Note: The editorial staff at INDYCAR.com is taking a look back at the 10 biggest moments of 2022 in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and INDY NXT by Firestone in this year-end series, with one installment appearing on the site per day in countdown fashion from Dec. 22-31.
Five drivers battling for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship at the season’s final race – the most in a regular-points season finale since 2003 – was only part of the sport’s upward trajectory in 2022.
There was the return of a full racing calendar after two seasons of pandemic-related shuffling, record-setting speed marks in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, successful reboots of two venues (Toronto’s Exhibition Place street circuit and Iowa Speedway), growing numbers of viewers on television and streaming platforms and an exciting new era for INDY NXT presented by Firestone.
A welcome sight was the return of full capacity for fans at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A crowd larger than 300,000, the world’s largest sporting event since the onset of COVID-19, saw Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing hold off Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward on the final lap of the “500.” The race also featured the event debut of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, a four-time winner of NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 and speed records galore, including the fastest pole-winning speed (234.046 mph) and the fastest field average (233.643 mph).
Perhaps the biggest success story on the schedule was the revitalization of INDYCAR racing at Iowa Speedway after a one-year hiatus. The Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend featured a doubleheader for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and a single event for INDY NXT presented by Firestone on the fast oval. A successful promotion with enthusiastic title partner Hy-Vee, which included four concerts with country and pop music superstars at the track, resulted in big crowds despite the summer heat.
The growing popularity of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES was reflected in the most-watched season in six years on television, with viewership up 5 percent over 2021. The season averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 1.30 million viewers across NBC, USA Network, Peacock and NBC Sports digital platforms, the best in NBC Sports history.
Half of the season’s 16 races on television delivered more than 1 million viewers each, the highest mark since 2008. A record 14 of 17 races were shown on NBC network television while selected races also were televised by Telemundo Deportes on Universo.
Arrow McLaren SP, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Andretti Autosport announced plans for gleaming, expanded new headquarters and race shop facilities in the Indianapolis area.
Many commercial partners joined INDYCAR or NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams or extended pacts with both in 2022. They included PeopleReady, Shell, PIRTEK, PPG, Gallagher Insurance, The American Legion and Autograph were added to the impressive roster of INDYCAR partners, while Dallara, Gainbridge, Ruoff Mortgage and TAG Heuer extended pacts with the sanctioning body.
Penske Entertainment continued its sustainability journey by announcing a lineup of additional energy solutions for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indianapolis Motor Speedway during May and beyond. The variety of initiatives will help reduce the carbon footprint within INDYCAR and power progress toward more sustainable motorsports in North America.
Among the initiatives announced was Shell’s 100% Renewable Race Fuel to be introduced in 2023. The fuel developed by Shell is set to make the NTT INDYCAR SERIES the first U.S.-based motorsports series to power racing with 100 percent renewable race fuel and enables at least 60 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction compared to fossil-based gasoline.
Firestone also debuted a new eco-friendlier tire made from the North American-sourced guayule shrub. The compound was introduced during the Indy 500 pit stop competition and as the alternate tire at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.