Season Preview Part 2: Strong Rookie Class Continues Youth Surge

Photo: Kyle Kirkwood leads a stout rookie class for 2022

Six rookies, five of whom are full time, add to the growing youth movement in Indycar. The class includes three Indy Lights graduates. The success of each may depend on the strength of their team. In a perfect world, equipment wouldn’t determine Rookie of the Year, but, alas, tin 2022 it might. A look at the rookies:

David Malukas- Dale Coyne Racing with HMD

Malukas finished second in Indy Lights in 2021. He was on the pole for the final race of the season with a chance to win the title, but he overshot turn 1. He should have a decent season and is a contender for top rookie honors. Coyne’s cars have been more competitive of late, and Malukas will have a decent season.

Kyle Kirkwood- A. J. Foyt Racing

Kirkwood is arguably the best driver of the rookie class. he is the first driver to win each level of the Road to Indy, and one day he will add an Indycar title to that resume. Kirkwood may struggle this season with one of the lower budget teams, but he has the ability to help the Foyt organization make some improvement.

I talked to Kirkwood earlier this month. He is setting no expectations for 2022, which I think is a sensible approach. I think three top 10s would be a good season for this team.

Christian Lundgaard- Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Christian Lundgaard

Lundgaard had one race with Rahal in 2021 at the second IMS road course race. He started fourth and finished 12th. In two seasons in Formula 2 he won two races, one pole, and finished on the podium nine times. We should see a steady run throughout the season, and with a couple of breaks, Lundgaard could contend for top Rookie honors.

Devlin DeFrancesco- Andretti Autosport

DeFrancesco finished sixth in Indy Lights last season, overshadowed by Kirkwood and Malukas. He had nine top fives in 20 races with two podiums. DeFrancesco will be competitive, and his equipment advantage over the other rookies makes him the favorite for the rookie crown.

Callum Ilott- Juncos Hollinger Racing

Callum Ilott

Ilott was a rising star in Europe, but the limited number of seats in Formula 1 left him on the outside. Ilott finished second to Mick Schumacher in Formula 2 in 2020, and he was the reserve driver for Alfa Romeo last season. Juncos Hollinger may struggle as a first year team in 2022.

Tatiana Calderon- A. J. Foyt Racing

Calderon has driven in many series during her career. It is her experience driving different cars that will help her get through her first Indycar season, where she will only drive the road and street course races. 2022 will be a learning year for her. A second year likely depends on sponsorship.

Drivers on the Verge

Felix Rosenqvist and Will Power need to have improved seasons in 2022. Rosenqvist finished 21st in 2021 while his teammate Pato O’Ward contended for the championship. The Swedish driver missed two races last year due to injury. His average finish of 16.4 with just two top tens has to improve for him to keep his seat.

Will Power had what was for him a substandard year. One pole, one win and a ninth place finish is not a typical power year. There is speculation that 2022 may be his last with Penske. I look for him to have a much better season. I’m not sure if a good year will help him stay where he is, but I don’t expect power to go quietly.

Will a Change of Scenery Help Harvey?

Jack Harvey’s career has puzzled me. He is fast, but things just seem to happen. was it bad strategy, miscommunication, or poor race craft? I really don’t know. He helped Meyer Shank Racing get off the ground in Indycar. Despite having six top ten finishes in 2021, I never felt he was in a contending position. Maybe a lot of the issues were growing pains. I think it’s good that the driver and team are headed in different directions for the new season.

Harvey begins 2022 as a new member of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. While this is probably not a make or break year for Harvey, look for more consistency in 2022.