The IndyCar Series will be hitting the track in St. Petersburg, Florida for the first race of the 2022 season this weekend— and that means it’s time to start getting excited. This year is a great year to start watching IndyCar if you’re not already a fan of the series, and we’re going to tell you everything you need to know to step into that first race with confidence.
Let’s Talk Basics
Let me start with the big picture before we get into the specifics. IndyCar is an open-wheel race series that’s populated by tons of great international drivers but runs almost exclusively in the United States. This year, a revolving cast of characters will take on 17 races at 16 different circuits: five street circuits, seven road courses, and four ovals.
I say “revolving” because IndyCar doesn’t mandate a certain number of drivers per team, nor does it require drivers to compete for a full season. If you’re used to a more European-style open-wheel series, that’s probably going to take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, I promise you’ll like it. You’ll get a chance to watch tons of drivers compete throughout the season, many of whom are either taking on their specialty tracks or who are just easing into oval courses for the first time.
10. Out With The Old, In With The New
IndyCar is in transition. Older, longtime drivers like Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter, and Ryan Hunter-Reay have stepped back from full-time competition to make way for a spate of rookie drivers: David Malukas, Callum Illott, Christian Lundgaard, Devlin DeFrancesco, Kyle Kirkwood, and Tatiana Calderon.
Sure, it’s going to be pretty strange to tune into an event and see tons of names that you’re not familiar with. But I will say this: You’re about to get in at the right time. This year, we’re going to see how these promising rookies react and measure who will have the talent to become championship-worthy material.
9. The Last Gasp For The Twin-Turbo Era
Next year, IndyCar is moving forward. Instead of its current twin-turbocharged engine, the 2023 Indy car will be outfitted with a hybrid motor system similar to the ones used by Formula One machines.
And, listen — I know not everyone is a fan of the push for electrification, but there are few better times to start watching a motorsport series than when that series is on the cusp of change. The twin-turbo engines have been around long enough that every team has had a chance to really get accustomed to them, and the new motor in the horizon means we’ll likely see shakeups next year. If you want to get in while the going is good, this is the time.
8. A Familiar Calendar
This year, there aren’t any big surprises with the IndyCar calendar — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The series is still hitting plenty of ovals, road courses, and street circuits, and there’s going to be a great blend of experience from the older drivers paired with derring-do by the younger ones. This is going to be a great season to watch.
Even better? This year, IndyCar is offering a $1 million prize to the first driver to win on a street, oval, and road course. Half of that money has to go to charity, but that’s a pretty damn good reason to start the season off on your best foot.
- February 27: St. Pete (street)
- March 20: Texas Motor Speedway (oval)
- April 10: Long Beach (street)
- May 1: Barber Motorsports Park (road)
- May 14: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (road)
- May 29: Indy 500 (oval)
- June 5: Belle Isle (street)
- June 12: Road America (road)
- July 3: Mid-Ohio (road)
- July 17: Toronto (street)*
- July 23: Iowa Speedway (oval)
- July 24: Iowa Speedway (oval)
- July 30: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (road)
- August 7: Nashville (street)
- August 20: Gateway Motorsports Park (oval)
- September 4: Portland International Raceway (road)
- September 11: Laguna Seca (road)
* Please note that the Canadian round at Toronto has been cancelled in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is currently scheduled to go on as planned, but as we’ve seen, anything can happen.
7. Anyone Can Win
I know that everyone was hyped about last year’s Formula One season (and for good reason — it was pretty damn great), but I also know that it can get pretty old waiting to see which driver or two will manage to win a race. Not so in IndyCar, a series where just about every driver on the grid has a chance to win.
Take 2021 for example. The title came down to two drivers: Alex Palou in his second year of IndyCar racing and Josef Newgarden approaching a decade in the sport. During that time, though, Pato O’Ward, Scott Dixon, Rinus Veekay, Colton Herta, Hélio Castroneves, Marcus Ericsson, and Will Power also won races.
