Ranked! High 10 IndyCar drivers of 2022

As is conventional, let’s begin with those that didn’t make our High 10. On this IndyCar period of preposterously tremendous margins and compact seasons, it’s all too straightforward for groups to take mistaken turns down improvement avenues and run out of time – and take a look at days – to reverse, reset, restore their former competitiveness, and haul in good helpings of factors.

That’s what made Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda’s midseason 180 so spectacular. Instantly Graham Rahal was contending for prime fives as an alternative of prime 10s, and rookie Christian Lundgaard was qualifying within the prime six, and capable of declare a runner-up end within the IMS highway course’s second race.

As within the first half of the yr, Lundgaard made a pair extra errors than his veteran teammate, largely because of inexperience, so whereas he earned IndyCar’s Rookie of the Yr award, he didn’t make the highest 10 within the championship, nor does he fairly make our High 10. Apparently, nevertheless, on the final race of the yr, the Dane carried out like Rahal, digging deep and climbing via the sphere to complete fifth. Performances like that, mixed along with his tempo over a flying lap, ought to put him within the High 10 within the championship in 2023.

Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Photograph by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Photos

RLL’s first half struggles led to Rahal himself ending the season exterior the High 10 for the primary time since 2014 nevertheless it’s not as if his normal dropped. He merely didn’t have the automotive to get a lot carried out at what had historically been his greatest tracks.

If our High 10 record was primarily based solely on expertise, Romain Grosjean can be included nevertheless it’s not so he’s not. That is about kind throughout the 2022 season, and for an excessive amount of of that, the previous F1 ace and IndyCar sophomore appeared unable to work inside the limitations of his Andretti Autosport-Honda. The truth is, there have been occasions when he did not register these limits in apply classes, qualifying or races, resulting in costly shunts, and each time he then tried to drive in a extra circumspect method, he turned nameless.

“What’s occurred to Grosjean this yr?” mentioned his baffled 2021 boss Dale Coyne, earlier than including with a smile, “It’s as if he’s gone from a very good workforce to a mediocre one…”

The issue, mentioned Grosjean, was that he and race engineer Olivier Boisson couldn’t get the #28 automotive to offer sufficient front-end grip to swimsuit his most popular sharp turn-in approach. There was a confidence-sapping second of inertia the place he couldn’t loosen the rear to help adjustments in course.

The problem, whereas comprehensible, can not function an excuse, not at this stage. There’s not a single driver on the market for whom the DW12 with aeroscreen is the ideal-handling automotive; all have needed to study to adapt, and a driver of Grosjean’s expertise ought to be higher at that than most.

He was, nevertheless, quick each time the AA-Honda was to his liking, and at Laguna Seca he certified on the second row, declaring the automotive was now how he needed it. We are going to know quickly sufficient.

David Malukas, Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports-Honda

David Malukas, Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports-Honda

Photograph by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Photos

One other driver worthy of point out within the nearly-but-not-quite class right here is Lundgaard’s rookie of the yr rival David Malukas. After a self-admittedly shaky begin within the Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports-Honda, the 2021 Indy Lights runner-up barely stopped impressing, in distinction to his rival and Lights champ Kyle Kirkwood who had far too many accidents in his AJ Foyt Racing-Chevy. After all, Malukas had the higher automotive at his disposal, nevertheless it was the best way he so recurrently exploited it and tucked up veteran teammate Takuma Sato most of the time that left a deep impression. Had Malukas’s pitcrew matched Sato’s via the primary two-thirds of the yr, Malukas would now be RotY and would have completed within the prime dozen within the championship as an alternative of 16th.

Lastly, point out should be made from Rinus VeeKay, a person who is aware of learn how to win an IndyCar race however who couldn’t fairly obtain the feat in 2022. He, like Grosjean, has the expertise to be contending for prime fives, however would most likely profit from a confirmed champion alongside him at Ed Carpenter Racing, as would the workforce. VeeKay’s pole place and podium end at Barber Motorsports Park demonstrated what RVK and ECR can do collectively when every thing works. However these days are too few at the moment.

Right here, then, is the High 10.

10 Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport Honda after scoring his first win in three years.

Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport Honda after scoring his first win in three years.

Photograph by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Photos

Alexander Rossi might uncover one or two difficulties settling into the Arrow McLaren SP workforce in 2023, not least as a result of Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist have shaped a real friendship of their two years collectively. However when his seventh season with Andretti Autosport appeared set to proceed as disastrously as his sixth, Rossi needed out: between unhealthy pitstops and automotive failures, he was carried out.

