It’s hard to believe the NTT Indycar Series is already at the halfway mark of the season. It has been one of the best first halves I remember. No one is running away with the points lead, the racing has been really good, and one team is in position to play spoiler in the second half. As usual, Team Penske is dominating the stats with five wins in eight races, but Marcus Ericsson from Chip Ganassi Racing leads the standings. Each race has had a different driver, representing five teams, on the pole, something that hasn’t happened since 1961. Here are a few of my thoughts on the season so far.
Team Penske: Strong Return to Form
The team which usually leads the series in wins and poles won just three races in 2021 and had five poles, four by Josef Newgarden. This season the team has won five times, three by Newgarden and one each for Will Power and Scott McLaughlin. The team already has three poles.
Power is second in points, Newgarden third, and McLaughlin has faded to ninth after a strong start.
Newgarden looks to be in a good position to win the championship, just 32 points behind Ericsson and with a lot of momentum following his win last Sunday at Road America. Newgarden is the only driver with more than one win this season.
Eight Interesting Races
In a set of eight races we can normally expect a clunker or two, but I think every race in 2022 has held my interest. There has been more passing than I expected, and plenty of twists and turns with collisions and mistakes to change the complexion of several races.
My two favorite races were the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course and the Detroit Grand Prix. The GMR GP was a wild affair in the rain with teams flipping strategies nearly every lap. This is a much better race when it rains.
The Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit was a beautiful mix of tire strategies. Each of the first four finishers were on a different path.
Andretti Poised for Second Half Run
Aside from Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport has been mostly invisible the past season and a half. Herta has won four races in the past season and a half, but there has not been much else from the team. The trend is beginning to change. Herta won the GMR Grand prix in May, and Alexander Rossi is beginning to return to his old form. Rossi has five top 10s this year, including top fives in the last three races. He won the pole at Road America last weekend, and he has finished on the podium the last two times out. Rossi entered the Indianapolis 500 18th in points and is now 7th.
The team finish last week of Rossi third, Romain Grosjean fourth, and Herta fifth was its best overall showing in a while. I look for Andretti drivers to be more of a factor in the second half of 2022.
Some other things to look for staring at Mid Ohio in two weeks:
Will Arrow McLaren SP develop the consistency they seem to be lacking? Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist each have a pole, and O’Ward won at Barber, but we never know which team will show up at any race.
O;’Ward is fourth in the standings, but it seems like he should second or third. Rosenqvist has improved to eighth place, and is driving well enough to save his job, but when they are off they are way off.
Kyle Kirkwood has raised the bar at A. J. Foyt Racing. He has a top 10 finish and has made the second round of qualifying twice. Some of the teams best tracks are on the second half of the schedule, and I look for a couple of decent results before the end of 2022.
Will Scott Dixon win again? The last win for the active career leader in victories was May 1, 2021, 21 races ago. Since that time his teammates Alex Palou and Ericsson have won six times. It has been 17 years since Dixon went through a year without winning at least one race. Mid Ohio or Toronto may be his best two chances. Dixonb has won three times at Toronto and five times at Mid Ohio.