6. Big Personalities
Have you watched other sports and prayed desperately for the athletes involved to show a single shred of personality every so often? It seems like it’s worse in motorsport, where there are so many high-dollar sponsorships at stake that everyone needs to hold their tongue. Good news: That’s not the case in IndyCar. Here, drivers are invited to share their personalities.
Take driver Simon Pagenaud, for example, who loves sharing the adventures of his dog Norman. Or Romain Grosjean, who has taken to TikTok to start showing off his gymnastic adventures. Or Conor Daly, who’s always searching for a reason to get behind the wheel and who’s eternally honest about performance when things go wrong. Or Pato O’Ward, who isn’t afraid to turn himself into a meme. Or Alexander Rossi, whose dry sense of wit has established him as a fan favorite for those who love snark.
5. This Sport Is About To Explode
One of the first things you’re going to learn as a new IndyCar fan is that the sport has been through some rough times. American open-wheel racing has been torn apart and stitched back together more times than should be possible, but that hasn’t stopped fans from continuing to watch the exceptional racing that IndyCar puts on.
The best part? IndyCar has been steadily growing since its most recent reunification. It’s becoming a desirable series for drivers from multiple disciplines (I mean, just look at the field this year; there’s a former F1 driver and a seven-time NASCAR champion). It’s getting easier to watch the sport. Fans are getting more passionate. The series is doing a great job at legitimizing itself with great racing and exceptional promotion. But it all still has a little bit of that down-home feel to it, where you know everyone and everyone knows you.
Seriously: this is the golden age of IndyCar. If you’re not already watching, you’re going to want to start now.
4. The Indy 500
IndyCar calls the Indianapolis 500 “the greatest spectacle in racing,” and it’s hard to deny that. This is an event that’s been running since the early 1900s, seeing massive evolutions in history and vehicle technology — an event that enables one driver to make a name for oneself and note one’s name down in the annals of racing history. It’s the kind of event that gives you chills just thinking about it.
If you’re only going to tune into one race this year, make it the Indy 500. It’s an event with a massive purse and a huge field, and everyone is hungry to take that checkered flag and drink that milk at the end.
3. You Can Actually Afford To Attend A Race
Have you tried to buy tickets for a Formula One or NASCAR race lately? I, for one, have no interest in selling organs on the black market just to get a general admission ticket for the Miami Grand Prix. It’s absurd.
But with IndyCar, you’re looking at some fairly cheap ticket prices if you’re keen on hitting the race track this year. Indy 500 tickets can get a little pricy, but if you’re heading to just about any other race, you can get in the door for well under $100 for the weekend.
And the best part? Paddock passes and pit passes are generally available to purchase, also for extremely reasonable prices. If you’re looking for a fun weekend activity that you can attend for a cheaper price than most zoos or museums these days, an IndyCar race is still the way to go.
2. Watching Races On TV Is Easy
Watching races easily on television without having to perform some arcane ritual magic and pay a lot of money for a special TV package? I know, I know — it doesn’t sound real. But with IndyCar, just about every race will be easily accessible on the NBC or USA channels (with the exception of one race, which is on Peacock, and that’s only because no one can guarantee that the Canadian round will take place this year). Here’s how it plays out:
- NBC: races 1-6, 8-9, 11-14, 16-17
- USA: races 7, 15
- Peacock: race 10
1. We’ll Be Covering Everything Right Here On Jalopnik
During the 2021-22 off-season, we here at Jalopnik took a good, hard look at our race coverage, and we decided that it was time to do something different. Something better. We’re going to make a concerted effort to bring you the best racing content you can find online through interviews, deep dives, tech explainers, and on-the-scene race coverage that you’re just not going to find anywhere else. And it all starts with this article, which is the first in a monthlong series designed to hype up the start of the year.
So, if this is your first year on the IndyCar train — or even if you’re a longtime fan — we invite you to join us on this journey into the heart of American open-wheel racing for what we know will be an exceptional season.