Both McLaren and Chip Ganassi Racing say IndyCar champ Alex Palou will race for them in 2023

·4-min read

Reigning IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou appears to have contracts with two teams for the 2023 season.

Tuesday afternoon, Chip Ganassi Racing announced that it had exercised an option on Palou’s contract for 2023 and even included a quote from Palou in its announcement. Hours later, McLaren announced that Palou would be driving for one of its teams next season. And McLaren’s announcement came after Palou posted to social media that the quote in the CGR announcement didn’t actually come from him.

What a mess.

Palou joined CGR ahead of the 2021 season from Dale Coyne Racing and signed a two-year contract with the team that included an option. While McLaren had been mentioned as a possible next stop for him because of its Formula 1 team in addition to its Formula E and IndyCar team, it reasoned that Ganassi would do all it could to retain a driver who had quickly established himself as one of the best in the series.

Palou, 25, finished in the top three in half of the races in his first season with CGR on his way to the title. And he’s currently fourth in the standings through the first nine races of 2022.

“It’s a great feeling knowing I’ll be back with Chip Ganassi Racing next season,” the quote from Palou said in the CGR announcement. “The team welcomed me with open arms from day one, and I’m excited to continue working with Chip, Mike Hull, the folks on the No. 10 NTT DATA car and everyone within the organization. The goals remain the same and we will continue to work relentlessly towards achieving them.”

Shortly after CGR’s announcement, Palou tweeted that the quote included in the release wasn’t actually from him.

Palou’s tweets were then followed by McLaren’s announcement that he would be driving for one of its teams in 2023. McLaren’s announcement also included a quote from Palou and the mention that he'd be a part of its Formula 1 testing program with IndyCar drivers Pato O'Ward and Colton Herta in 2023.

“I’m extremely excited to join the driver roster for such an iconic team as McLaren," Palou said in the McLaren announcement. "I’m excited to be able to show what I can do behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car and looking at what doors that may open. I want to thank everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing for everything they have done for me.”

So what’s the deal? We’re not sure at all. If McLaren had bought out the final year of Palou’s deal with CGR, then it doesn’t make sense that CGR would have announced it picked up Palou’s option. At the very least, we’re confident that this situation likely already involves lawyers trying to figure out just which team has the rights to a contract with Palou for 2023.

A move to McLaren makes sense for Palou, even if CGR has been one of the two best teams in the IndyCar Series over the last decade-plus. By moving to McLaren — it’s important to note that the release from the team didn’t specify the Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team or the Formula E team — Palou gets a chance to at least do some Formula 1 testing. CGR doesn’t have an arrangement with an F1 team. And if F1 is Palou’s ultimate goal, then McLaren is the IndyCar team that gives him the best shot of that.

Will he have that shot with McLaren in 2023, however? He certainly thinks so. And we’ll find out for sure over the coming weeks and months.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 23: Alex Palou  poses for the front row photo for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Alex Palou won the 2021 IndyCar Series title in his first season with Chip Ganassi Racing. (Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)