Momentum and anticipation continue to grow for the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES opener Sunday, Feb. 27 on the Streets of St. Petersburg for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. Here’s a look at the year ahead for North America’s premier open-wheel series:
Traditions Return for NBC Showcase
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES season begins in grand fashion with the first six races on NBC network television. Four May weekends also will be featured on broadcast television, including Last Chance Qualifying and the Fast Nine Shootout leading up to the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Sunday, May 29.
Among the INDYCAR traditions to return in 2022 will be the Honda Indy Toronto. After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, the series returns to the famous Toronto street layout Sunday, July 17. The area is rich with INDYCAR SERIES history as it first hosted the series in 1986. Simon Pagenaud, who drives for Meyer Shank Racing, is the last to win there, in 2019.
The following weekend, INDYCAR returns to the ultra-fast and thrilling D-shaped oval of Iowa Speedway for the new Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend doubleheader Saturday, July 23 and Sunday, July 24. A festival-like atmosphere of concerts and other attractions will greet the series, including driver Josef Newgarden of Team Penske, who last won on the track known as “The Fastest Short Track on the Planet” in 2020.
In all, NBC will feature a record 14 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races in 2022 with two events set to appear on USA Network. Races, practices and qualifying sessions will be featured on Peacock Premium, with NBCUniversal’s expanding streaming service also providing exclusive coverage from the Streets of Toronto.
For the first time, Telemundo Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opener, the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and the season finale. The award-winning INDYCAR Radio Network has coverage of every on-track session throughout 2022.
“Anticipation towards the start of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season is palpable,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “It is terrific to know the wait is almost over as we approach a marquee year for our series and its stars.
“Kicking off the season in St. Petersburg, followed by three thrilling spring events, is an ideal lead-in to the Month of May, where demand is outpacing all years since the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. The season hits another gear following the ‘500’ with a jam-packed summer punctuated by our return to Iowa and Nashville. Both will prove to be extraordinary events. Combined with our TV partner NBC, we cannot wait to showcase the daring and bold athletes of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.”
A young, diverse and successful class of six audacious rookies are set to join and compete against no fewer than 20 veteran NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, including reigning series champion Alex Palou. With the expansion of A.J. Foyt Racing and Meyer Shank Racing, the 2022 championship totals 26 full-time entries. It is the largest full-time entry list for the INDYCAR SERIES in a decade.
Among the battles to follow will be the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge, announced last month. The first entry to win on all three types of circuits – road course, street circuit and oval – will split $1 million with the race team and the driver’s chosen charity. PeopleReady is offering an additional $10,000 to the winner of every race this season, also to be split with the driver’s favorite charitable organization.
In 2022, INDYCAR will gradually introduce the EM Motorsport Marshalling System. The new addition will supplement the use of cloth flags with up to 20 EM Motorsport light panels deployed on road and street circuits. The ultra-bright LED displays will use the same flag codes as existing flags and will still be operated by track marshals via a handheld console.
When fully implemented, all race cars and light panels will carry EM Motorsport GPS units, which will create marshalling sectors to help identify cars as they pass through local yellow sectors. New to 2022, any car that passes through a local yellow will lose that timed lap in practice and qualifying, which will help expedite session officiating. As in the past, any driver that causes a local yellow will lose their fastest timed lap.
Other adjustments to the 2022 rulebook include, for safety, the banning of “pushing” or assisting cars out of their pit stall at the completion of a pit stop.
Pit box locations will be selected in order of entrant qualification results from the previous event in 2022. The order will not be affected by penalties for unapproved engine changes. The process of selecting pit positions for the Indianapolis 500 will remain based on “500” qualifying.
The use of barge boards on the Dallara AK-18 chassis are now optional on all ovals with the introduction of the aerodynamic tool at Texas Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway in 2022. The curved, plate-shaped piece of carbon fiber, located on the leading edge of the underwing, creates front downforce while reducing the reliance of the front wing.
“In race conditions, it should be a benefit to a trailing car,” said Tino Belli, INDYCAR director of aerodynamic development. “Using barge boards combined with less front wing angle will allow cars to follow more closely while still avoiding an aero washout affect through the corners. It also follows the philosophy we have always had with the universal AK-18 to create downforce with the underwing rather than being reliant on the front wing. These optional barge boards will become another crucial tool in the teams’ aerodynamic arsenal.”
Also, where possible, NTT INDYCAR SERIES non-oval practice sessions will be blocked for 60 minutes to allow for a better opportunity to complete the traditional 45-minute session – compensating for unexpected red flag periods.
“We are constantly evaluating ways to improve the NTT INDYCAR SERIES,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “We examine every aspect – from safety and officiating to on-track competition – and believe the changes will add to the series’ level of energy, momentum and deep competitive balance.”
On the Horizon
It is expected to be another season of historic moments for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon returns to drive the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. The 41-year-old continues his pursuit to tie the legendary A.J. Foyt for all-time INDYCAR SERIES championships with seven.
Helio Castroneves returns full-time in 2022 to drive the No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Meyer Shank Racing Honda. The 46-year-old will attempt to become the first five-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. Forty-year-old Will Power once again will pilot the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet and begins the season just four poles away from tying the legendary Mario Andretti’s all-time record of 67.
Meanwhile, the series prepares for the future as work continues with Chevrolet and Honda toward a new engine package. The 2.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 with hybrid technology, which is expected to produce a total of 900 horsepower, is expected to debut in 2023.
“Last season was an amazing year with historic storylines throughout 2021,” Frye said. “With the effort by everyone in the offseason and the continued growth of the paddock, we expect 2022 to be even better. We cannot wait to see it play out.”