Record-breaking speeds and wide-open field for 2022 edition of IndyCar’s biggest race

2022 Indianapolis 500 preview

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Qualifying speeds not seen in a quarter of a century, and the prospect of the first five-time winner in history, have grabbed headlines and captured the imagination of fans in the build-up for the 106th Indianapolis 500. Will the race itself live up to the hype?

A week of practice, plus two days of time trials, saw drivers approach speeds not seen at the ‘Brickyard’ since 1996 – an era of open chassis, a two-faction tyre war, and larger displacement engines with more turbocharging pressure on tap than today’s cars enjoy.

What was behind the speed rises which yielded the fastest pole position run in history? Engine suppliers Chevrolet and Honda have continued to extract as much horsepower and efficiency from their 2.2-litre turbo-V6 engines this year, with Chevy holding a slight advantage in straight line speed.

A new coat of track sealant was also applied to the racing surface during the off-season. But other than that, the gains have come from what teams have been able to tease from their machines in the third year since the Aeroscreen transformed the look – and handling – of current IndyCars.

Optional aerodynamic components are still on offer for teams, as they were last year, to aid the quality of racing. Initial weather forecasts predict a warmer race than last year, but nothing unbearably hot for the end of May. There’s a real prospect that the fastest race record could be beaten if the driving standards match last year and the race is run with few incidents.

Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank, IndyCar, Indianapolis 500, 2021
Castroneves is looking for a record fifth win
There’s no shortage of storylines heading into the 2022 edition of the Indy 500, headlined by Helio Castroneves’ pursuit of an unprecedented fifth victory.

Castroneves, 47, rolled back the years in last year’s race, fighting off the challenge of eventual IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou to tie the record of four Indy victories held jointly with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Snr, and Rick Mears. In doing so, he also gave IndyCar upstarts Meyer Shank Racing their first ever victory in the series.

But this year during time trials, Castroneves failed to make the cut for the new Top 12 shootout for pole position, qualifying 27th. In order to stand alone at the summit of Indianapolis 500 champions, he’ll have to win from the ninth row of the grid – a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Johnny Rutherford won from 25th in 1974.

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The other previous winner out of the elite eight that are in this year’s field, worth keeping an eye on, is the pole winner Scott Dixon, the man who broke Scott Brayton’s 26-year-old record for the fastest pole qualifying run in Indy history – with a four-lap average speed of 234.046mph / 376.661kph.

Scott Dixon, Ganassi, Indianapolis 500 testing, 2022
Dixon’s stunning run on Sunday netted his fifth Indy 500 pole
Yet, his sole Indy 500 win back in 2008 leaves a staggeringly lopsided ratio to the other 50 wins he’s taken over the course of his illustrious career. And in order to secure his legacy as one of the all-time greats of American open-wheel racing, Dixon will be motivated, now more than ever, to turn his record-setting qualifying run – at the head of the fastest Indy 500 field in history – into that long-awaited second trip to victory lane.

The other six past champions in the field should not be discounted, either. IndyCar points leader Will Power is going for his second Indy win. Takuma Sato has a chance not only to win his third Indy 500, but to give team owner Dale Coyne his first victory at Indy after four decades in the sport. Simon Pagenaud made the same switch from Penske to Meyer Shank that Castroneves did last year, and now he’s hoping for the same outcome. And 2016’s shock winner Alexander Rossi wants nothing more than a second win to re-energise his career.

Carpenter were Ganassi’s closest competition in qualifying
To say nothing of Tony Kanaan, and fellow part-timer Juan Pablo Montoya, who are both hoping they can contend for one more Indy win before drawing their careers to a close. Of the two, it’s Kanaan – part of the Chip Ganassi Racing stable that dominated time trials – who stands the better chance at winning next weekend.

Alongside Dixon on the front row, represents two key pieces of IndyCar’s great youth movement of the 2020s – Palou, who finished a close second to Castroneves last year, and Rinus VeeKay, the fastest day one qualifier and the fastest driver out of the Ed Carpenter Racing stable. Palou’s status as an elite IndyCar driver was confirmed by winning the series championship last year, and he’ll hope to improve just one position in his third Indy start.

For 21-year-old VeeKay, a win at the 500 would see the young Dutchman break Troy Ruttman’s 70-year record as the youngest winner in Indy history, and certainly, he would emerge from the shadow of some of his peers such as Palou, Pato O’Ward, and Colton Herta.

