Five drivers taking the race for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship to the final laps of the season finale. A return to a full racing calendar, with successful reboots of two events. Growing numbers of viewers on television and streaming platforms. An exciting new era for Indy Lights.
Add it all up, and INDYCAR’s trajectory during and after the 2022 season continues to move upward.
“INDYCAR continues to build on its strengths as the fastest, most daring and exciting circuit racing in the world,” said Mark Miles, Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO. “Working closely with our teams, manufacturers and sponsor partners, our long-term strategy for growth is succeeding at every level.
“The 2022 season was memorable on and off the track for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, and we can’t wait to see this collaboration generate even more progress next year.”
Thrilling, Close Competition
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship was decided at the final event of the year for the 17th consecutive season, with Will Power clinching his second title for Team Penske by just 16 points over teammate Josef Newgarden.
Five drivers – Power, Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske and Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing – entered the season finale eligible to win the Astor Challenge Cup as season champion. That’s the most drivers with a chance for the championship in a regular-points season finale since 2003.
The championship lead also was exchanged seven times between McLaughlin, Newgarden, Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing, Power and Ericsson during the season.
Nine different drivers won at least one of the 17 races this season, led by Newgarden with five. That’s just two shy of the all-time INDYCAR SERIES record for different winners in one season.
Power and Dixon also made history with significant career milestones. Power broke a tie with fellow legend Mario Andretti with his 68th career pole at the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, an all-time INDYCAR SERIES record. Dixon’s victory at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville was the 53rd of his illustrious career, breaking a tie with Andretti for No. 2 all time on the INDYCAR SERIES win list, behind only the 67 victories by the legendary A.J. Foyt.
Other highlights were Ericsson’s thrilling victory in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and three wins by McLaughlin in just his second season of open-wheel racing.
Vibrant, Consistent Schedule
After two seasons of pandemic-related reshuffling, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES returned to a more traditional, 17-race schedule in 2022, with anchored dates familiar to fans.
Highlights included once again starting the season with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and finishing with the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach restored to its traditional April date, and the welcome return of the Honda Indy Toronto to Canada’s largest city for the first time since 2019.
Another welcome sight was the return of full capacity for fans at the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on May 29 after two years of pandemic-related restrictions, including no fans admitted in 2020. Fans responded with vigor, as a near-sellout crowd of more than 300,000 attended the world’s largest sporting gathering since the onset of COVID-19.
Perhaps the biggest success story of the 2022 schedule was the revitalization of INDYCAR racing at Iowa Speedway after a one-year hiatus. The Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend featured a doubleheader for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and a single event for Indy Lights on the fast oval. A successful promotion with enthusiastic title partner Hy-Vee, which included four concerts with country and pop music superstars at the track, resulted in big crowds despite stifling summer heat.
The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, which debuted in 2021 to rave reviews on the streets of Nashville, also continued to flourish in its second year.
Continued Audience Growth
The growing popularity of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES was reflected in the most-watched season in six years on television, with viewership up 5 percent over 2021. The season averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 1.30 million viewers across NBC, USA Network, Peacock and NBC Sports digital platforms, the best in NBC Sports history.
Half of the season’s 16 races on television delivered more than 1 million viewers, the highest mark since 2008. A record 14 of 17 races were on NBC network television in 2022, and selected series races also were televised by Telemundo Deportes on Universo.
This also was the most streamed INDYCAR season on record, with exponential growth compared to 2021. A series race, the Honda Indy Toronto, was streamed exclusively for the first time, and the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge was the most streamed INDYCAR SERIES race ever.
International coverage of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and domestic and international coverage of Indy Lights was available around the world through the new INDYCAR Live! streaming platform.
Growing Team Investment
At least 25 cars competed in every NTT INDYCAR SERIES event outside of the 33-car Indianapolis 500, as teams and their commercial partners found mutual benefits from the enticing, attractive mix of street courses, natural road courses and ovals found in no other series on Earth.
Juncos Hollinger Racing switched from part time to full time with one car in 2022 and announced plans to add a second car for the 2023 season. Arrow McLaren SP also unveiled plans to add a third car to its lineup in 2023.
Off the track, Arrow McLaren SP, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Andretti Autosport also announced plans for gleaming, expanded new headquarters and race shop facilities in the Indianapolis area.
New Commercial Partners
Many commercial partners joined INDYCAR or NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams or extended pacts with both in 2022.
PeopleReady, Shell, PIRTEK, PPG, Gallagher Insurance, The American Legion and Autograph were added to the impressive roster of INDYCAR partners, while Dallara, Gainbridge, Ruoff Mortgage and TAG Heuer extended pacts with the sanctioning body.
Sustainability Efforts Blossom
Penske Entertainment continued its sustainability journey by announcing a lineup of additional energy solutions for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indianapolis Motor Speedway during May and beyond. The variety of initiatives will help reduce the carbon footprint within INDYCAR and power progress toward more sustainable motorsports in North America.
Among the initiatives announced was Shell’s 100% Renewable Race Fuel to be introduced into the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The fuel developed by Shell is set to make the NTT INDYCAR SERIES the first United States-based motorsports series to power racing with 100 percent renewable race fuel and enables at least 60 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction compared to fossil-based gasoline.
Firestone also debuted a new eco-friendlier tire made from the North American-sourced guayule shrub. It was introduced during the Indy 500 pit stop competition and as the alternate tire at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.
Indy Lights Grows
INDYCAR assumed in 2022 promotion and execution of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship, the final step of preparation before the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
The season featured 14 races, all at the same tracks and on the same weekends as NTT INDYCAR SERIES events as the two series blended their paddocks when possible to provide further exposure for Lights drivers.
Swedish driver Linus Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. Lundqvist will receive an enhancement package to climb to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES next season.
Indy Lights also saw growth in participating drivers, with 12 to 14 cars competing at every race. Like in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Lights teams also announced expansion plans for 2023, with championship team HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing planning to field eight cars.
The series also will enter a new era in 2023 with longtime NTT INDYCAR SERIES tire supplier Firestone also providing rubber for Indy Lights teams, increasing the synergy between the two series.