Sarcastically (or coincidentally), issues began to enhance across the time it was introduced he was departing for AMSP. Fifth place within the 500 was adopted by runner-up place at Detroit, and a pole place and third place at Street America.

Then got here Mid-Ohio, the place he made contact with two of his Andretti Autosport teammates, however two races later Rossi took benefit of Colton Herta’s DNF at IMS highway course to seal a win he might need captured anyway. His eighth win had come greater than three years after his seventh.

On his greatest days, Rossi stays a possible winner, and his sheer willpower – and expertise – ought to allow that to be proven extra regularly at his new workforce.


9 Felix Rosenqvist

Rosenqvist celebrates his second pole of the season with his #7 Arrow McLaren SP-Chevy crew.

Rosenqvist celebrates his second pole of the season along with his #7 Arrow McLaren SP-Chevy crew.

Photograph by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Photos

Having a supervisor like Stefan Johansson might be what allowed Felix Rosenqvist to retain his focus this yr, as insanity swirled round him. Arrow McLaren SP, regardless of increasing to a few vehicles for 2023, was able to ditch him and swap him to McLaren’s nascent Formulation E mission. Johansson’s message was, ‘One of the best factor you are able to do is simply concentrate on racing’ and Rosenqvist did that impressively. He took pole at Texas, outpaced O’Ward in qualifying at Lengthy Seashore, took sixth within the moist GP Indy regardless of being spun by his teammate and shedding his entrance wing, completed a preventing fourth at Indy, after which scored third place at Toronto.

However Rosenqvist was vastly unfortunate too. He and O’Ward may have scored an AMSP 1-2 at Mid-Ohio, possibly with Rosenqvist forward having opted for a unique tire technique, however each vehicles failed. A few rounds later, Felix had pole within the second IMS highway course race however a dragging brake on raceday left him unable to fend off his rivals and he ultimately limped dwelling ninth. Closing out the yr with a fourth place at Laguna Seca, on a day when his teammate may handle no higher than eighth, was a very good confidence-booster going into the offseason.

There are days when Rosenqvist can’t match O’Ward who’s regarded inside the workforce as one thing of a unicorn, however the Swede is forward of his teammate much more usually than the outcomes would counsel. He deserves his third yr at AMSP.

8 Marcus Ericsson

 

Photograph by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Photos

Regardless of scoring two wins for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021, there have been query marks over Marcus Ericsson’s potential destiny by the top of ’22. Would Chip nonetheless need him? Would Huski Chocolate cash proceed? And, from his personal self-satisfaction perspective, how usually may he anticipate days within the solar whereas being immediately in contrast with six-time champion Scott Dixon and reigning champion Alex Palou?

After which Ericsson received a duel with Pato O’Ward to attain Ganassi’s fifth Indy 500 win, and its first for 10 years. Ericsson, who has loved ovals since he moved from Formulation 1 to IndyCar in 2019, was in his aspect on Memorial Day Weekend, preserving his powder dry till the ultimate stint when he demoted the 2 Arrow McLaren SP vehicles of O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, after which preserving his head straight throughout the race stoppage. He outfoxed O’Ward in these closing couple of laps to ship a tear-jerking win.

Elsewhere, Ericsson appeared pretty much as good as his automotive, which is each a praise and a curse. Sometimes he outperformed Dixon and Palou (notably along with his runner-up end at Street America), however the truth that his P2 on the grid at Gateway was his first front-row begin in IndyCar – after 4 years right here, three of which have been spent at Ganassi – highlighted a flaw that also wants addressing. Ericsson’s wonderful racecraft can’t all the time overcome any qualifying deficits.


7 Colton Herta

Colton and Bryan Herta after the youngster took pole and finished second at Toronto.

Colton and Bryan Herta after the teenager took pole and completed second at Toronto.

Photograph by: Perry Nelson / Motorsport Photos

What a weird yr for a driver who’s so clearly an ace. Colton Herta could make a automotive seem to have an ideal 50/50 weight distribution, as if it pivots round its heart level, by delivering on the apex after which tightly controlling the four-wheel drift, and getting straightened up as quickly as attainable. Or, if a nook has sufficient exit house, he can play to the DW12’s understeery strengths by doing what Fernando Alonso used to do in his championship-winning Renaults with their rear weight bias by braking late however delivering early, and utilizing front-wheel scrub to not solely alter the automotive’s trajectory but additionally alter its velocity.

