Note: The editorial staff at INDYCAR.com is taking a look back at the 10 biggest moments of 2021 in INDYCAR in this year-end series, with one installment appearing on the site per day in countdown fashion from Dec. 22-31.
More competitors on track and new, more expansive partnerships with NBC and NTT added up to another season of growth and increased momentum for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
In 2021, the Indianapolis-based sanctioning body saw an average car count of 27.2 over its final six road course and street circuit events, and improved pandemic conditions produced the return of large crowds. There also were 35 car-and-driver combinations for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, including the first female-forward team in event history.
The news was even better off the track, where deals signed with NBC and NTT led to even greater optimism for the future of the series.
NTT, a global technology and business solutions provider and Fortune Global 500 company, signed a multiyear extension as the entitlement sponsor of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. In doing so, NTT will continue to deliver the smart technology backbone that will enhance the race experience for INDYCAR fans. NTT became the title sponsor of the series at the start of the 2019 season and has extended this agreement and its Official Technology Partner status with INDYCAR, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and the NASCAR Brickyard Weekend.
In July, INDYCAR and NBC Sports announced a multiyear extension of their media rights agreement. NBC Sports will continue to be the exclusive home of the Indianapolis 500 and will provide coverage of all NTT INDYCAR SERIES races, qualifying, practices and Indy Lights races across its linear, digital and streaming platforms, including Peacock.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will see a significant increase in network exposure in 2022, with 14 races broadcast on NBC. USA Network and Peacock Premium will show the remaining races. Telemundo Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage of the season-opening race, the Indianapolis 500 and the season finale.
Peacock will stream all races on NBC and USA Network and will continue as the streaming home of NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying and practices sessions, Indy Lights races and full-event replays. Peacock will stream one race exclusively.
In September, INDYCAR announced a 17-race schedule for the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season featuring an earlier start date, a re-energized summer of fan-favorite events and another turbocharged stretch run culminating with the return to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
NBC will feature the first six races of 2022, as fans won’t have to wait long for the resumption of action. The season begins with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding, which will host the series’ season opener for the 11th time, Sunday, Feb. 27. It will be the first February start for the INDYCAR SERIES since 2004 and the earliest the season has started since the opener in St. Petersburg on Feb. 23, 2003.
The oval race at Texas Motor Speedway moves to March for the first time, Sunday, March 20. It is the second consecutive year that the series will race at the “Great American Speedway” ahead of the Indianapolis 500, placing a crucial oval on the early part of the schedule.
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach returns to the spring calendar, Sunday, April 10, appearing on network television for the first time in 15 years. It is the 38th year the INDYCAR SERIES has raced on the iconic streets of Southern California as the event celebrates its 47th edition.
The Raceway at Belle Isle Park returns with its traditional post-“500” date Sunday, June 5, this time with a single race. The street race at Toronto’s Exhibition Place (on Sunday, July 17) is scheduled to return for the first time in three years due to the pandemic.
Over half of the events on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule have been on the calendar for 19 or more years. Mid-Ohio joins Long Beach in longevity as it hosts the series for a 38th year in 2022.
The championship will finish with a flurry of eight races in the final nine weeks of the season, with six events on NBC. Included in that will be a high-speed doubleheader at Iowa Speedway on Saturday and Sunday, July 23-24. INDYCAR has seen races with 955 on-track passes at this short oval.
The 2022 calendar is benchmarked by the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 29. This year’s “500” on NBC was the most-watched edition of the race since the 100th Running in 2016. The season’s final two races will air on NBC.