This Sunday, the IndyCar Sequence will likely be taking the inexperienced flag on the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the primary race of the 2022 season — and this 12 months guarantees to be a very good one. we’ve six rookies competing for Rookie of the 12 months, there is a first-time championship defender trying to keep his crown, and anybody can win on the Indy 500. However we’re nonetheless going to attempt to make some predictions anyway.
I will be providing my very own opinions, and my pleasant managing editor Lalita Chemello will likely be providing hers. As a result of automobiles have not really hit the observe but, we’ve just about no concept how something will play out — however that is the place the enjoyable is! And we will come again on the finish of the 12 months to see simply how flawed — or proper — we have been.
And, after all, I need to see all of your predictions down within the feedback.
I have been torn with regards to making these predictions. Do I need to be critical to be able to reveal my wealth of open-wheel information? Do I need to simply meme it up as a result of I’ve actually no concept how this championship goes to play out? I do not know. I believe it is time to go for the basic: mixture of each.
Grand Prix of St. Pete Winner: Colton Herta
Colton Herta is an absolute badass of a driver, and I believe he will be coming into the beginning of the 2022 season on a excessive. He is spent his low season being the rumored Components One driver ought to Michael Andretti really get his potential F1 staff off the bottom, and I believe he will have one thing to show. Plus, he is simply rattling good at road circuits.
Indy 500 Champion: Joseph Newgarden
That is extra simply me hoping, praying, and crying than anything. Newgarden has been one in all my favourite drivers since I first began watching IndyCar, and I simply need him to win the Indy 500 so dang dangerous, The truth that I’ve stated this may now preclude him from doing something of the type, and the Indy 500 is so unpredictable that it may be arduous to make any assumptions. However a lady can dream.
Total Season Champion: Patricio O’Ward
I’ve to confess that I am slightly biased. I like McLaren, and I like O’Ward as each a racer and as an individual — however I do genuinely assume that 2022 goes to be a very good one for the duo. O’Ward has demonstrated some critical race craft in his two years as a full-time driver, however he is additionally struggled with consistency. His nice races are interspersed with completely disastrous days — however I believe 2022 goes to be O’Ward’s 12 months. He is been within the sequence lengthy sufficient to mature inside it and perceive how one can salvage a foul day. McLaren has confirmed to be a championship high quality staff. I believe that is the 12 months O’Ward will get it finished and takes the title.
Rookie of the 12 months: Christian Lundgaard
Man, the ROTY battle this 12 months has me torn, There are some severely spectacular younger drivers hitting the observe for the primary time this 12 months — however I believe the ROTY honors will go to the driving force in the most effective staff, and I believe Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is the most suitable choice, which implies Lundgaard (whose Twelfth-place end on his debut on the IMS highway course was additionally fairly spectacular) will take the cake. Sorry, AJ Foyt and Dale Coyne — I really like you, however I do not assume it is taking place this 12 months.
The Staff to Beat: Chip Ganassi Racing
It is wild to make all these predictions relating to non-CGR drivers and but nonetheless choose it because the staff to beat — however I will stand by it. Marcus Ericsson, Alex Palou, and Scott Dixon are all formidable beasts in their very own proper, and placing all of them on the identical staff collectively is, as the youngsters say, “goated.” CGR has proven a consistency that I believe Andretti and Penske have lacked, and people are the one two different groups I may actually see stepping up for the “staff to beat” prize.
Finest Race of the 12 months: Iowa Doubleheader
It took all my self-restraint to not say the Indy 500, however I am going with the different ovals as an alternative. Iowa at all times places on one hell of a present, and I do not assume it will be any totally different this 12 months.
Most Spectacular Driver: Colton Herta
I do know, I do know — it sounds bizarre to choose O’Ward as champion and Herta as most spectacular driver, however hear me out: Herta goes to have a heavy weight on his shoulders this 12 months. Everybody’s going to be speaking to him about F1, asking him for his opinions, anticipating him to carry out properly to realize the tremendous license factors he must enter the sequence. And I believe that is going to make for some completely gorgeous races, those that depart you with a dropped jaw and an absence of phrases. I additionally assume it’ll make for some gorgeous fuck-ups — poor begins, terrible qualifying positions, stuff like that — that may solely go to make for extra spectacular drives. Whereas I believe O’Ward goes to have consistency, I believe Herta goes to be doing battle with excessive expectations that may give him a topsy-turvy, however in the end unimaginable, season.
