With half of the 2022 IndyCar season in the books, Motorsport Week has given each team a letter grade to evaluate their performance thus far.
Some teams are head of the class, and others need to raise their performance to be able to get some good results in and salvage their season.
The head of the IndyCar class so far this season has undeniably been Team Penske. The historic team, headed up by the same legend that currently owns IndyCar itself, started off hot and has not cooled down yet. Five wins from eight races, with all three drivers having taken a win, constitutes nothing short of domination in the closely-fought series.
The team downsized to three cars this season with the departure of Simon Pagenaud, and that seems to have helped to streamline efforts on the track. Sophomore driver Scott McLaughlin earned his first win right out of the gate in St. Pete. Josef Newgarden has claimed three victories already, and has secured a $1 million bonus that was divvied up between himself, the team, and a couple deserving charities. And Will Power has found consistency that he has not seen in a few seasons.
With half of the season remaining, Team Penske drivers sit second and third in the championship, and show no signs of slowing down. Any other driver on the grid that wants to secure a win this season will have to find cracks in a team that looks solid as a rock.
Chip Ganassi Racing
One of the only teams that seems to be able to hang with the Team Penske powerhouse this season is Chip Ganassi Racing. The team put on a convincing display at the Indianapolis 500 this May, locking in four of the top six qualifying positions and bringing home victory by way of Marcus Ericsson. The talented Swedish driver has been consistently at the head of the field all season, and leads all drivers in the points.
The team’s other championship-winning drivers of Alex Palou and Scott Dixon have yet to win a race this season, but have found pace consistently at all the varying tracks the series has visited. Even Jimmie Johnson is making strides in his continued IndyCar endeavor, and nabbed a top 10 finish in his first ever open-wheel oval race at Texas.
Chip Ganassi Racing is filled to the brim with talented drivers, and has the solid teamwork to back it up. Expect many of the rest of the season’s podiums to be occupied by at least one, if not three, drivers from the historic team.
Arrow McLaren SP
Arrow McLaren SP continues its rise in IndyCar, and has been demonstrating what a world-class racing company can do when it sets its sights on the American scene. Still the new kids on the block compared to the other long-lived franchises at the head of the field, AMSP has been acting as if it belongs among the series’ great teams. And it’s not having to fool anybody to make them believe it either.
Zak Brown has taken the reigns and is steering the team upwards with every weekend. The talented duo of Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist have both looked strong at various races this season, and both currently sit in the top 10 in points. There was some worry at the start of the season when O’Ward was visibly distraught while negotiating over his contract, but soon after an extension was announced, his relaxed demeanor returned and he returned to victory lane.
Looking to the future, the team has already announced that it has signed the veteran Alexander Rossi for next season, completing the plan to expand into a three-car team. A brand new workshop is in the works just outside of Indianapolis as well, ensuring that the team is here stay for years to come.
Ed Carpenter Racing
Coming in with a solid B at the midpoint in the 2022 season is Ed Carpenter Racing. The small team that could is once again proving that it can log some solid results while employing two of the most charismatic drivers in the series. Both full-time drivers sit next to each other in the points standings, and have each been knocking on the door of a breakout finish. ECR also entered a technical partnership with Paretta Autosport, allowing the female-led team to compete in three races this season.
The bright spot of the programme has been Conor Daly, who has found renewed confidence with his full-time deal with the team. Two top 6 finishes have landed the journeyman in his best points position of his eight-year career. Rinus VeeKay has hit a bit of a rough patch, and has not yet been able to repeat his maiden win from last season. He did have an outstanding Indy 500, however, and was looking to be able to fight for a podium in the biggest race of the season until he lost control and brought out the day’s first caution. Ed Carpenter himself continues to race the series’ oval rounds in a third car, all while managing the team his own way.
Andretti Autosport has been so close to finally recovering from a years-long troubled spell, but has not yet found its way back to form. Michael Andretti has had a tough time trying to gain entry into Formula 1, and although that is not directly related to his IndyCar efforts, surely takes a lot of his focus away from his bread and butter.
The team’s young star driver Colton Herta, among all the talk about making the same jump to F1, has managed one brilliant win in the wet, but has had lackluster results otherwise. Alexander Rossi finally made the announcement that he was going to drive for another team after years of disappointment in his current seat, and will take his talents over to Arrow McLaren SP from 2023. Romain Grosjean has continued to be a touch more aggressive than the car can handle, and has knocked himself out of contention in a couple races this season.
