By: Spencer Neff
February 25, 2022
The five-month offseason is a thing of the past and today, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES embarks on its first of 16 rounds to make up its 2022 championship.
On Sunday, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will once again kick off the season. Ahead of this weekend’s on-track action, here’s a look at some of the big stories to watch as we kick off the season.
After a breakout season that resulted in three wins and his first championship, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou heads into his third season looking to become the first driver since Dario Franchitti (2009-2011) to win back-to-back championships.
The Barcelona, Spain native can also match Franchitti’s mark of being the last defending champion to open his title defense with a season-opening win. In 2011, the CGR driver did just that in a win at St. Petersburg.
Palou will have 25 drivers to beat out this weekend, including 2021 St. Petersburg winner Colton Herta. Last season, Herta earned three victories, including at the last two races (Laguna Seca and Long Beach).
If the Andretti Autosport driver can win this weekend, he’d continue a streak that dates back to Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015-2016. Since then, Sébastien Bourdais (2017-18) and Josef Newgarden (2019-20) have also notched victories at the event in consecutive years.
Also of note for this race and this season at large is the rookie class. In this year’s group of first-year drivers include 2021 Indy Lights Champion Kyle Kirkwood (A.J. Foyt Racing), who is the only driver to win championships on all three rungs of the Road to Indy ladder (Indy Lights, Indy Pro 2000 (2019) and USF2000 (2018).
Christian Lundgaard, who qualified fourth in his debut on the IMS Road Course in August, returns for a full-season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
After running the final three races of 2021, Callum Ilott will contest the 2022 season with Juncos Hollinger Racing. Making their debut this weekend along with Kirkwood at Foyt will be Tatiana Calderón, who brings previous experience from a number of international racing series from Pro Mazda (now Indy Pro 2000) to FIA WEC (World Endurance Championship).
Devlin DeFrancesco, who teamed with Herta and Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward alongside Eric Lux to win the LMP2 class in the Rolex 24 last month at Daytona International Speedway, moves up to Andretti Autosport. Also moving on from Indy Lights is 2021 runner-up David Malukas, who won seven races. This year, Malukas and HMD Motorsports join Dale Coyne Racing in the No. 18.
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Fast Facts
Race weekend: Friday, Feb. 25 – Sunday, Feb. 27
Track: Streets of St. Petersburg, 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit (clockwise) through downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, including a runway of Albert Whitted Airport
Race distance: 100 laps / 180 miles (NTT INDYCAR SERIES) | 60 minute timed race (Indy Lights)
Push-to-pass parameters (NTT INDYCAR SERIES): 150 seconds of total time with a maximum single duration of 15 seconds. The push-to-pass is not available on the initial start or any restart unless it occurs in the final two laps or three minutes of a timed race
Firestone tire allotment (NTT INDYCAR SERIES): Six sets primary, four sets alternate. One additional set is available to rookie drivers for use in the Friday afternoon practice session
2021 NTT P1 Award winner: Colton Herta, 1:00.3210, 107.425 mph
Qualifying lap record: Jordan King, 1:00.0476; 107.914 mph, March 10, 2018 (set in Round 1
NBC Sports telecast: Race, noon ET Sunday, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey is the play-by-play announcer for NBC’s coverage of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, alongside analysts Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe. Marty Snider, Kevin Lee and Dave Burns are the pit reporters. Spanish-language telecast will be available on Telemundo.
Peacock Premium Live Streaming: All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying and Indy Lights races will stream live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.
INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Nick Yeoman, Jake Query and Michael Young are the turn announcers. Ryan Myrehn and Alex Wollf are the pit reporters The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race and all NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying sessions air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 160, racecontrol.indycar.com and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA. All Indy Lights practice and qualifying sessions and races are available on racecontrol.indycar.com, the INDYCAR App and SiriusXM 160.
At-track schedule (All Times Local/Eastern Time):
Friday, Feb. 25
10:05-10:50 a.m. – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires practice
3:40-4:25 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, Peacock Premium
1:40-2:10 p.m. – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires qualifying
5:40-6:10 p.m. – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires practice
Saturday, Feb. 26
9-9:45 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, Peacock Premium
12:30-1:45 p.m. – Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), Peacock Premium (Live)
Sunday, Feb. 27
8:45-9:15 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock Premium
9:30 a.m. – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (60 minutes), Peacock Premium (Live)
Noon – NBC Sports on air
12:23 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines”
12:30 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding (100 laps / 181 miles), NBC, Telemundo and Peacock Premium (Live)
Header Image and Fast Facts By INDYCAR