I really feel greater than out of the loop going into this 2022 season. It is not for an absence of following and making an attempt — only one feels comparatively off when their IndyCar stay race attendances go from close to half the calendar to nearly none for 2 years. I am aiming to vary that for 2022, and with my predictions, I am planning on it being a whirlwind of an IndyCar season as properly.
Grand Prix of St. Pete Winner: Helio Castroneves
This man is unstoppable, Helio Castroneves is simply coming off of an total/DPi class win on the Rolex 24 at Daytona to return for a full 2022 IndyCar season with the identical staff, Meyer Shank Racing. Let’s additionally word he gained his fourth Indy 500 final 12 months, AND gained his first Rolex watch with an total win in 2021. I do not know what Helio tops his breakfast cereal with, but when Winner’s Flakes are a factor, he is the one one with a field, and I believe he’ll be coming into 2022 with that very same unstoppable energy. (That’ll present Penske.)
Indy 500 Champion: Colton Herta
2022 may very well be the 12 months Colton Herta will get his 500 win. In 2019, he gained the primary operating at COTA, as a rookie, making him the youngest-ever IndyCar race winner. Simply his 2021 stats, he positioned fifth within the championship with 3 wins, and 4 different top-5 finishes. Want I say extra? I believe Herta is greater than able to overtake the opposite 32 Indy 500 entries for that prestigious win. It might additionally look very nice when he heads off to Europe with Andretti for F1.
Total Season Champion: Romain Grosjean
I will admit, I used to be seemingly Andretti’s Romain Grosjean’s least-likely fan whereas he was in Components 1. However his 2021 season in IndyCar helped me to acknowledge that his years of what I believed was whining, was simply pure frustration in being on a sub-par, mediocre staff (*cough* Haas). I actually get it now. That realization additionally helped place him as one in all my favourite drivers on the grid. The person is gifted, as we noticed final 12 months, with Grosjean nabbing one podium, 4 top-five finishes and 6 high 10s, and was near a win on a few events. This 12 months, he is operating full-time for Andretti Autosport, and I believe the person has lastly gotten his sea legs within the ever-challenging IndyCar. Whereas the ovals might current some challenges as he faces these for a first-time, I count on many extra wins and top-fives. Viva la Grosjean!
Rookie of the 12 months: Kyle Kirkwood
Elizabeth is correct, it is a robust one to choose, however I believe Kyle Kirkwood will be the one rookie value watching this season. Kirkwood is already pulling double-duty, having been one of many drivers behind the wheel of the No. 14 Vasser-Sullivan Lexus on the Rolex 24 at Daytona final month, which simply missed the rostrum for the GTD Professional Class. As Elizabeth detailed on her put up of this 12 months’s IndyCar Rookie Class, he has an inventory of championship wins within the final six years. Whereas AJ Foyt’s staff has not been a spot to flourish as a driver in recent times, if anybody may be capable to make an impression or dent within the standings for Foyt, I believe Kirkwood may do it and deserves some recognition and advantage on that alone.
The Staff to Beat: Meyer Shank Racing
[See Helio Castroneves entry above.]
Meyer Shank Racing is in uncommon type coming into this 2022 IndyCar season. With that, I’ve no doubts they’re going to make a mark. In simply 12 months, MSR has two Rolex wins, and an Indy 500 win beneath its belt. With each Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud returning with what was as soon as thought of a “scrappy staff,” this 12 months it isn’t a matter of being a staff with one thing to show, it is extra MSR is a staff with a successful method.
Finest Race of the 12 months: Huge Machine Music Metropolis Grand Prix (Nashville)
I am actually simply glad to see what may very well be a traditional IndyCar season return, however one race stands out on the calendar, and that is Nashville. Any new observe comes with a studying curve, and this road course undoubtedly introduced its “challenges” in 2021. With one try beneath the belt, I am guessing we see a number of drivers which may get slightly over assured, and can study some humility due to it.
Most Spectacular Driver: Conor Daly
If there’s one factor that at all times labored properly for Conor Daly’s IndyCar profession, it has been his time working with Ed Carpenter Racing. Perhaps everybody got here to their senses when it got here all the way down to deciding drivers for 2022, and I am grateful, as a result of it is makes for a combo value maintaining a tally of. Certain, Daly’s had a string of dangerous luck in earlier seasons, however that modified in 2019 along with his run within the Indy 500… touchdown a tenth place end and operating within the high 5 for a substantial distance. Maybe his #BadLuckConor part is lastly over, and he may get an opportunity to point out what he actually can do as a driver.