Andretti’s rookie driver Devlin DeFrancesco has been underwhelming, and sits last in the points among full-time rookies. The team has made a deal to bring on Kyle Kirkwood for next season, however, as it seeks to find the right combination that can bring home more than just an occasional win.
Meyer Shank Racing
Meyer Shank Racing has to be a bit disappointed with its results so far this season, given the upward trajectory the team has been on of late. Expanding to two full time cars this season, and employing two of the most experienced drivers in the paddock, MSR is the small team that seemed ready for success. And after its breakout first win at the Indy 500 in 2021, the investment in the team by sponsors is better than ever.
Helio Castroneves has not been able to follow up that historic win with any further victories, and indeed has not yet scored a top 5 finish this season. Simon Pagenaud, after moving from a long tenure at Team Penske, has also failed to get the team another win. It seemed that questionable strategy calls and miscommunication were at the heart of the team’s problems in years past, but the situation is less clear this year. Whether it’s car setup, misjudged strategy, or plain luck, the team could do well with a few strong results. After all, it can’t say that driver talent is in any way to blame when there are over 30 years of experience and five Indy 500 wins.
Juncos Hollinger Racing
Competing in its first full IndyCar season, Juncos Hollinger Racing is struggling to find its footing. The team’s lone entry often rolls off the truck with ample pace, but then lags behind as the rest of the field adapts to changing conditions more effectively. The team’s inexperience and lack of historical reference surely leads to this situation, but it does not make it easier to swallow consistently poor results when the pace has been there early in the weekend.
Another hill to climb for the team is that it employs a rookie driver to pilot its single entry. Callum Ilott is fast, as evidenced by his tenure in the Ferrari Driver Academy, but does not have any team-mates to consult with as he travels the country. It is tough to pull good results out of thin air when there is a severe lack of resources to guide you.
If it was not for the difficult situation in which the team placed itself, JHR’s performance rating may have been lower. The team is gaining more experience every week, however, and still has a chance to salvage a relatively good season.
Dale Coyne Racing
Dale Coyne Racing has never been a team that competes at the head of the field with regularity, but this season it feels as if the team is just barely hanging on. With a very experienced driver by the name of Takuma Sato, and the young rookie David Malukas, the team has itself a pairing that is working well internally. Both drivers are able to gain good information from one other, but that comfort has not resulted in much in the way of standout results. The new HMD partnership, which comes from ties with the successful Indy Lights team, is more commercial at this stage and has not brought extra performance to the set of cars.
A flash of life came during the Indianapolis 500, when Sato was near the top of almost every practice session and qualified in 10th. The veteran was not able to follow that up with a good finish, however, and ended the race near the rear of the field. Malukas is still looking for his first top 10 finish, and seems to have dedicated this season to learning all he can from his experienced team-mate.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Some at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing may feel that being given an F is too harsh, but the reality is that the team has not been up its standards this season. Graham Rahal himself admitted that the team never came close to finding a rhythm at this year’s Indy 500, which is unacceptable when the better part of each year is spent dialing in every detail of the event. The rest of the season has not been much better either, with none of the team’s three drivers even leading a lap.
One has to feel for Jack Harvey in particular, who came to RLL from Meyer Shank Racing in hopes of finding a team that could deliver him his first win. His results have been categorically worse than last season, however, and he has rarely found himself in the top half of the standings. A concussion suffered at Texas Motor Speedway did not help, but there are more problems at the team this year than a sore driver. The team is perhaps distracted by the building of a new race shop, but needs to focus on what is going wrong on track while there is still time left in the season to salvage a respectable result.
AJ Foyt Racing
Unfortunately, AJ Foyt Racing remains at the back of the pack this season. The historic team has struggled in recent years to keep pace with others in the series, and that trend has continued into this season. It seems the investment from the team is not enough to genuinely compete in a series where the smallest margins make all the difference. Dalton Kellett, despite his best efforts to find a new performance level this year to overcome his underperforming car, has been mired near the back once again, often joined by his two rookie team-mates.
AJ Foyt hired the hottest driver to come out of the Road to Indy series in quite some time to try to jumpstart its recovery. Kyle Kirkwood won the championship at every level leading up to IndyCar, and had high expectations put upon him in the top series. Even he has struggled to gain any meaningful results, with one top 10 finish to his name. And before the season was halfway over the team was notified that Kirkwood would be leaving and moving over to Andretti next season. Recent troubles with obtaining sponsor payments will put the team in an even tougher position for the rest of the season.