FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2022 Gates Open 7:30 AM-6:00 PM
7:45AM – 8:15AM Indy Pro 2000 Qualifying
8:30AM – 8:45AM SRO GT America Qualifying 1
8:50AM – 9:05AM SRO GT America Qualifying 2
9:20AM – 9:50AM USF2000 Qualifying 1
10:05AM – 10:50AM Indy Lights Practice
11:05AM – 11:25AM Mazda MX-5 Cup Qualifying
11:40AM – 12:25PM Indy Pro 2000 Race 1
12:40PM – 1:25PM USF2000 Race 1
1:54PM – 2:10PM Indy Lights Qualifying
2:25PM – 3:25PM SRO GT America Race 1
3:40PM – 4:25PM NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 1- Peacock
4:40PM – 5:25PM Mazda MX-5 Cup Race 1
5:40PM – 6:10PM Indy Lights Final Practice
It is time at last. The 2022 NTT Indycar begins today with a practice session at 3:40 PM Eastern time. Sunday’s race is 18th consecutive running of the event on the downtown streets and airport runway, The first Indycar race was in 2003 under the CART banner. There was no race in 2004. In 2005 Indycar returned and except for the last two years the event has shown incredible growth.
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by RP Funding returns to its traditional spot on the calendar as the season opener. The pandemic forced the original date to be cancelled in 2020. The race returned as the season finale. With COVID still lingering, St. Pete was pushed back a month last year. The season opened at Barber.
Some things to watch for this weekend:
Drivers at New Teams
Romain Grosjean is now at Andretti, Takuma Sato is driving for Dale Coyne, Jack Harvey is at Rahal, and Simon Pagenaud is with Meyer Shank. How have the drivers clicked with their new teams? The first race may not be a full indication of how the season will go, but all these new combinations need a decent start.
Grosjean arguably is in the best shape as his engineer from 2021, Olivier Boisson, moved with him. It will be hard to remember that Ryan Hiunter-Reay is not in the 28.
Six rookies begin their Indycar careers today. The ones I have spoken with are excited and a bit nervous about driving on the red alternate tires. I would not use today’s practice as an indication of how their weekend will go. I think David Malukas, Kyle Kirkwood, and Christian Lundgaard will be the quickest rookies this weekend.
Larger Field, Fewer Clean Laps?
The expanded field of 26 cars could make for crowded conditions on some laps. With just two 45 minute practices before qualifying, track time is important. It will be interesting to see how the teams manage their time. There will be larger grids later in the season as well.
Does the Trend Continue?
Since 2015, the winner in an odd numbered year won the following year as well. Juan Pablo Montoya won in 2015 and 2016. Sebastien Bourdais went back to back in 2017 and 2018, and Josef Newgarden matched them by coming home first in 2019 and 2020.
In 2021 Colton Herta dominated the race from the pole. History says he should repeat, and I believe he will. Herta was the fastest at the three street course races last year. He was on the pole at Nashville and had a great shot at winning. Once he took the lead at Long Beach, no one could catch him.
Until someone proves to be faster than Herta on a street circuit, don’t bet against him.