How Does This Affect IndyCar?

Yesterday we learned the Andretti Global has entered into a partnership with Cadillac of General Motors, to help Michael Andretti land the coveted berth in Formula One that he has been seeking for what seems like forever. This satisfies one of the main obstacles that had been cited as preventing Andretti to be admitted as an eleventh team – the introduction of a new OEM to Formula One.

As far as I know, General Motors has never been a participant in Formula One. They have chosen their premier luxury brand of Cadillac to represent the company in this new arena, and will do so through Andretti Cadillac Racing.

This made a huge splash across social media, but it sort of brought a half-hearted yawn from me. While this was big news for Michael Andretti and his quest to own a Formula One team; I was left wondering what effect, if any, this had on the IndyCar program for Andretti Autosport.

I am a casual fan of Formula One, at best. If I was to opine what this meant for Andretti, Cadillac or F1, I would come off looking like a bigger fool than I normally do. To comment on that would just get me in trouble, so I will stay in my lane and try to speculate on what this means to Andretti Autosport and the NTT IndyCar Series as a whole.

As you know, Andretti is a Honda team and has been since the 2014 IndyCar season. Prior to that, they were aligned with Chevy for two years once Chevy re-entered the series in 2012. Before 2012, Andretti Autosport (formerly Andretti-Green Racing and Team Green in CART) had been aligned with Honda since 1997.

The 2023 season will mark twenty-five out of the last twenty-seven seasons that the IndyCar team now known as Andretti Autosport has been powered by Honda. I don’t know this for certain, but I’m guessing that is the longest tenure in total years for any Honda team in the series – although The team now known as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has the longest current streak, having been with the Japanese automaker since 2003; after the ill-fated 1994 effort when Rahal/Hogan Racing initially brought Honda into the sport..

The question that everyone wants to know is, will Andretti Autosport in IndyCar switch to Chevrolet in the near future to massage the new relationship that Andretti Global now has with General Motors? My guess is no.

Not only does Andretti’s IndyCar team have a relationship with Honda dating back to 1997, Andretti-Green (AGR) was the Honda “works” team from 2003 through 2005 – when such a relationship was still allowable. AGR got all of the new engine developments before any of the other Honda teams. The team rewarded Honda with two Indianapolis 500 wins and two IndyCar championships, before Honda became the sole engine supplier to the IndyCar series in 2006.

In all honesty, I was a little surprised that Andretti switched to Chevy, when the new V-6 turbocharged engine formula was introduced in 2012, luring Chevy and Lotus to join the series along with Honda. Two years later, Andretti was back with Honda and they have been ever since.

The only possible way I see Andretti switching to General Motors is if it is through Cadillac branding, with an actually different engine – and not just a re-badged Chevy Ilmor. There have been a couple of semi-recent precedents for this.

General Motors supported Chevy, Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile entries in NASCAR through the early nineties. Pontiac stayed through the 2004 season, leaving Chevy as the lone GM brand in NASCAR. Were there differences between those engines? I’m not enough of a gearhead or NASCAR fan to answer that question.

But I do know that in IndyCar – the Chevy engine of the late eighties and early nineties, was completely different than the Buick engine of that same time frame. Could a Cadillac IndyCar engine offer something different than the Chevy and Honda engine? Would this count as third all-important third OEM, since Chevy and Cadillac are both owned by General Motors? Again, I don’t have the answer to those questions.

One thing is clear – having an association in one series does not mean exclusivity for another. While Rahal has been aligned with Honda’s IndyCar program, the team’s sports car program has been aligned with BMW for years. Team Penske’s IndyCar team has enjoyed two long stints with Chevrolet, the current stint dating back to 2012; but their sports car programs have been powered by Acura and soon to be Porsche. Their NASCAR team has been powered by Ford since 2013. Ganassi has been with Honda in three different stints, but has enjoyed this current Honda relationship since the 2017 season. But in sports cars, the team will be powered by Cadillac.

If those teams can have multiple engine partners across various series, why would Andretti be forced to abandon Honda in IndyCar, simply because they have struck up a partnership with Cadillac? Of course, the operative word there is forced. Michael Andretti may want to switch to General Motors in IndyCar. That puts a totally different spin on things.

The Andretti Cadillac Racing news seemed to rock the racing world yesterday, but since I don’t follow F1 that closely – I don’t think my world was rocked near as much as others. It really didn’t affect me that much. But if it changes the balance of power in IndyCar or means a possible third OEM in the series – now it has my attention.

George Phillips

5 Responses to “How Does This Affect IndyCar?”

  1. James T Suel Says:

    George I don’t think Andretti will change in Indycar. They will stay with Honda in Indycar. I follow F1 some but like you not all that much. But I hope they get their F1 deal.

  2. AA can’t run their Indycar program properly to compete as an elite team. Personally, I think Barry Green was behind them being dominant in the early 2000’s, not Michael. So their way to fix it is to expand further and be dysfunctional in other series too. I don’t see them changing engines but if it’s something that can cause chaos and dysfunction, they will do it so might as well sign them up for Lotus in 2023!

  3. I see no reason to believe that Andretti can compete at the sharp end in F1. I do however see reason to think that Andretti INDYCAR and other teams in their group might stumble through management not being up to the task. I would love to be proved wrong.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    The only effect this will might have on Indycar is if GM decides they are uninterested in continuing in the series when their contract ends because they feel that F1 participation makes that unnecessary. Possible, but still unlikely at this point, I think.

    That and Andretti moving Colton Herta to F1 at their earliest opportunity. Otherwise, business as usual for the series, and all the positives and negatives that go with that statement.

  5. Don’t be too hard on AA. Things are looking up now with TGBB gone.

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