The developing feud in IndyCar between the rebuilt, rebranded and rebounded Arrow McLaren organization and Chip Ganassi Racing saw its latest salvo Friday when McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown teased going after reigning Indianapolis 500 champion and pending free agent Marcus Ericsson.
Brown, who scheduled his Friday news conference to begin 15 minutes before Ganassi's traditional availability on the Yard of Bricks, said his team has responded so well to four cars at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that he would consider running four full-time entries next year.
"Personally, I don't think people steal things. I think people lose things. And yes, Marcus has done an outstanding job," Brown said. "I'm a little surprised, given how strong things are commercially, that his current team doesn't have the commercial confidence that they can sell the Indy 500 championship contender and sign him up.
"I understand they probably have a little bit of time, so I'm sure they're working at it. But I wouldn't let him go if he was driving for me, and I would have the commercial confidence that I could get the sponsorship."
Ericsson has said he wants to stay at Ganassi but indicated last week that he is not happy he hasn't been re-signed yet.
"I've noticed my phone being quite busy the last few months and teams being pretty interested in my future. That's definitely a new thing for me. It feels like people are taking notice and rating me as a driver, and that feels great," said Ericsson, who will start 10th in Sunday's Indy 500.
Ericsson actually entered IndyCar with the team that is now Arrow McLaren but signed with Ganassi before Brown took over.
This wouldn't be the first time Brown and McLaren have poached from the Ganassi stable. The team added 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan and a sponsor from Ganassi to run a fourth McLaren entry Sunday and is set to add 2021 IndyCar Series champion and this year's 500 pole sitter Alex Palou in 2024. Brown also has signed NASCAR star Kyle Larson to race the Indy 500 next year. Larson developed in stock cars under Ganassi before he was fired in 2020 when he was caught using the N-word in an online racing game.
Ganassi, who was clearly agitated last week by questions about Ericsson's contract, wasn't any more forthcoming following Brown's remarks Friday.
"I focus on results around here. I focus on our team. Contracts will take care of themselves. It's not on my radar screen," Ganassi said. "I want to focus on winning the race right now. Like, I can't get that across to you guys. I don't get the things you guys want to talk about, you know, whether gossipy or contractually. It's just not on my screen all the time.
"We focus every day on our team, on our team performance," he added. "That's what we're here to do. It's called racing."
Ganassi holds the exclusive negotiating rights with Ericsson until August.
Brown, who expanded McLaren to three full-time cars this year, said he will decide by July if McLaren will run four cars in 2024.
Palou will lead the field to green Sunday, and his three Ganassi teammates all start inside the first four rows. Same for the McLaren drivers, with Felix Rosenqvist their highest qualifier at third.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.