However the driver whose composure we raved about in 2020 and ’21 made too many errors in ’22. Herta’s shunt at Lengthy Seashore when he responded badly to main the primary stint after which shedding out in pitstops, reminded us of his frustration at Nashville the earlier yr. And his back-flipping error on Carb Day at Indy led to a closely compromised automotive on double-points race day which pressured him to retire early and successfully ended his title problem by the top of Could. In between occasions he scored an excellent victory within the moist on the Grand Prix of Indy, however endlessly after he was preventing a rearguard motion, and there have been days when he was outperformed by teammate Alex Rossi.

At Toronto he took his second pole of the yr and completed second to a resurgent Dixon, however transmission woes in Iowa 1 and a halfshaft failure whereas showing set for victory within the second IMS highway course race just about ensured Herta can be exterior the highest 5 at yr’s finish. Clipping a barrier in qualifying at Portland and twice falling off the monitor at Laguna Seca additionally steered a driver pushing a tad too exhausting. However make no mistake: the fuss round him is justified and his suitability for F1 is evident. A extra composed strategy to 2023 ought to earn him these valuable Superlicense factors.

6 Pato O’Ward

Arrow McLaren SP team co-owner Sam Schmidt with Pato O'Ward after his triumph in the second Iowa race.

Arrow McLaren SP workforce co-owner Sam Schmidt with Pato O’Ward after his triumph within the second Iowa race.

Photograph by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Photos

Cash dissatisfaction, ill-feeling concerning Herta’s alternatives with McLaren’s F1 take a look at workforce and Arrow McLaren SP’s still-flaky efficiency developments in comparison with fellow Chevrolet runners Group Penske appeared to carry out the worst in Pato O’Ward within the first couple of rounds of 2022. He appeared mistake-prone and was tending to overdrive. However within the fourth spherical he was immaculate on raceday and totally deserved his win, and mere days later he had a contract via to 2025 with improved wage and phrases.

O’Ward’s race to second within the Indy 500 was fairly sensible however he tarnished it by unsubtly laying his defeat on the ft of Chevrolet. This was arrant nonsense – he and AMSP have been overwhelmed by Ericsson’s techniques and Ganassi’s superior vehicles, not by Honda, for the closest non-Ganassi HPD-powered vehicles weren’t in the identical league. Reminiscence of his feedback meant that O’Ward’s mechanical DNFs at Street America (Chevy’s fault) and Mid-Ohio (workforce’s fault) didn’t elicit the identical sympathy as they may have carried out.

However they did harm his championship hopes, so even his very good Iowa performances – a second and a fortunate win, each occasions forward of Energy – weren’t sufficient to stop his title problem disappearing with a 12th within the second IMS highway course race and a DNF in Nashville (via no fault of his personal). For O’Ward this appeared like a irritating yr of treading water, however that was extra right down to the workforce’s up-and-down competitiveness moderately than something inherently lacking in his make-up. He’s courageous, supremely fast and a future champion.


5 Scott McLaughlin

 

Photograph by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Photos

Has there ever been an IndyCar driver who has extra swiftly catapulted himself from the ranks of fine and promising rookie to the very prime flight as a sophomore? It’s definitely exhausting to recall a metamorphosis as convincing as Scott McLaughlin’s between 2021 and ’22.

When his former race engineer Jonathan Diuguid was reassigned to the Porsche 963 mission, Ben Bretzman – previously Simon Pagenaud’s engineer, however already a buddy and {golfing} buddy of McLaughlin – stepped in to fill the emptiness. The goal, mentioned Bretzman, was to remove McLaughlin’s complaints from his rookie yr about being unable to get the facility down on nook exits, and whereas Group Penske made strides on this space as a complete, McLaughlin’s upward trajectory was steepest of all. He outdueled Energy for pole at St. Petersburg, and went on to win the race regardless of intense stress from Palou, the identical driver he’d maintain off to win victory quantity two at Mid-Ohio.

McLaughlin’s solely apparent black marks have been the spins below yellow, then inexperienced, within the moist GP of Indy after which a heavy shunt within the 500. He appeared a bit misplaced setup-wise at Detroit, too, however this was solely his second go to there and it was Belle Isle’s closing race. He’ll be on the identical footing as his rivals on the brand new Motown monitor subsequent yr.

