Sunday, 3 Dec, 2023

Kiel’s McLaren exit sparks IndyCar team management changes

Kiel's McLaren exit sparks IndyCar management flux

Kiel’s surprise decision comes after two years as president of a team he first joined almost 15 years ago, when it was still Sam Schmidt Motorsports and was mainly in Indy Lights with annual forays into the Indy 500.

As reported on, Kiel posted on social media: “What a ride it’s been with Arrow McLaren SP. It has been an honor to work for Arrow McLaren SP for more than a decade. When I started as a junior Indy Lights mechanic at Sam Schmidt Motorsports, I saw the potential to learn and grow within the organization with mentorship from Sam and Chris Griffis.

“As I step away, I am most proud that we’ve grown this team into an organization able to fight for championships and wins each week. I now look forward to spending time with my own growing family and an exciting, new chapter ahead.”

Many believe it has been Kiel’s calm demeanour on the radio, calling strategy for Pato O’Ward, that has been key to extracting the most from the mercurial youngster who has finished fourth, third and seventh in the championship over the last three seasons. In that time O’Ward amassed five poles, four wins, nine other podiums and ten more top fives.

Autosport has learned that Kiel’s “new chapter” will be at Chip Ganassi Racing, learning the ropes from managing director Mike Hull, who is also his stepfather. Hull has been at Ganassi for over three decades, with Kiel an option to act has his successor in the future.

Kiel’s departure from Arrow McLaren SP comes at an auspicious time, as the team expands to three full-time entries for O’Ward, new arrival Alexander Rossi and recently confirmed Felix Rosenqvist, who was on shaky ground for most of the summer as McLaren signed Alex Palou.

Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

The messy case was resolved out of court when it appeared Palou’s management conceded that he had broken the terms of his Ganassi contract by negotiating with a rival squad so early in the season, and that Chip Ganassi exercising his option on the Spanish star for a third season took precedence. Thus the 2021 IndyCar champion will be a test driver for the McLaren F1 team, but will remain in Ganassi’s #10 car for 2023.

Kiel’s departure was acknowledged with a brief note from the team, stating: “Effective Tuesday, 20th September, Taylor Kiel is stepping down as Arrow McLaren SP president after two seasons.

“As the team grows to three cars for the 2023 IndyCar Series season, announcements on team management will be made in due course.”

Autosport understands the strongest candidate is Brian Barnhart, the former president of race operations and race director of IndyCar. Barnhart joined Harding Racing in 2017, which then evolved into Harding Steinbrenner Racing and was then absorbed by Andretti Autosport with which it had a technical relationship.

After spending the season as strategist for Rossi, moving with the seven-time race winner to Arrow McLaren SP and taking on a managerial role – possibly retaining a role as strategist – would make sense as the pair built up a strong working relationship.

However, Autosport believes that the team’s competition director, Billy Vincent, is also set to be offered a promotion to a managerial role, possibly liaising with the UK arm of McLaren, and applying lessons learned in F1 to the IndyCar team.

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Vincent joined the team after several years as a crew chief at Team Penske in which he won the 2016 title with Simon Pagenaud. He took on the role of competitions director at what was then called Schmidt Peterson Motorsport at the start of 2019, a position he holds to this day, while also calling strategy for Rosenqvist.

One marked change on the #7 car for 2023 will be the absence of Craig Hampson who since mid-2021 served as Rosenqvist’s race engineer. Hampson will be switching to the new entry for Rossi, while Rosenqvist will gain a race engineer promoted from within – possibly Chris Lawrence who has been setting the strategy for Vincent to call.