Armstrong in frame to replace Sato on ovals

Marcus Armstrong

Marcus Armstrong

Marcus Armstrong could replace Chip Ganassi Racing team-mate Takuma Sato on ovals later this IndyCar season.

Sato is undertaking an oval-only programme with Ganassi while Armstrong is signed up for the road courses and street circuits.

However, the Japanese driver’s deal in fact only covers the upcoming Texas race and the Indianapolis 500 for now, a fact disguised by January’s cleverly-worded press release which stated he will “pilot the No. 11 Honda in oval competition.”

On whether Sato contests the other three oval races, Ganassi himself told reporters from the St Petersburg season-opener, “We’re trying to get it all together. I don’t have the sponsorship right now.”

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If sponsorship is not forthcoming for a longer campaign for the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, the #11 entry could be parked for the other three oval races, given it is not eligible for the Leader’s Circle programme.

However, it is possible that the rookie New Zealander in the field may well enjoy more miles in 2023.

“I want to temper my enthusiasm,” said Ganassi.

“He’s not doing all the races. But if he’s not careful, he may find himself in more races.”

Sato and Ericsson were brought into the squad when Jimmie Johnson, who had been driving the fourth Ganassi car as #48, opted for semi-retirement and a move back towards NASCAR.

Ganassi was willing to continue the relationship into another year, and the door remains open for a future one-off at the Indy 500.

“I thought we were okay there for another year,” admitted the legendary team boss.

“I don’t want to say it caught me off-guard but I could have gone another year there with Jimmie and [sponsor] Carvana.

“We talked about [the 2023 Indy 500] with him a little bit. I think we all said, ‘Gee, that would be great, let’s do it,’ but he’s got a lot going on with his new deal.

“We’d have to come up with some guys. It wasn’t just a lay-up to do it.

“I’m not saying I wouldn’t want to do it, or I won’t do it in the future. I think Jimmie was fully aware he could do Indy with us this year, but it wasn’t a glove fit.

“The takeaway there is he and I are on as good of terms as ever. We’ve never been on bad terms.”

The 2023 IndyCar Series continues at Texas on April 1-2 (local time), with every race live and ad-free on Stan Sport.

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