Penske was foolhardy to not make McLaughlin hand over the result in Energy in Portland, however having (allegedly) instructed him to make approach for Newgarden at Gateway, possibly workforce administration members have been detest to hamper him twice in consecutive races.

Regardless of the reasoning, Portland no less than gave McLaughlin one other probability to provide a type of performances that seem typical of the person – he can’t be ruffled by a pursuing rival. That’s a expertise that may serve him nicely within the years forward, as will the aggression he displayed at Laguna Seca that earned him a sixth place and sealed fourth within the championship. As a race engineer from a rival workforce remarked mid-season, “It’s scary to assume how sturdy that man may be with one other yr below his belt.”


4 Alex Palou

 

Photograph by: Gregg Feistman / Motorsport Photos

What a distinction a yr makes. Palou went from being everybody’s second favourite driver with an apparently magical capability to keep away from bother and crush his rivals along with his consistency, to changing into somebody of questionable judgment off monitor and no noticeable progress on monitor. Make no mistake, he was nonetheless often wonderful – he outperformed Dixon at St. Pete, Lengthy Seashore, Barber, Mid-Ohio and most clearly of all Laguna Seca. Heck, that final, ensuing a 30sec victory margin, can be within the prime 5 most ridiculously dominant performances of the final 5 seasons, and he needed to do it from 11th on the grid. However to be sincere, Palou appeared able to these sorts of performances final yr, too. This time round, we needed to see improved oval performances, and whereas he was very good at Indy, dueling with teammate Dixon till struggling very unhealthy luck with the timing of a warning interval, his different oval races have been lukewarm, and there have been days when he was fourth better of the Ganassi drivers behind Dixon, Ericsson and Jimmie Johnson. Most uncharacteristically, Palou additionally blamed the innocent Ericsson for his or her collision at Street America which put his personal automotive out.

However by then possibly Palou wasn’t in the very best way of thinking, since he was within the midst of a tug of affection between Ganassi and McLaren, with nobody responsible however himself… and his administration workforce. One understands, after all, a younger racer’s want to compete in Formulation 1, however to disregard the necessities of his contract confirmed naivety (on the very least), no matter his dissatisfaction over the pay enhance he obtained for profitable final yr’s championship. As for spurning one of many biggest IndyCar rides and buying a not-so-good-one, with the final word intention of racing an as but unproven F1 automotive, readers will likely be divided as as to whether it was definitely worth the effort, not to mention the damaging impact on vital relationships and his personal fame.

But regardless of this poor judgment, Palou has in some way landed on his ft, for by remaining at Ganassi he now has a top-rank IndyCar experience and he’s received an F1 take a look at alternative with McLaren. Given his big expertise, Alex may nicely benefit from each drives in 2023, however whether or not on-track success is sufficient to allow everybody to forgive his off-track imprudence is but to be seen.


3 Scott Dixon

 

Photograph by: Gavin Baker / Motorsport Photos

This might have been your typical Scott Dixon yr – shine however get shafted on the Indy 500, then scramble via to complete the yr on prime. As a substitute, he dominated Indy till he shafted himself with a barely too quick entry onto pitroad – actually, 1mph over the restrict – and needed to wait till Spherical 10 to attain his first victory. However that drive at Toronto reminded everybody how straightforward Ganassi’s six-time champion could make it look, whereas his Nashville triumph was the very reverse. That was a chief instance of Dixon profiting from what he’d received, triumphing from a mid-grid beginning slot, overcoming the time misplaced to unscheduled pitstops and driving a really broken automotive on worn-out tires to victory lane. In years to return, this may occasionally come to be acknowledged as one of many biggest of the legend’s 53 triumphs.

On the draw back it can concern the Kiwi legend that he was usually outperformed by Palou – and it might concern him nonetheless extra that Palou is now staying at Ganassi! However Dixon will keep it up being Dixon The Irrepressible, and should but have a record-equaling seventh championship in him. We’re all approach too skilled IndyCar watchers to rely him out. Keep in mind, 1mph much less on pitlane at Indy and he’d have over 70 factors extra, which might have sealed a second championship.

2 Will Energy

Power and crew after scoring one of the finest wins of the year in the final IndyCar race at Belle Isle.

Energy and crew after scoring one of many most interesting wins of the yr within the closing IndyCar race at Belle Isle.