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Two-time winner Montoya is back again with McLaren SP
And speaking of O’Ward and Herta – two IndyCar drivers with current Formula 1 ties and ambitions – O’Ward will spearhead a three-car effort with Montoya and Felix Rosenqvist, aiming to bring the McLaren name back to victory lane for the first time since 1976. ‘Hooligan Herta’, who’s not had a great deal of fortune in the 500 in his brief career, will go from the ninth row of the grid alongside Castroneves and IndyCar’s latest first-time winner and 2021 Indy 500 rookie of the year, Scott McLaughlin.

This year, seven drivers will compete for Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honours, the biggest rookie class at the race since 2014. It’s an eclectic group of Road to Indy graduates Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas, and Devlin DeFrancesco, and former F1 prospects Callum Ilott and Christian Lundgaard.

Then, there’s the two ‘super rookies’. International audiences have been captivated by Romain Grosjean’s transition from F1 to IndyCar last season. This year, Grosjean makes his Indy 500 debut as the fastest rookie in the field – and the highest-qualifying driver from the otherwise struggling Andretti Autosport fleet.

Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson’s laborious struggles of transitioning to IndyCar in the sunset of his racing career will be worth it, if the 47-year-old Indy rookie can capture lightning in a bottle and win the race on his debut. He may have nearly wrecked in the second day of time trials, but as a Ganassi driver, Johnson has the team behind him to make his dream come true.

Those drivers will be trying to win the race for the first time, but a number of veterans have been coming to Indy for years in search of their first encounter with the Borg-Warner Trophy. Among them, Indiana native Ed Carpenter is in the race for the 19th year, the most of any driver that has yet to win the race. His young team mate Conor Daly, also a local favourite, led the most laps one year ago but couldn’t quite close the deal, and will try again in his ninth start.

Johnson flirted with disaster on his way to 12th on the grid
Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti hope to continue their families’ Indy legacies – Rahal trying to match his father’s 1986 win, Andretti trying to win the race his father Michael never could. JR Hildebrand’s agonising near-miss in 2011 could be the epithet of his legacy unless he’s able to shock the world and win in his twelfth try. And now, 31-year-old Josef Newgarden, a two-time IndyCar Series champion, is on the clock, trying to add the one missing piece to his hall of fame calibre career in his eleventh Indy 500 start – and his sixth as a driver for Team Penske.

Out of all 33 cars, the five drivers from Ganassi – including fourth-year veteran Marcus Ericsson, who’s been strong all week – have to be the favourites based on qualifying form. Penske had another anonymous qualifying session, but they along with Andretti Autosport cannot be counted out. Ed Carpenter’s team always has the speed, but can they finally put it together when it counts the most?

The prospects for an all-time great Indy 500 are in the books, but certainly, given the surging speeds in the days leading up to Sunday’s race, our hope is that every driver, every member of every crew, and every spectator – in the first full-capacity Indy 500 since 2019 – can return home safely when all is said and done.

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2022 Indianapolis 500 starting grid

PositionNumberNameTeamEngineAverage speed
19Scott DixonGanassiHonda376.660kph (234.046mph)
210Alex PalouGanassiHonda375.779kph (233.499mph)
321Rinus VeeKayCarpenterChevrolet375.596kph (233.385mph)
433Ed CarpenterCarpenterChevrolet375.105kph (233.08mph)
58Marcus EricssonGanassiHonda374.596kph (232.764mph)
61Tony KanaanGanassiHonda373.966kph (232.372mph)
75Patricio O’WardMcLaren SPChevrolet374.501kph (232.705mph)
87Felix RosenqvistMcLaren SPChevrolet373.660kph (232.182mph)
928Romain GrosjeanAndrettiHonda373.365kph (231.999mph)
1051Takuma SatoCoyne/RWRHonda372.836kph (231.67mph)
1112Will PowerPenskeChevrolet372.617kph (231.534mph)
1248Jimmie JohnsonGanassiHonda372.182kph (231.264mph)
1318David MalukasCoyne/HMDHonda372.734kph (231.607mph)
142Josef NewgardenPenskeChevrolet372.691kph (231.58mph)
1523Santino FerrucciDreyer & ReinboldChevrolet372.575kph (231.508mph)
1660Simon PagenaudMeyer ShankHonda372.200kph (231.275mph)
1711JR HildebrandFoytChevrolet371.938kph (231.112mph)
1820Conor DalyCarpenterChevrolet371.756kph (230.999mph)
1977Callum IlottJuncos HollingerChevrolet371.695kph (230.961mph)
2027Alexander RossiAndrettiHonda371.455kph (230.812mph)
2115Graham RahalRLLHonda371.381kph (230.766mph)
2224Sage KaramDreyer & ReinboldChevrolet370.895kph (230.464mph)
2398Marco AndrettiAndretti/HertaHonda370.703kph (230.345mph)
2429Devlin DefrancescoAndretti/SteinbrennerHonda370.673kph (230.326mph)
2526Colton HertaAndrettiHonda370.526kph (230.235mph)
263Scott McLaughlinPenskeChevrolet370.396kph (230.154mph)
276Helio CastronevesMeyer ShankHonda369.553kph (229.63mph)
2814Kyle KirkwoodFoytChevrolet369.192kph (229.406mph)
294Dalton KellettFoytChevrolet368.404kph (228.916mph)
306Juan Pablo MontoyaMcLaren SPChevrolet367.931kph (228.622mph)
3130Christian LundgaardRLLHonda365.405kph (227.053mph)
3245Jack HarveyRLLHonda365.080kph (226.851mph)
3325Stefan WilsonDragonSpeedChevroletNo time

