NASHVILLE’S NEWGARDEN, NTT INDYCAR SERIES READIES FOR SUNDAY’S SEASON OPENER
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg kicks off 17-race season that includes the return of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on Sunday, August 7.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (February 24, 2022) – Nashville’s Josef Newgarden will begin his pursuit of a third NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship when the 2022 season opens with Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Newgarden, championship runner-up the past two seasons, will once again be among the title favorites as more than two dozen entries prepare for the highly anticipated season opener that returns to the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla.
The pandemic altered the INDYCAR schedule in 2020 and ’21 with Texas Motor Speedway first serving as the season opener and then followed by Barber Motorsports Park last year. Previous to the last two
years, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg had served as the season opener for nine consecutive years dating to 2011.
Newgarden is well acquainted with the importance of getting off to a great start and what could be the end result. When the Team Penske driver won at St. Petersburg in 2019, he initiated a current trend where the season-opening race winner has gone on to win the NTT INDYCAR SERIES title the last three years. Scott Dixon earned his sixth series crown after winning the 2020 opener at Texas and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou captured his first series title in 2021 after winning the opener at Barber.
The 17-race season will consist of seven permanent road courses, five oval races and five temporary street circuits, including the second running
of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on Sunday, Aug. 7. The Big Machine Music Grand Prix will be the 14th race of the season and televised live on NBC beginning at 2 p.m. CT. Click here to view or download the complete 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule.
Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will begin at 11 a.m. CT and be televised live on NBC.
Here are some of the top storylines as the season unfolds:
• Reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing is looking to become the first driver to win back-to-back series titles in more than a decade. The last driver to accomplish the feat was Dario Franchitti, who won three in a row from 2009- 11. In 2021, the 24-year-old Palou became the first Spaniard to win the NTT INDYCAR SERIES title and seventh-youngest champ in history.
• Josef Newgarden, entering his 11th season overall and sixth with Team Penske, owns a streak of seven consecutive seasons with at least one win, including multiple-win seasons in the last five. During that five-year span, he has recorded 17 of his 20 career wins. Newgarden, who won series titles in 2017 and ’19, has finished among the top five in the championship the last six seasons, including runner-up in the last two.
• Helio Castroneves, one of the sport’s most popular drivers, will be returning to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES on a full-time basis for the first time since 2017. Castroneves will be driving the No. 06 for Meyer Shank Racing, where he made six starts last season. His limited 2021 schedule didn’t deter him from landing his fourth Indy 500 victory, which tied him for the most in history with AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears.
• Two other fan favorites – Tony Kanaan and James Hinchcliffe – will return in different capacities this season. Kanaan will only be competing in the Indy 500 as a fifth entry for Chip
Ganassi Racing while “Hinch” has moved from the cockpit to the NBC television booth as an analyst.
• Jimmie Johnson, who competed in only the temporary street circuit and permanent road course events during his 2021 rookie campaign, will be running a full season in the No. 48 for Chip Ganassi Racing. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion will be adding all five oval races to his schedule, highlighted by his appearance in the 106th Indianapolis 500.
• Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon will continue his pursuit of racing legends Mario Andretti and Foyt in the record books. He needs one more championship to equal the record of seven held by Foyt. Dixon enters the season with 51 career wins and is one shy of tying Andretti for second all time. Foyt holds the top position in that category with 67. Dixon also will be looking to extend his INDYCAR records for most seasons with at least one win (19) and most consecutive seasons with a victory (17).
• Four prominent names – led by two- time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato – will shift to new teams this season. Sato moves from Rahal Letterman Lanigan to Dale Coyne Racing, where he will drive the No. 51 that was vacated by Romain Grosjean. Grosjean, the former Formula One veteran, departed for Andretti Autosport, where he replaces Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 entry. Simon Pagenaud, a series champion and Indy 500 winner while at Team Penske, heads to Meyer Shank Racing to replace Jack Harvey in the No. 60. Harvey will move over to the No. 45 entry at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
• There will be several new faces with five rookies running full-season schedules. Devlin DeFrancesco will be driving the No. 29 for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport; Kyle Kirkwood the No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing; Christian Lundgaard the No. 30 for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing; David Malukas the No. 18 for Dale Coyne Racing; and Callum Ilott the No. 77 for Juncos Hollinger Racing.
• Tatiana Calderon will be the first female driver to compete in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ season opener since Simona de Silvestro did so in 2015. This will be Calderon’s rookie campaign driving the No. 11 entry for AJ Foyt Racing, but the 28-year-old Colombian is only scheduled to compete in the street and road course events. That is great news for Nashville fans as that schedule would include an appearance in the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. The most recent woman to compete in any NTT INDYCAR SERIES race also was de Silvestro, who ran in last season’s Indianapolis 500 for Paretta Autosport.