Photograph by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Photos

Will Energy declared that this was the yr by which he felt he needed to repay his crew for his or her years of devotion to his trigger by profitable them a championship however the single-mindedness with which he pursued the 2022 title was fairly one thing to behold. Fairly than pursuing victory however presumably throwing factors away, he intentionally reined himself in at St. Petersburg, at Mid-Ohio following the restart and within the second Iowa race. It’s been written right here earlier than that in 2021 Alex Palou set the template for learn how to win the conflict, with eight podiums and a mean end of seven.3, however Energy took that to the subsequent stage this yr with 9 top-threes and a mean end of 5.9…

However let nobody say he took the route of doing ‘simply sufficient’. You don’t lay all of it on the road and rating 5 pole positions if you happen to’re making an attempt to backpedal your option to your second championship. What he targeted on was eliminating important errors and avoiding probably damaging conditions, and on this he was largely profitable. Apart from stalling within the pits within the Indy 500, Energy didn’t make any main gaffes on race days. Keep in mind, too, that a lot of his prime fives have been restoration drives. At Barber, you may put the blame on him for needing to cost exhausting from the second half of the grid however that fourth place was very good, and his poor qualifying place at Street America (which led to a lowly end after being punted by a backmarker) was additionally his fault. However at each Lengthy Seashore and Detroit (the place he received) he was held up on his flying lap in qualifying, at Mid-Ohio his workforce despatched him into the trail of one other automotive in Q1 so he was despatched to the again of the grid, but stormed via to take third, whereas within the second Indy highway course race he was squeezed and bullied within the opening two laps, dropping to 17th, but on an not possible gasoline technique he got here via to complete third. Fairly why his workforce elected to not give him recent tires for the ultimate stint at Gateway, nobody is aware of, however salvaging sixth that day was as vital as that 11th with a crippled gearbox in Nashville.

He doesn’t make #1 slot right here as a result of as hockey nice Wayne Gretzky mentioned, you miss 100% of the photographs you don’t take, and so whereas Energy may nicely have received these races the place he caught to his points-collecting coverage, we don’t know that he would have carried out.


1 Josef Newgarden

Thanks to PeopleReady, Newgarden earned $1m bonus for winning on a street course, oval and road course.

Due to PeopleReady, Newgarden earned $1m bonus for profitable on a road course, oval and highway course.

Photograph by: Gavin Baker / Motorsport Photos

When PeopleReady introduced it was to offer a $1m bounty to the primary driver to win on highway, road and oval programs this season, many would have put cash on Josef Newgarden being the primary to attain it, however most likely didn’t reckon on him attaining it by midseason! His late-race cost at Texas was exhilarating, he wasn’t going to be denied at Street America, one in every of his greatest tracks, nevertheless it was his opportunistic Lengthy Seashore triumph that impressed his teammate Will Energy. “Josef did an important job,” mentioned the eventual champion after ending fourth, “as a result of actually as a workforce I don’t assume we have been even second-best that weekend. Andretti and Ganassi ought to have kicked our ass. However as soon as Josef received within the lead, he held off Grosjean and Palou with expertise, inserting his automotive in the precise approach. Stable effort.”

Newgarden ought to have received each races in Iowa however a suspension failure pitched him into the wall in Race 2. But he nonetheless squeezed in a fifth win at Gateway. In response to excellent Motorsport.com sources, McLaughlin had been requested throughout the weather-enforced delay to let the two-time champ via following the restart. You’ll be able to argue that he may have received anyway – Newgarden is as aggressive and ruthless as they arrive. However there’s a sense that had he been held up in a battle along with his teammate, Dale Coyne Racing with HMD’s David Malukas would have gotten the pair of them, as an alternative of merely splitting them on the checkered flag.

It could be mistaken responsible Newgarden’s third straight runner-up end solely on the Iowa mechanical difficulty. He was nameless at St. Petersburg, Barber and Indy 500 (like Energy, he stalled on pitlane), and made what seemed to be a tactical blunder over tire technique at Portland whereas making an attempt to recuperate from his grid penalty. He was additionally knocked out of the GP of Indy. But when one was to have a look at it by way of bald stats, moderately than how they have been amassed, Newgarden’s difficulty was that apart from his 5 wins, he clocked up just one different podium.

So, as in 2020, Newgarden was the very best however missed out on the title. However in 2019 he clinched the championship when he wasn’t fairly the very best, so possibly all of it works out ultimately. And he can take solace from the man who beat him to the title this time round: Energy is aware of the sensation of being the very best driver of the season and falling quick on the factors desk.

 

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