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Arrow McLaren’s continued saga in striving for stability

Arrow McLaren says its decision to drop Theo Pourchaire and sign Nolan Siegel to a multi-year deal with its IndyCar team was "nothing personal" as it seeks to find stability

Nolan Siegel, Arrow McLaren

Theo Pourchaire remains a candidate to complete Arrow McLaren’s driver roster for 2025 despite recently being dropped for the rest of the season in favor of Nolan Siegel.

Arrow McLaren continued the latest rotation of drivers to pilot the No. 6 Chevrolet entry on Tuesday by announcing Siegel to a multi-year deal, which begins this weekend at Laguna Seca.

In turn, though, that move by the team pushed out Pourchaire, who was originally brought in to substitute for an injured David Malukas but showed enough after two rounds that led Arrow Mclaren to announced him as the primary driver for the rest of the season (with the exception of the Indianapolis 500).

Explaining the decision to bench Pourchaire

Arrow McLaren team principal Gavin Ward and sporting director Tony Kanaan repeatedly expressed in an call with select media on Tuesday afternoon that Pourchaire did nothing wrong to warrant losing the ride; it was more about not losing out on getting Siegel, an 19-year-old prospect desired by many in the IndyCar paddock whose stock hot hotter after taking an LMP2 victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans last weekend.

“Obviously, we had announced at Theo for the remainder of the year and at the time, that was with the options available,” said Ward.

“With Nolan being a hot prospect, one of the hottest prospects on the up and coming side for IndyCar and the North American racing scene, I'd be lying if I said we haven't been looking at him for a while. At the time that we put Theo in the car, Nolan was committed to his Indy NXT season, so with the clashes there and with his limited program with Coyne, a full season didn't look like it was on the cards.

“With the developments and him making the choice to sort of step away from the NXT season at Road America, that brought this forward in a hurry. And while we were looking at a 2025 commitment, became pretty clear that the logical thing to do, although not the easiest decision -- easy when you put it into logic speak, I'd say, maybe not the easiest emotionally -- was to fast forward and get him in the car as soon as possible so we could next year hit the ground running.”

Theo Pourchaire, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Theo Pourchaire, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Penske Entertainment

The reigning Formula 2 champion and Formula 1 reserve driver for Sauber, Pourchaire impressed with an 11th-place result in his IndyCar debut in the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Contact with team-mate Pato O’Ward on the final lap negated a decent run at Barber Motorsports, but there was enough there that Arrow Mclaren opted to move off of Malukas, terminating a contract signed last September, and made the switch to the 20-year-old Frenchman.

For his part, Pourchaire just started to find his groove after rattling off his first career top 10 on the tough streets of downtown Detroit, then scored a 13th at Road America before getting the hook after a total of three races since being declared the team’s choice for the rest of 2024.

Despite only running five of the seven of the points-paying races, missing the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the Indy 500, Pourchaire climbed to 21st in the championship standings and only 25 points behind leading Rookie of the Year candidate Linus Lundqvist in 18th.

"He didn't do anything wrong"

Kaanan was the one that called Pourchaire to inform him of the team’s decision to make the switch.

“He didn't do anything wrong,” said Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 winner and 2004 IndyCar champion.

“It was just a situation. It was a call that we had to make. It wasn't personal. It wasn't because of his performance. He's done whatever he could do. He wasn't happy, but he understood.”

With that, though, it means that O’Ward and Siegel make up two of the three confirmed seats of the 2025 roster, with Alexander Rossi’s future in the No. 7 entry yet to be determined.

When asked by Motorsport.com if the decision to move off Pourchaire meant he’s not under consideration to return next year for the only seat left available, Ward shared his stance.

“No, I don't think that's the case,” Ward.

“What I will say is we're not gonna stand in the way of any opportunity that he may have. In fact, actively would love to see him carry on his racing season this year or his IndyCar career next year and beyond, even if that's not with us.

“We still have one more seat to finalize and I won't really get into too much speculation about who will be driving the No. 7 car next year as that's ongoing and we'll confirm that in due course.”

Theo Pourchaire, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Theo Pourchaire, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

And Kanaan also stressed that he will still support Pourchaire in finding an opportunity to stay in IndyCar, even if it isn't with Arrow McLaren.

“I said, 'Look, if I can help you in any way, shape or form, I'm here,'” Kanaan said.

“And I said, 'If your intentions are still to be an IndyCar, if you need any introduction or anything.' And one thing I told him that I always tried to look on the bright side of things. I said, 'Look, three months ago you were home.

“They (Sauber) just sent you there because you weren't doing anything. You came here, you’ve shown (well and) that probably helped. Obviously, the situation, it's not ideal.' But that was it. It wasn't much to say, to be honest.”

Six drivers in one year

Siegel becomes the sixth driver to either drive or be attached to Arrow McLaren’s No. 6 entry in roughly 11 months.

Felix Rosenqvist piloted the ride last year, with the original expectation of his replacement this year being Alex Palou, but a change of heart by the two-time IndyCar champion to stay with Chip Ganassi Racing led Arrow McLaren to sign Malukas, who then suffered a mountain biking accident and never turned a lap on a race weekend for the team. Callum Ilott, like Pourchaire, was called upon as a substitute in place of Malukas.

Considering the lack of continuity, Motorsport.com asked how the rotation of drivers has affected the overall team morale.

“Yeah, I think what you hit on is kind of in a funny way, although this is yet another change, the real goal with this change is seeking stability that the team needs,” Ward said.

“With us being able to make a multi-year commitment at this point can hopefully stop the merry-go-round. Frankly, it gives us the first opportunity we've had in a while to be proactive rather than reactive in how we go about filling the seat for the No. 6 car. This isn't a kneejerk reaction. This has been a strategic thing ongoing. Once we've kind of zoned in on the commitment for 2025, it became very logical to fast forward and just get Nolan in the car right away to be best prepared for that point.

“But yeah, it's not easy to be having the changes we've had. The disruption we've had off the back of one little accident on a mountain bike is pretty phenomenal. Looking forward to moving past that and focusing on just building a better race team and building up a development plan that can set a huge prospect like Nolan up for the greatest success.”

Kanaan then chimed in with his own thoughts on the subject.

“It started back last year with that driver (Palou) that decided not to come over and breach his contract,” Kanaan said.

“Then we decided on continuity, and it's been quite a few six months for me. I did not sign up to have to choose four drivers. And then every option we had, because we had to make a decision quick, a lot of them had schedules already. I just told the guys out there, 'You change race cars all the time. You come in, you make a change.' Not that we want to do that with drivers, but we're here. I'm in this to win races. That's all I care (about). And then I think eventually we look for continuity. There is never a good time.”

“Everybody's gonna say, 'Oh, this is bad timing.' What is a good time to do what we did? I don't know when. I think today; some people agree, some people disagree. We'll take the heat. We don't take the heat. But to me, it's the right decision. I believe that I'm making the right call with the team. I weigh in quite a bit because that's what I've done for a living. I'm glad that my boss (McLaren CEO Zak Brown) trusts me on it. We have to just move on.

“We're here trying to win races and it is a little bit of disruption, but racing is a disruption with everything else. So it's just one more day in racing and we'll move forward. Once we win a race, nobody's gonna remember.”

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