Arrow McLaren names Gavin Ward team principal, Tony Kanaan sporting director

Two days short of one year since it announced a major restructuring of its IndyCar management team, Arrow McLaren has again tweaked with the titles and roles of three of its most senior officials.

On Monday, the team announced that Gavin Ward, who served as Arrow McLaren's racing director for the 2023 campaign after joining midway through the 2022 campaign as its director of trackside engineering, will step into a newly-formed team principal role that "better reflects Gavin's overarching responsibility of the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team," the team said in a release.

Ward now reports directly to McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.

"Last year at this time, the team went through significant changes and growth, and we had to move fast to recruit and stay ahead of preparation for the upcoming season. We've used the last several months as an opportunity to observe our ways of working -- where we're strong, and where we need to be better," Ward said in the release. "I'm excited for these changes. This team has great characters and a ton of talent, and this is all about leaning into people's strengths and allowing the team to run fast and effectively."

Brian Barnhart, who was newly hired last fall in a team general manager role to dovetail off Ward's strictly on-track responsibilities, will continue in the role while overseeing Arrow McLaren's business operations and administration duties. He'll now report to Ward.

Stepping into a similar role Ward has now vacated in his promotion to oversee the team as a whole, Arrow McLaren's special advisor Tony Kanaan has now been named the team's sporting director. According to the release, the position expands what had just been a race weekend-only role for Kanaan, after he made the final IndyCar start of his career this May in the Indianapolis 500. He'll now "work closely with the drivers, help build and strengthen partner relationships and serve as a resource for the team to stay performance-focused in it's day-to-day work," according to the team.

"My role as special advisor was really an opportunity for me to test the waters of being on the other side of a team as a leader and no longer a driver," Kanaan said in the release. "I found out pretty quickly that this side isn't too bad

"I really like it, actually and thought I have more to contribute in the day-to-day, outside just race weekends."

Tony Kanaan stands in the pit box with Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenqvist (6) on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, during practice for the Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Tony Kanaan stands in the pit box with Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenqvist (6) on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, during practice for the Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Insider: How the loss of Alex Palou will affect Zak Brown, Arrow McLaren

Less than a month ago, Arrow McLaren closed out its first season running three full-time cars, a process it said saw it expand its Indianapolis-based staff by 40% to accommodate the new entry manned by Indy 500-winner and ex-Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi. Together with incumbents Pato O'Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren totaled a team-best 10 podiums in a year that saw it far more consistently finding pace and cutting down on its human and mechanical errors that plagued its 2022 campaign.

The team failed to capture a victory, though -- its first winless campaign since 2020, the first year that McLaren Racing began integrating into Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson's program, before ultimately buying a controlling stake in 2021. In August, the team was collectively stunned when prospective new driver and 2023 IndyCar champ Alex Palou turned his back on a three-year deal with the team he signed a year ago that would've locked in the two-time champion for 2024-26.

The IndyCar team, along with its parent company McLaren Racing, filed separate lawsuits against Palou and his racing entity ALPA Racing USA LLC in U.K. Commercial Court in August in hopes of recouping the tens of millions of dollars the teams believe they are owed, related to the expenses of the driver's F1 testing program, pre-paid salary and other related losses. Those separate suits against Palou and ALPA Racing have since been joined into one, according to court documents.

Court documents: McLaren Racing claims Alex Palou signed 3-year IndyCar deal last October

Having already gone through two years of uncertainty as to his status with the team amidst Palou's on-going contractual saga with McLaren and his home at Chip Ganassi Racing, Rosenqvist opted to start fresh at Meyer Shank Racing for 2024, leaving Ward, Brown and Kanaan to snag second-year driver David Malukas off the free-agent market to pilot the No. 6 Chevy alongside O'Ward and Rossi for 2024. In addition, the team will welcome 2021 NASCAR champ Kyle Larson for an Indy 500-only ride in 2024 in a partnership with Larson's NASCAR team, Hendrick Motorsports. Larson will hop into a car for the first time later this month in his 500 rookie test.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IndyCar: Arrow McLaren upgrades titles of Gavin Ward, Tony Kanaan