The first trends in the 2022 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season started to emerge last week, as double-digit number of drivers tested in Florida at Sebring International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Twelve drivers turned laps Wednesday, Jan. 12 on the short course at Sebring, while 13 drivers were on the Homestead-Miami “roval” combined oval and road course Friday, Jan 14.
A few takeaways:
Pedersen leads the way: Sebring and Homestead couldn’t be more different as tracks. Sebring is a notoriously bumpy natural road course that includes concrete runways and many different types of asphalt. Homestead-Miami is a smoother roval that includes part of the 1.5-mile oval and an infield road circuit portion.
But there was one common bond between those disparate tracks: Benjamin Pedersen was the fastest.
Pedersen paced the way at Sebring and Homestead in his No. 24 car fielded by Global Racing Group with HMD Motorsports as he begins his second Indy Lights season with the team. Pedersen finished fourth last season in the standings with the team.
The performance was impressive, for two reasons.
One, Danish driver Pedersen topped the time sheet at Sebring despite missing most of the morning with an electrical problem. He turned only 59 laps, the fewest of any driver. Two, Pedersen was quicker than third-place 2021 Indy Lights finisher Linus Lundqvist on both days. The top two finishers in the series in 2021, champion Kyle Kirkwood and runner-up David Malukas, both have climbed to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES this season.
Close, close, close: If testing times are any indication, the margin between success and failure could be razor-thin in 2022.
At Sebring, Pedersen led Sting Ray Robb of Andretti Autosport by just 61-thousandths of a second in the race for the quickest time. That tiny margin was huge compared to Homestead, where Pederson led No. 2 Lundqvist by … wait for it … one-thousandth of a second.
The tight time gaps extended throughout most of the field in both days of testing. Just four-tenths of a second separated the top 10 at Sebring and Homestead. The top eight at Homestead were separated by just .181 of a second.
Andretti flexes muscle: Andretti Autosport placed three drivers in the top seven of the Indy Lights standings in 2021, led by champion Kirkwood. The powerhouse team appears to have not missed a beat with its new lineup for 2022, based on testing times.
Robb was second overall at Sebring and third at Homestead in the team’s No. 2 entry, while 2021 Indy Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires champion Christian Rasmussen showed consistent speed by ending up fifth overall at both tracks in the No. 28 car.
Lights returnee Matthew Brabham was third at Sebring and sixth at Homestead in the No. 83 Andretti entry. 2021 Indy Pro 2000 standout Hunter McElrea was 10th at Sebring but rallied to end up fourth two days later at Homestead in Andretti’s No. 27 entry.
Steady Simpson: Kyffin Simpson will be a driver to watch in the 2022 season, as he is entering his first Indy Lights campaign at just 17 and in just his third season of single-seater car racing.
Simpson, from the Cayman Islands, was second quickest in the Chris Griffis Memorial Test last October, just two-hundredths of a second behind leader Pedersen.
The speed tailed off a bit last week, but Simpson showed consistency by ending up eighth at both tests in the No. 21 car fielded by new Indy Lights team TJ Speed Motorsports. He was .336 of a second off the pace at Sebring but jumped to within .181 of a second of leader Pedersen at Homestead.
The 2022 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season starts Feb. 25-27 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.