The green flag will drop next weekend at the Iowa Speedway in Newton when the NTT IndyCar Series comes back to the state for the first time in two years.
IndyCar will return to the ⅞-mile oval track July 22-24 for the only doubleheader weekend of races on the 2022 series schedule. And the races are only part of the Hy-Vee IndyCar Race Weekend experience, with country and pop music stars bookending entertainment for the race.
Here’s what you need to know before IndyCar weekend.
What is IndyCar racing?
IndyCar is the official American-based auto racing sanctioning body that holds its racing series and the famous Indianapolis 500.
The organization formed in 1994 under the name Indy Racing League and debuted its first racing series in 1996. After undergoing a couple name changes, the racing series became the NTT IndyCar Series in 2019, when it was announced that Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. would become the title sponsor.
Since 1996, the IndyCar Series has raced on 45 different tracks across five countries. The Iowa Speedway, built in 2006, hosted its first IndyCar Series weekend June 23-24, 2007.
The NTT IndyCar Series has held 15 races at the Iowa Speedway since 2007, with seven events held at night under the lights. The IndyCar Series returns to the Iowa Speedway July 22-24 with the only doubleheader on the 2022 series schedule.
IndyCars are open-wheel race cars that reach speeds up to 240 mph on straightaways. That means the cars can travel the length of a football field in about one second. The 1,500-pound cars sit two inches off the ground, and often pass within two inches of each other.
In 2022, the drivers will face 22 different races that span everything from superspeedways (like the Indianapolis 500) and short ovals to road courses and street courses. Iowa Speedway is considered a short oval, technically a D-shaped oval.
Who are the IndyCar drivers?
Some of the biggest names in open-wheel racing take the track in Newton July 22-24. Some fan favorites:
Marcus Ericsson is the IndyCar points leader and won the Indianapolis 500. The Swede drives the No. 8 for Chip Ganassi Racing. Previously he competed in Formula 1 racing in Europe.
Josef Newgarden won the second race of the double header at Iowa Speedway in 2020, the last time the series raced in Iowa. He’s a two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, earning titles in 2017 and 2019 with Team Penske. He drives the No. 2 car for Team Penske. When he raced in Iowa in 2016, the Nashville native set an IndyCar record for most laps led by a race winner.
Jack Harvey drives the No. 45 car sponsored by Hy-Vee. The Brit drives for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
According to a Global IndyCar Fan Survey conducted by Motorsport Network and analyzed by Nielsen Sports in February, 32% of fans listed Swiss driver Romain Grosjean as a top-3 favorite and 12% as their favorite. Mexican driver Pato O’Ward ranked second and female fans named him their favorite. Brazilian Helio Castroneves ranked third overall, followed by Australian Scott Dixon (fourth), Auburn, California, native Alexander Rossi (fifth), Newgarden (sixth) and Japanese driver Takuma Sato (seventh), according the reporting from the Indianapolis Star.
What is Indy Lights?
Indy Lights, which typically run as support races to IndyCar Series races, is also returning to the speedway. Think of Indy Lights as the American developmental automobile racing series sanctioned by IndyCar that acts like a stepping stone for drivers to advance to IndyCar racing.
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will have drivers racing 100 laps at 11:15 a.m. July 23.
When do the IndyCars race in Iowa?
Tickets are available for purchase online and start at $60 for single-day flex seating.
Big names bring music to IndyCar
Country star Tim McGraw will perform at 1 p.m. Saturday before the first series race. McGraw last performed in Iowa at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines in 2018, alongside his wife and fellow country musician Faith Hill.
McGraw is known for hits like “Don’t Take the Girl,” “I Like It, I Love It” and “Live Like You Were Dying.”
Country duo Florida Georgia Line will perform at 5:30 p.m. Saturday after the race. The band — known for songs like “Cruise,” “This is How We Roll” and “H.O.L.Y.” — was last in Iowa for a performance on the Grandstand at the Iowa State Fair in 2018.
Pop star Gwen Stefani will take the stage at 12:10 p.m. Sunday before the 300-lap race. Originally a member of the band No Doubt, Stefani’s solo career includes hits like “Hollaback Girl,” “The Sweet Escape” and “Rich Girl.”
Stefani was last in Iowa during a surprise appearance with her husband, country music star Blake Shelton, at his 2021 Iowa State Fair performance.
Shelton will also be performing at IndyCar weekend, taking the stage after the race at 5:15 p.m. Sunday. A coach on NBC’s “The Voice,” Shelton is known for hits like “Honey Bee,” “Doin’ What She Likes” and “Nobody But You.”
The concerts are included with IndyCar tickets, which are available for purchase on the Hy-Vee IndyCar Weekend website.
Bring the kids to Free Family Friday
Iowans will have the opportunity to experience the opening day of Hy-Vee IndyCar Race Weekend free of charge during Free Family Friday on July 22.
Gates will open at 2 p.m. Friday and no tickets will be required to enter. All grandstand seating areas will be first-come, first-served general admission viewing during Free Family Friday.
The drivers of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will hold the first practice of the weekend from 2:15 to 3:05 p.m., followed by the NTT IndyCar Series practice session on the track from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Friday.
At 5:30 p.m. Friday, track crossing areas will open up and fans will be able to get a behind-the-scenes look at the race track as well as the garages where all of the NTT IndyCar Series and Indy Lights teams work on their cars throughout the weekend.
Fans are invited to meet and get autographs from NTT IndyCar Series and Indy Lights drivers in front of their individual garages from 6 to 7 p.m. Attendees are also welcome to visit the Victory Lane area at Iowa Speedway and take pictures on the podium, just like race winners.
Families can catch dinner at any of the 50 food trucks that will line the midway during race weekend.
What should I bring to IndyCar weekend?
The Iowa Speedway allows fans to bring in up to two bags per person, one soft-sided cooler per person, sealed water bottles, cameras, binoculars, tablets and laptops, insulated cups and seat cushions.
Prohibited items include hard-sided coolers, firearms, fireworks, laser pointers, noise makers or air horns, collapsible chairs, selfie sticks, wagons, drones, skateboards and bicycles. For a complete list of prohibited items, visit the Iowa Speedway website.
Besides sealed water bottles, outside food and drink are not allowed at the Iowa Speedway. However, there will be a variety of food and beverage options available for purchase.
Full-service concessions stands will be serving a variety of food and beverages, and an assortment of food trucks will be stationed at both ends of the midway. A beer garden located at one end of the midway will serve alcoholic beverages to fans 21 and older.
Hy-Vee will also be operating two pop-up general stores throughout race weekend, selling convenience store items for fans in the RV and general campgrounds at the Iowa Speedway. Beverage stations and free water bottle refill stations will be located throughout the concourse.
An important note for Iowans attending IndyCar weekend: the event will be cashless. All concessions stands, food trucks and Hy-Vee pop-up stores will only accept digital or card payments. Reverse ATMs will be available in the midway area for cash conversion.
Parking and transportation
Paid daily parking during race weekend is available for purchase in the Fenceline Lot and Lot N of the Iowa Speedway. Parking passes start at $50 and are available for purchase on the Hy-Vee IndyCar Weekend website.
Free parking will be available in general lots around the venue.
Golf carts and trams will travel the racetrack access areas and shuttle guests to the track continuously throughout the open gate hours. The Iowa Speedway also offers an ADA-accessible parking area and a shuttle service will be available for individuals with accessibility needs.
Grace Altenhofen is a news reporter for the Des Moines Register. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @gracealtenhofen.