The 2022 NTT IndyCar Series kicks off a 17-race schedule in February on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. While every race is important in the IndyCar Series schedule, let’s take a look at four races that are absolute must-see in 2022.
For the sake of this article, we will skip the Indianapolis 500, since that’s must-see by default.
4 IndyCar Races to Watch in 2022
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park
The race kicking off the month of May for IndyCar has earned a place of prominence on the IndyCar schedule. As IndyCar’s main foray into the deep south, this event has traditionally been a packed house at George Barber’s track near Birmingham, Alabama.
Of the last five races at this track, three of them have been won by eventual series champions, with Simon Pagenaud taking the win in 2016, Josef Newgarden winning one year later, and Alex Palou scoring his first IndyCar win in 2021.
The polesitter has won five times at this track, with Will Power’s win from ninth in 2012 the farthest back any winner has started.
Rain is this race’s other X-factor. In 2014 and 2018, torrential rainstorms brought the race to a premature end. In 2018, the race actually started on Sunday, was red flagged, and then restarted on Monday in dry conditions that then turned damp.
In addition to IndyCar racing there, all three Road to Indy series (Indy Lights, Indy Pro 2000, and USF2000) are also racing that weekend, giving current team owners an opportunity to scout future talent. David Malukas, Pato O’Ward, and Colton Herta are full-time IndyCar drivers that have won at Barber in the Road to Indy and all are looking to get their first Barber win in 2022.
Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course went to the Fourth of July weekend in 2021, and the move was so popular with fans that it’s back again in this slot for 2022. One of the more challenging tracks on the schedule, the road course has had its share of dramatic championship moments since Indy cars began racing here in 1980.
In 2010, Dario Franchitti won his second race of that IndyCar season at Mid-Ohio, that race continuing a six-race podium streak that led to his second of three championships with Chip Ganassi Racing.
More recently, Pagenaud and Newgarden also won at Mid-Ohio en route to their championship-winning campaigns in 2016 and 2017, both making highlight-reel worthy passes of teammate Will Power to do so. However, Newgarden also threw away many valuable points in 2019 that nearly cost him the title that season when he spun into a gravel trap on the final lap after trying to pass Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Herta’s second string of bad races in the 2021 season started at Mid-Ohio as the second-generation racer had bad pit stops and a late stop for fuel that dropped him to 13th at the finish.
Scott Dixon has six wins at Mid-Ohio, the most of any active driver. However, none of those wins have come in a year where the New Zealander has clinched the championship. However, a driver to keep an eye on at Mid-Ohio is hometown hero Graham Rahal, who clinched a very popular win at the facility in 2015.
All three Road to Indy championships are also racing at Mid-Ohio.
Iowa Doubleheader Weekend
Twice the action is twice as nice at Iowa Speedway as the IndyCar Series goes back to the .875 mile oval, thanks to Hyvee sponsoring the weekend. The track has variable banking in the turns (12 degrees on the bottom, 14 on the top) with lap speeds approaching 180 mph.
Iowa Speedway brings an interesting strategic element to oval racing in the IndyCar Series. Much like Texas Motor Speedway, a driver pitting early can gain a lot of time and positions on drivers staying out, but that driver can risk being trapped laps down if a caution comes out.
The last time the series visited Iowa in 2020, Oliver Askew played the strategy game to near-perfection in scoring his only IndyCar podium in the first Iowa race of that doubleheader weekend. However, Simon Pagenaud played it even better by driving from last to first after his car failed to start for his qualifying run.
Perhaps the most famous strategic gamble at Iowa was under a late caution in 2014. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden pitted under caution on Lap 284 of 300, and the pair of them went from ninth and 11th on the final restart on Lap 290 to finish first and second.
Newgarden has three wins at Iowa Speedway, including perhaps the most dominating win on an oval seen in IndyCar in some time by leading 282 of 300 laps.
Indy Lights is the only Road to Indy series also racing that weekend.
Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway
The final oval race of the 2022 IndyCar Series takes place just outside of St. Louis at Gateway Motorsports Park, a 1.25-mile oval that drives more like a short track than a superspeedway.
Much like Iowa, many drivers are able to use strategy by way of short pitting to advance their way through the field, but at the risk of a caution coming out to destroy their strategy.
However, some drivers have won the race by running long before a pit stop. This was how Takuma Sato won in 2019 as he stayed out during a late pit stop sequence and made his final stop under yellow. The Japanese racer won over Ed Carpenter and Tony Kanaan in a close finish. Sato made the first of the 2020 races interesting as he overtook O’Ward late for a podium position, but couldn’t get around Dixon to win.
Gateway is perhaps one of the most well-promoted races on the IndyCar schedule, other than the Indy 500. With Indy Lights and Indy Pro 2000 racing on the same weekend combined with the usual historic Indy cars running on track, fans of all ages will find something to entertain themselves until the big race on Saturday evening.
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