The calendar still says April, but the NTT IndyCar Series offers the first real glimpse of May with an Indy 500 test April 20-21 that will be shown live on Peacock.
With 32 drivers scheduled to turn laps on the 2.5-mile oval, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will open for business at 11 a.m. ET Wednesday in a seven-hour session. Thursday will feature a six-hour practice starting at 10 a.m. ET.
“I think the biggest thing for all of us is those two days are the start of our month” of May, Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward told NBC Sports. “You want to get the car in a happy window, but there is time to get it in the window. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t get frustrated. Be patient. And just try things. See what works and doesn’t.”
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Though they already have passed their Rookie Orientation Program courses, this test will begin preparation in earnest for the Indy 500 debuts of Jimmie Johnson, who finished a career-best sixth in his oval debut at Texas Motor Speedway in March, and Romain Grosjean, who comes in off a second place in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Johnson will be driving with a surgically repaired right wrist that he fractured in a crash during an April 8 practice at Long Beach.
But he is expecting to manage just fine behind the wheel of the No. 48 Dallara-Honda — particularly with the confidence from improving his handling over two days at Texas by freeing up the car and adapting to making adjustments from the cockpit.
“I feel really good about it,” said Johnson, who won the Brickyard 400 four times during his NASCAR career. “I know my way around Indy. The biggest thing I took from Texas was understanding the sweet spot of the car. The more I made the car turn, just the easier it was.”
Feels good to be back at the Brickyard. pic.twitter.com/l6oxPZ1Etq
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) April 20, 2022
Johnson and Grosjean will be joined by five other rookies getting acclimated to the Brickyard for the first time.
Many other drivers and teams will be fine-tuning, notably the Team Penske Chevrolets that have started the 2022 season with three consecutive victories and a 1-2 finish at Texas. Two-time defending series champion Josef Newgarden has won the past two races (including his first Long Beach win) while also becoming a first-time father this week as he renews the quest for his first Indy 500 victory.
O’Ward and Arrow McLaren SP teammate Felix Rosenqvist also enter the Indy test with solid expectations despite stumbling at Texas.
Rosenqvist’s No. 7 Chevy started on the pole position (a career first on an oval for the Swedish driver) but was eliminated with 100 laps remaining by a mechanical failure.
“Texas doesn’t translate as much as you want to Indy, but we were flying there,” Rosenqvist told NBC Sports. “We had the pole and me and Pato had the fastest laps of the race. That’s always going to be a good indicator, but it’s a long month, man. I think we have a good base to start.”
Before @RGrosjean and @JimmieJohnson run in their first #Indy500 in May, they're headed back to @IMS this week.
The Open Test Sessions are Wednesday and Thursday on @peacockTV.
Sign up here: https://t.co/CZY3prl5uj pic.twitter.com/KEa6xZhTg2
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) April 18, 2022
O’Ward rebounded to a fifth at Long Beach after starting the season with a 12th and 15th.
“In Texas, man, we had great race cars,” said O’Ward, who has a sixth and fourth in his two Indy 500 starts. “We truly did. So I think there’s nothing but positives on that end. I think there were mistakes that put us in a much worse situation to not score as many points that we could have.
“I think we’re going to have a great month, man, I really think everybody has been working tirelessly to get stuff better than we were last year, and I’m confident we’re going to be contenders.”
The 106th Indy 500 will take place May 29 (with coverage starting at 11 a.m. ET on NBC).
Here are the details for the 2022 Indy 500 test on Peacock (all times are ET):
SCHEDULE: Wednesday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (veterans 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; Rookie Orientation Program and Refresher 1-3 p.m.; open test 4-6 p.m.). Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
TV: All 13 hours of on-track action will be covered by NBC Sports on Peacock Premium. Click here for more information about IndyCar on Peacock, which features comprehensive live coverage of every minute of the 2022 season with practices, qualifying and race simulstreams. Click here for the 2022 IndyCar broadcast schedule.
FORECAST: According to the Weather Underground site, it’s predicted to be 49 degrees at 11 a.m. Wednesday with a 49% chance of rain. Temperatures are expected to climb into the 60s by late afternoon as rain chances drop. Thursday temperatures are expected between 58 and 68 degrees with a slighter chance of rain.
ENTRY LIST: There are 32 driver-team combinations entered in the test.
AJ Foyt Racing (3): Dalton Kellett, Kyle Kirkwood, JR Hildebrand
Andretti Autosport (5): Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi, Devlin DeFransceco, Romain Grosjean, Colton Herta
Arrow McLaren SP (3): Juan Pablo Montoya, Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist
Chip Ganassi Racing (5): Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Kanaan, Alex Palou
Dale Coyne Racing (2): David Malukas, Takuma Sato
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (2): Santino Ferrucci, Sage Karam
Ed Carpenter Racing (3): Ed Carpenter, Conor Daly, Rinus VeeKay
Juncos Hollinger Racing (1): Callum Ilott
Meyer Shank Racing (2): Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (3): Graham Rahal, Jack Harvey, Christian Lundgaard
Team Penske (3): Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, Will Power