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Author information

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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13 comments on “Record-breaking speeds and wide-open field for 2022 edition of IndyCar’s biggest race”

  1. That last sentence brings it home. This is a really exciting event, a race. But also scary to me. I hope it will be a great one, the year has had enough bad news already (not in sports, but in general)

    1. @bascb That said, it has been a remarkably incident-free build-up to this year’s race. Though of course that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way.

      1. Yes, so far it is looking good. The cars also look like they are solid and not nervous on any part of the track, let us hope the good vibes continue @keithcollantine. I hope I find the time again to watch the whole thing (i missed most of it last 2 years)

    2. That was a little bit dark tbh. But it’s the only race where I just hold my breath any time there is a spin.

  2. Can’t wait! Looking forward to seeing 300,000 people back in the place after years of Covid dread. The worlds largest single day sporting event is also the most exciting.

  3. Indianapolis 500 is the world’s biggest race. Together with LeMans24. There is nothing else in their league. And I cant wait for either!

    I hope somebody is able to give Dixon a good run for his money. I also hope Sato and Grosjean next to each other isnt an explosive combination ;)
    Also, I hope the race features some spectacular crashes as nothing can replace that kind of drama.

    1. Together with LeMans24. There is nothing else in their league. And I cant wait for either!

      I really enjoy watching Le Mans every year, probably the one race that awe’s me the most every-time; it never disappoints. Those live onboard cameras (w/o commenters) of drivers tackling Le Man in the wee night before the sun rises is to me the most spectacular racing to watch.

      Indy 500 is another one, the one race where everyone is given a shot to go all out, it’s a true car race with many chances for drivers not have it go their way. It’s not just pure skill but also who has Lady Luck on their side. There’s quite a few facets to this race that is not obvious that you have to pay attention to that makes it much more than just a spectacle to watch on tv.

      I think it will be a very good year to watch the Indy 500 and I very much hope for a clean and safe race. I’m looking forward to it and wish all the drivers well.

  4. I wonder why they didn’t develop oval-spec aero screens as part of the new package.

  5. Got my tickets and I’m excited to go.

  6. …And what about Sato potentially winning it 3 times and Colton Herta? I know Stefan Wilson is there just for the numbers…

  7. Last week I chalked up my 30th anniversary of being an F1 fanatic (1992 San Marino GP was the inception point). F1 is a part of me, its my religion. Naturally, I have a shortlist of F1 races I would like to attend.

    But I’m sorry F1 – the Indy 500 trumps all F1 races on that list by a mile, or perhaps by 2.5 miles…

    1. @unicron2002
      Congrats! I started watching F1 around the same time – must’ve been 1992 or so, but dilligently only in 1994.

      Indy500, just like 24LeMans, isn’t just a race in a season, it’s a whole event on its own, it’s like an Olympic 100m sprint final or a heavyweight world championship boxing fight.
      It’s also like a 3h long blockbuster Hollywod movie, whereas F1 GP are just episodes of a decent sitcom.

  8. Mark in Florida
    26th May 2022, 16:58

    Indy should be highly entertaining this year. I hope that people who are fans of F1 will learn to appreciate the skill it takes to make clean passes at these extreme speeds. The drivers have to set up the passes in a way where they get the tow from the car ahead and then make the pass stick as they get in front all without getting loose at 230 mph. There’s a lot of subtlety involved. Drivers that get impatient usually wreck out of the race by undercutting the the car in front which takes out both cars and can cause a massive wreck involving others. Or they go too high and get on the marbles and go into the wall. I like all kinds of racing WRC being one of my favorites. Those guys skill level is insane.

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