The NTT IndyCar Series kicks off at noon Sunday with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida.
This week the Indiana Daily Student is previewing the teams and drivers competing for the Astor Cup and an IndyCar Championship.
Chip Ganassi Racing
Chip Ganassi Racing is perhaps the strongest team in the IndyCar field.
2021 champion Alex Palou, who nearly defeated Helio Castroneves in last year’s Indianapolis 500 for a potential fourth win last season, is only getting stronger. Palou could be on track for a historic back-to-back championship campaign this season, but he will need to fend off Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward, Josef Newgarden and even his teammates to do so.
Palou is joined by Scott Dixon on CGR. Known as the “Iceman” for his composure under pressure, Dixon will fight for his record seventh IndyCar championship this season. He was just outside of the championship fight last season, scoring one victory and finishing fourth in the final standings. He is one of the favorites to win on any given weekend and will look to add more victories to his astounding IndyCar career this year.
Marcus Ericsson won two IndyCar races last year and will look to take his quality Chip Ganassi car even further up the championship standings this year. He’s primed to give a worthy challenge to teammates Palou and Dixon.
Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, went through a huge learning curve in his rookie IndyCar season in 2021. With one road and street course season under his belt, he will look to become more and more competitive in 2022. Additionally, Johnson will add the five oval events this season for a full championship campaign, including the Indianapolis 500, and will try to improve on his best IndyCar finish of 17th.
Tony Kanaan, a fan favorite, will run only the Indianapolis 500 this year, looking to score a second victory in the prestigious race.
Dale Coyne Racing
Owner Dale Coyne is hoping two brand new drivers can give the team a competitive boost heading into 2022. Ed Jones and Romain Grosjean are out of the team, and a clean slate could help push Dale Coyne into a new era of prosperity.
Takuma Sato, two-time Indianapolis 500 champion, moved on from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and will drive in the No. 51 car for DCR. As one of the most experienced drivers in the field, Sato will look to take Dale Coyne Racing up further in the standings this year.
David Malukas comes up from Indy Lights, the final step of IndyCar’s development system, to a full time IndyCar ride. He’s not expected to set any records, but he should be able to compete and get crucial points in the middle of the pack this year.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Dreyer and Reinbold will only compete at the Indianapolis 500 this year. However, they’re so good at the Brickyard they’re included in this preview.
Santino Ferrucci couldn’t find a full time ride in IndyCar after a part time position in IndyCar and the NASCAR Xfinity series last year. This year he’ll do more of the same, though only the Indianapolis 500 is on his IndyCar calendar thus far. Ferrucci had top-11 finishes in every IndyCar start last season and has finished seventh or higher in each of his three Indianapolis 500 starts.
Sage Karam seems to be poised to take DRR to a larger IndyCar schedule in the next few seasons, something the team has said it is interested in. For now, Karam will look to turn heads once again this May and build on last year’s seventh place finish in the driver’s standings.
Ed Carpenter Racing
Ed Carpenter Racing always seems to challenge the upper half of IndyCar teams in the standings. The team scored its first IndyCar victory since 2016 through Rinus VeeKay’s performance at last season’s Indianapolis Grand Prix. ECR has also kept Noblesville’s Conor Daly on from last season and have promoted him to a full-time position.
VeeKay fractured his clavicle in a cycling accident during the season last year and never quite kept the same form following the incident. With an offseason to recover and rebuild his strength, VeeKay could return to form and win multiple races again this season.
Daly led the most laps in last year’s Indianapolis 500, only to frustratingly finish in 13th after striking a loose tire before the race completed. He will race a full season for ECR this year, adding the ovals Carpenter would usually drive in the No. 20 car. Daly should score multiple podium finishes this season.
Carpenter will run the Indianapolis 500 this season, an event the Indianapolis native has qualified first for twice but never won.
Part 3 of the IndyCar Series preview comes out Friday.