected to join Arrow McLaren Racing later this week.

“We are in a rebuilding stage right now and not quite where we want to be yet,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “We have had fast cars at every race, cars capable of winning, but somehow, something always gets in the way. Either the team makes a mistake, or we get caught in an accident that wasn’t our fault or the team makes a mistake.

“The positive is we have cars that are competitive and if we can do our job and not make mistakes, we have cars that are fast enough to win races.”

That is where a proven veteran such as Ericsson will help the team, Andretti believes.

“I’m really excited to get Marcus,” Andretti said. “He is the type of driver we need here. He is very experienced and very committed. It’s going to be good for our young guys as well. It’s a great mix. He is excited to work with Colton and Kyle and it’s very exciting for our future.

“Kyle is a complete driver, but we’ve known that for a long time. He drove to the Indy Lights championship for us. We are very, very happy with the job he has done. He is very committed and does a lot of work outside of the car as well.

“He is a future champion.”

Andretti is also in the final stages of putting a deal together for an Andretti Global Formula One team that would feature Cadillac as a partner. That team, which is heavily funded by Dan Towriss, Group 1001 and Gainbridge, is awaiting approval from Formula One and the FIA.

“I think that is getting really close,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “I hope to be getting approval soon.

“It’s not like 100 percent of the Formula One owners are against this. It would be really good for everybody involved. It would be the first time General Motors is involved in Formula One.”

Follow Bruce Martin at @BruceMartin_500