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IndyCar To Crank Up Early In ’22

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 22 2021

The 2022 IndyCar Series schedule is out and features some changes. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

A re-tooled, 17-race lineup featuring an earlier start date, a return to Canada and a record 14 events airing on the NBC network highlight INDYCAR’s 2022 schedule.  

The 14 events to air on NBC are one more than previously announced in July and the most single-season appearances on network television in INDYCAR history. Two additional races will appear on USA Network while Peacock Premium, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, will provide live coverage of all 17 races in addition to practices and qualifying.

“This schedule continues to build on the growth and momentum the NTT IndyCar Series has achieved, especially in 2021,” said Mark Miles, Penske Entertainment Corp. president/CEO. “Our partnership with NBC Sports has led to an opportunity to place an unparalleled 14 events on broadcast television while completing the rest of the schedule with USA Network and Peacock.

“Our drivers and teams will give the fans a strong, earlier start with six consecutive races on NBC, building anticipation for the crown jewel of the Indianapolis 500 in May. Our summer schedule also is full, with no extended breaks in the calendar, leading into the crowning of a champion on the West Coast with our last two races on NBC.”

The 2022 calendar is benchmarked by the 106th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This year’s 500 on NBC, won by Helio Castroneves for a record-tying fourth time, was the most-watched edition of the race since the 100th running in 2016.

“We’re incredibly excited about our 2022 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, highlighted by the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 and a record 14 INDYCAR races on the NBC broadcast network that will bring added exposure to the series,” said Mike Perman, VP, programming, NBC Sports. “With more races than ever on NBC, plus comprehensive live coverage of every minute of the 2022 season on Peacock with practices, qualifying and race simulstreams, we look forward to continuing to grow the sport and super-serve INDYCAR fans across the country.”

NBC will showcase the first six races of 2022. The championship will begin at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla., which will host the series’ season-opener for the 11th time on Sunday, Feb. 27. It’s the first February start for INDYCAR since 2004 and the earliest the season has started since the opener on the Streets of St. Pete on Feb. 23, 2003.

Texas Motor Speedway’s high-banked/1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth moves from its May 2021 doubleheader slot to a single event on Sunday, March 20, during the facility’s 26th season. The switch marks the first time “The Great American Speedway” will play host to the series in March rather than its traditional early-to-mid-June night race. Further details for the event will be available soon.

“The NTT IndyCar Series has a rich tradition of spectacular wheel-to-wheel competition at Texas Motor Speedway, so we’re thrilled to have the greatest names in American open-wheel racing back in 2022 for the XPEL 375,” said Rob Ramage, TMS’ senior vice president/GM. “The move from the Texas heat in June to the first day of spring should make a welcome respite for race fans and even more exciting racing.”

The 2022 XPEL 375 will be the 35th INDYCAR race at TMS, dating to Arie Luyendyk’s victory in the inaugural night race on June 7, 1997 under Indy Racing League sanction.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach returns to the spring calendar on Sunday, April 10, appearing on network television for the first time in 15 years. It will be the 38th year INDYCAR has raced on the Streets of Southern California as the event celebrates its 47th edition.

Barber Motorsports Park will host its 12th Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday, May 1. The series then moves into its traditional Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a series of events featured on NBC _ the GMR Grand Prix on Saturday, May 14; Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying weekend, Saturday and Sunday, May 21-22 and the 106th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29.

The Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit returns with a one-race, post-500 date on Sunday, June 5, followed by the series’ 33rd visit to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc., on Sunday, June 12. INDYCAR will celebrate the Fourth of July holiday on Sunday, July 3, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

Over half of the events on the schedule have been on the calendar for 19 or more years. Mid-Ohio joins Long Beach in longevity as it hosts the series for a 38th year in 2022.

The championship will be decided during eight races in the season’s final nine weeks, with six events on NBC. The season’s second half will start with the return to the Streets of Toronto on Sunday, July 17, for the series’ 36th Honda Indy Toronto. The event was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The season continues with a high-speed oval doubleheader Saturday and Sunday, July 23-24, at Iowa Speedway in Newton. With partnership from Hy-Vee, it will mark the 16th and 17th INDYCAR events at the track known as “The Fastest Short Track on the Planet.”

“Iowa Speedway has traditionally produced some of most intense racing the NTT IndyCar Series has to offer,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “It is great to see that this short oval, where we’ve seen up to 955 on-track passes in a single race, back on the schedule. Combined with the rest of the calendar and a growing paddock, which has produced as many as 28 entries at non-Indy 500 events this year, the 2022 season will be as compelling and competitive as ever.”

Another historic NASCAR-INDYCAR Brickyard weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see the NTT IndyCar Series featured on Saturday, July 30, followed by a second visit to the Streets of Nashville on Sunday, Aug. 7. In 2021, the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix played to packed grandstands and drew the largest cable television audience for the series in over two decades.

INDYCAR’s final oval event of 2022 will be staged on Saturday, Aug. 20, at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., near St. Louis. The championship will conclude at back-to-back races on the classic American road-courses of Portland (Ore.) International Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. The 28th Grand Prix of Portland is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 4, while the 25th Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey returns to crown the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion on Sunday, Sept. 11.

“This is an excellent schedule for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship,” Miles said. “This calendar provides a level of balance between temporary street circuits, road courses and ovals. That variety and required versatility from our drivers are important, distinguishing attributes of NTT IndyCar Series racing.

“The continuity among our events and the growth in the number of teams showcase our strong positioning and continued momentum.”

Start times for 2022 events will be announced at a later date.

2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE

Sunday, Feb. 27 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. (NBC)

Sunday, March 20 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth (NBC)

Sunday, April 10 _ Streets of Long Beach, Calif. (NBC)

Sunday, May 1 _ Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala. (NBC)

Saturday, May 14 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course, Indianapolis, Ind. (NBC)

Sunday, May 29 _ 106th Indianapolis 500 (NBC)

Sunday, June 5 _ Raceway at Belle Isle Park, Detroit, Mich. (USA Network)

Sunday, June 12 _ Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisc. (NBC)

Sunday, July 3 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio (NBC)

Sunday, July 17 _ Streets of Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Peacock)

Saturday, July 23 _ Iowa Speedway Race 1, Newton, Iowa (NBC)

Sunday, July 24 _ Iowa Speedway Race 2, Newton, Iowa (NBC)

Saturday, July 30 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course, Indianapolis, Ind. (NBC)

Sunday, Aug. 7 _ Streets of Nashville, Tenn. (NBC)

Saturday, Aug. 20 _ World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill. (USA Network)

Sunday, Sept. 4 _ Portland International Raceway, Portland, Ore. (NBC)

Sunday, Sept. 11 _ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif. (NBC)

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was the inaugural recipient of the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Media Award (2010). His list of freelance clients has included Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing).

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 22 2021
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