The 2022 IndyCar season kicks off this month with its first race in St. Petersburg, Florida, and if you plan on tuning in, you’re liable to find a handful of names in the timing and scoring that you likely haven’t heard before. This is the IndyCar rookie class for 2022 — and it’s time to get to know these drivers so you know just who to root for.
- No. 11 A.J. Foyt Enterprises (road and street courses only)
- Past Highlights: Alfa Romeo F1 test driver, podium finishes in Star Mazda
Tatiana Calderón has been a prominent figure in the motorsport world for a while now, and she’s finally graduated to the top level of American open-wheel racing. While she isn’t competing for the entire year — Calderón will split the No. 11 Chevrolet with another driver that will take on all the oval tracks — she’s a fine road racer who can be expected to make the most of this opportunity.
“Ever since I started my single seater career in the United States eleven years ago, IndyCar has been a reference for me, and it’s a dream come true to be on the grid this year,” Calderón said in a press release. “I can’t wait to get to St. Petersburg for the first race of the season! I’m well aware of the challenge ahead, but this is the chance of a lifetime, and I’m keen on making the most of it.”
- No. 29 Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport
- Past Highlights: 2017 Spanish F3 Champion, second place in Indy Pro 2000
Devlin DeFrancesco is finally hitting the IndyCar scene, which won’t be a surprise if you’ve followed the series’ feeder categories for the past few years. DeFrancesco is joining a star-studded lineup that consists of Alexander Rossi, Colton Herta, and Romain Grosjean, which means he’s in the prime place to start learning his craft.
“It really is a dream come true,” DeFrancesco said in an interview with LookCharms. “When I came back from Europe and started working in the Road To Indy single-seater industry with Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport, that was always my goal. Going from the Indy Pro 2000, to the Indy Lights and now to the IndyCar, all within the same team, has been of great help to me because after two years with them this place is already like my house. I believe this will greatly facilitate the transition to the IndyCar which is, I realize, a huge challenge. But I can’t wait to get started. I just completed two days of testing in an IndyCar, loved the experience and can’t wait to get back in the car. ”
- No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing
- United Kingdom
- Past Highlights: Alfa Romeo F1 reserve driver, 2020 F2 runner-up, member of Ferrari driver academy, nine-time karting champion
If you’ve even tangentially followed the Formula One feeder categories, you know that Callum Ilott should have had a race seat in F1 — but F1's loss is IndyCar’s gain. The British driver has absolutely killed it in both open-wheel and endurance racing series, which means his biggest challenge this year will be the ovals.
Ilott signed a three-race deal with Juncos at the end of 2021, where he scored a best finish of 22nd in Laguna Seca. He’s looking to build on the foundation he established then in order to grow as a driver.
- No. 14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises
- United States
- Past Highlights: 2021 Indy Lights Champion, 2019 Indy Pro 2000 Champion, 2018 F3 Americas and USF2000 Champion, 2017 F4 United States Champion
Kyle Kirkwood is the second half of A.J. Foyt’s rookie lineup this year, though he’ll be competing all season. He was absolutely dominant in USF2000 (where he won 12 of 14 races in 2018), Indy Pro 2000 (where he won nine of 15 races in 2019), and Indy Lights (where he won 10 of 20 races in 2021). He’s one of the few rookies this year to have victories on road, street, and oval circuits, and his success at previous IndyCar calendar tracks makes him a great candidate for Rookie of the Year.
“It’s going to be a tougher crowd racing in IndyCar,” Kirkwood said about moving up from the lower ranks, as reported by Speedway Media. “I fully expect that. That’s what I’ve known coming up through all the ranks. Most of the drivers in Road to Indy are rookies. I’m coming into IndyCar as a rookie where there are veteran drivers that have been here for 15 years. It’s all new to me. Of course, I have to take a step back, know I need to learn some things. Most of the time, most of the categories, I came into it knowing I probably had the most knowledge. Now I’ve got probably the least.”
- No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
- Past Highlights: Four-time karting champion, 2017 SMP F4 and F4 Spain Champion, member of the Alpine Academy
Christian Lundgaard was another driver whose path to F1 has taken him to IndyCar racing instead. In his debut IndyCar race in 2021, he finished 12th with Rahal Letterman Lanigan racing, though he’s still adjusting to the heavy, difficult-to-drive Indy cars. But with Lundgaard’s stunning debut, it’s hard to imagine he’ll start 2022 anywhere but near the top.
“Luckily I’ve had the experience with an F1 team [Alpine] where you can change a lot of things – a lot of things – and in an IndyCar it’s very accessible to change a lot of things whereas in F2 you can’t really do much for legal reasons, regulations. Here I feel it’s a lot more open,” Lundgaard told Autosport, referring to the fact that he still isn’t clear just how free he’ll be to make setup changes. But he’s still confident: “Already on the Monday morning after the race on Indy GP road course, I already knew from having experience, if we were to re-do the race now, I would know what to do.”
- No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports
- United States, Lithuania
- Past Highlights: Runner-up in Indy Lights (2021) and Formula Regional Americas (2020)
David Malukas has played his cards close to his chest, but the 20-year-old driver has consistently proved his skill in every lower-division open-wheel series he’s entered. His experience racing on some of America’s finest circuits will no doubt help him in his pursuit of ROTY title.
“If you look even further back from Grosjean they’ve had so many good drivers there, that are now in bigger teams, and they started at Dale Coyne,” Malukas said in an interview with The Race. “We just thought as a new and upcoming driver I think Dale Coyne is almost the best option out of everybody.
“They’re just so friendly to me. As soon as I went in there, I felt like I was at home, they made everything easy and if I was overthinking or a little bit nervous about something they really kind of just put me at ease and just said like, ‘it’s just a bigger car, that’s it’. I did a test, everything went smoothly. I fell in love with the car, fell in love with the team right away. It was an incredible experience.”