The closest, fastest and most competitive racing series in America starts its 2022 season this weekend.
The NTT IndyCar Series, the pinnacle of American open-wheel racing, kicks off Sunday with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. IndyCar is quickly rising in popularity with higher television ratings and attendance over the last few years. Its 2022 season could be one of the most exciting in recent memory.
For the rest of this week the Indiana Daily Student will preview the teams and drivers looking to drive home with a championship as what’s sure to be a highly competitive IndyCar season gets underway.
AJ Foyt Racing
AJ Foyt’s team will have a hard reset this season with two new drivers looking to raise the team’s performance. Foyt’s last victory came in 2013 with Takuma Sato at Long Beach, and he has only scored two podium finishes since then.
Tatiana Calderon will become the first woman to contest a road or street course in IndyCar this weekend since Simona de Silvestro ran the first two races of the 2014 season for Andretti Autosport. She will run every race except the ovals this season.
Calderon and fellow AJ Foyt Racing rookie Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 Indy Lights Champion, will look to Dalton Kellett as a mentor for their first year in the series.
Kellett spoke of his role as the team’s leader and its struggles last season on the “Off Track with Hinch and Rossi” podcast last month.
Kellett said the addition of the aeroscreen, a safety innovation protecting drivers from debris introduced in 2020, had the team and former driver Sebastian Bourdais struggling, having to relearn and adapt the team’s setups.
Calderon and Kirkwood haven’t driven an IndyCar without the aeroscreen and, although the team might not be fighting for the win every weekend, expect the team to challenge for top-10 results as the new drivers start to settle in a few weeks into the season.
Michael Andretti’s team is always expected to compete, and even after a relatively uncharacteristic year in 2021 with only one driver scoring a victory, the team is expected to have multiple drivers compete for the championship.
Last week, Mario Andretti announced the team applied to operate an F1 team starting in 2024, possibly taking its star Colton Herta along. For now, though, the team has its sights set on IndyCar domination.
Herta is considered the favorite to win the championship this season. He ended last season with back-to-back wins, and will look to mount a championship charge from the start.
Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 champ, is an annual threat at Indianapolis and shrank his racing schedule to focus more on his IndyCar campaign. Rossi only finished on the podium once last year, but expect more from the No. 27 crew and its driver this season.
New drivers Romain Grosjean and Delvin DeFrancesco will start this season in quality Andretti equipment. Grosjean, the beloved ex-F1 driver, nearly won twice last season for Dale Coyne Racing and will look to get his first win and a solid championship finish under Andretti. DeFrancesco will make his first IndyCar start this weekend, but won his class in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, and will look to carry that momentum to IndyCar.
Marco Andretti will race only in the Indy 500.
Arrow McLaren SP
Pato O’Ward was one of three drivers with a chance at the championship going into the final race at Long Beach last season. An early crash took him out of competition but he was not injured.
O’Ward is far and away one of the championship favorites for 2022. Every race weekend he will be a threat, and if he can continue doing what he did in 2021 by recording multiple victories, he may walk away with the trophy this year.
Felix Rosenqvist had a harrowing accident at Detroit last season when his throttle stuck wide open, sending him directly into a wall and keeping him out of two races. He came back stronger, though, recording two top-10 times in the second half of the season and creating something he will look to build on in 2022.
Juan Pablo Montoya, two-time Indy 500 champion, will contest both the Indianapolis Grand Prix and the Indy 500 this season.