Iowa Speedway will return to 2022 IndyCar schedule with doubleheader in multiyear deal

IndyCar Iowa Speedway 2022
Joe Skibinski/IndyCar
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The NTT IndyCar Series will return to Iowa Speedway in the 2022 season with a doubleheader weekend that will be the first of a multiyear deal with the 0.875-mile oval.

The Newton, Iowa, track will play host to IndyCar races July 23-24 with title sponsorship from the Hy-Vee grocery chain after a one-year hiatus from the series. Iowa Speedway has played host to 15 IndyCar races from 2007-20.

“We’re extremely pleased to return Iowa Speedway to the NTT IndyCar Series calendar,” Roger Penske, founder and chair of the Penske Corporation and owner of the NTT IndyCar Series, said in a release. “Over the years, Iowa has proven to be a fitting showcase for North America’s premier open-wheel series. A key oval and a hallmark on our schedule, we deeply missed seeing our fans in Iowa this year and look forward to what’s ahead.”

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The Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 will take place July 23, and the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 will be July 24. The sponsor is planning a “festival atmosphere” for the race weekend, according to a release.

“With our strong connection to local communities and involvement in the state, we plan to host an event that will receive national attention and make Newton an annual destination for racing fans,” Randy Edeker, chairman, CEO and president of Hy-Vee, said in a release. “The weekend will be filled with multiple attractions and events that celebrate everything that is great about Iowa and NTT IndyCar Series racing.”

The Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee became a primary sponsor on Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Dallara-Honda last July at Iowa and since has sponsored several races in Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s No. 45.

The Indianapolis Star reported that the Hy-Vee CEO confirmed at a news conference Thursday that the company will sponsor an RLL car full time next season.

“The state of Iowa made a commitment to the sport of racing when the Iowa Speedway was built, and today’s exciting announcement of Hy-Vee’s partnership with the NTT IndyCar Series reaffirms that,” Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said in a release. “Iowa is well suited to be an INDYCAR destination for racing fans nationwide, and I encourage Iowa businesses and organizations to support the success of this event in whatever way they can.

Said Penske: “The state is rich with racing history and has a strong appreciation for IndyCar and its terrific drivers and teams. The fantastic addition of Hy-Vee and their commitment to our sport underscores the added value. Thanks to Hy-Vee and the State of Iowa for welcoming the return of IndyCar racing to Iowa Speedway.”

The move will add another oval for next year after the circuit dropped to only four race across three ovals this season at Texas Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis. IndyCar’s final oval race of 2021 will take place Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

IndyCar will announce the rest of the 2022 schedule at a later date.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”