The 106th Indianapolis 500 was one for the history books, as Marcus Ericsson took home his first ever Borg-Warner Trophy in a thrilling race. For seven drivers in the field, this was their first ever attempt at the legendary race. On top of the five rookies that are considered rookies for the entire 2022 season, Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean join the fray as Indy 500 rookies. The main objective for these seven drivers? Survive. Who completed this objective? Who’s day ended with a destroyed racecar? Who took home Indy 500 Rookie of the Year? Let’s break it all down in this week’s IndyCar Series Rookie Report.
DAVID MALUKAS – DALE COYNE RACING WITH HMD MOTORSPORTS
QUALIFYING: THIRTEENTH – RACE: SIXTEENTH (-3)
Malukas was one of three rookies to qualify in the top fifteen for the Indy 500, with the Dale Coyne Racing cars showing great pace throughout the month of May. The team suffered a major setback after a crash with Santino Ferrucci on Carb Day that forced the team to rebuild the car. Most importantly for the young driver, he was consistent and he kept his car clean. Malukas made some great moves on restarts, reaching as high as eight twice.
He may have come home sixteenth, but Malukas achieved all of the goals he set out to achieve at the beginning of the month.
“I wanted to finish and be the highest finishing rookie and we achieved both of those things today,” he said. “I’ve now realized why people say that this track chooses its winners because there are so many different things that can happen, and everything just needs to go your way. There’s a lot of possibilities.”
“Things didn’t always go our way, but we finished P16. Overall, I’m very happy, I made minimal mistakes from my side being a rookie and going into the next one I’m going to be expecting the race to be this long!”
KYLE KIRKWOOD – AJ FOYT ENTERPRISES
QUALIFYING: TWENTY-EIGHTH – RACE: SEVENTEENTH (+11)
Kirkwood didn’t quite have the pace across the month of May, evident in his starting spot on the second to last row of the grid. Strategy allowed him to catapult up the field and into the top fifteen, battling Malukas for Rookie of the Year honors. Unfortunately, an error on his penultimate pit stop sent the Floridian down the order to twenty-fourth but, he recovered quickly to finish the race seventeenth.
Like Malukas, Kirkwood kept his car clean, and came away incredibly happy with their result.
“We fought all day, made it to 500 miles and came out clean, so I couldn’t ask for anything more than that,” he said.
CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD – RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING
QUALIFYING: THIRTY-FIRST – RACE: EIGHTEENTH (+13)
This was Lundgaard’s second ever oval race, and he became the first Danish driver to compete in and finish the Indy 500. After starting on the last row of the grid, Lundgaard was able to make his way through the field and gain thirteen spots. Beyond that, the entire Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Crew simply didn’t have the pace this month.
The Dane admits the lack of pace was a tough pill to swallow despite the experience.
“We finished the race which is obviously always an achievement but we aren’t where we want to be,” he said. “It’s important to sit down and understand why, and come back stronger.”
“I want to fight for wins, and I’m sure we all agree on that as a team. It’s been an amazing first experience at the Indy 500, a tough one to accept, but I’ve enjoyed it. I’m looking forward for next year’s Indy 500.”
Lundgaard still leads all rookies in points with 103, seventeenth in the points standings.
DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO – ANDRETTI STEINBRENNER AUTOSPORT
QUALIFYING: TWENTY-FOURTH – RACE: TWENTIETH (+4)
Andretti Autosport was another team that struggled to find speed this month, and DeFrancesco was no different. Although the Canadian improved on his starting position, he wasn’t able to improve more than twentieth. Post-race, DeFrancesco commented on the physicality of IndyCar’s longest race.
“We muscled through and made it through 500 miles. It was definitely grueling,” he said. “The boys did a good job in the pits. We had a few little blips on the radar, but the team did a good job to overcome those. Now we look forward to Detroit.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON – CHIP GANASSI RACING
QUALIFYING: TWELFTH – RACE: TWENTY-EIGHTH (-16)
Johnson turned heads with his speeds in practice, finishing in the top five in five of the eight sessions. To add on to that, he advanced to the fast twelve of qualifying in his very first attempt. A very scary wiggle in turn one killed his four-lap average, but twelfth place was an incredible achievement for the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion.
Right from the start Johnson fell down the order and ultimately his day ended in heartbreak, crashing with five laps to go in turn two.
In a positive spin, Johnson was named the 2022 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year. Usually decided just by the highest-finishing rookie, new criteria from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway states that “The Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award should be presented to the driver who has performed with the most distinction among first-year drivers in the Indianapolis 500. Criteria includes on-track performance in practice, qualifying and the race, media and fan interaction , sportsmanship and positive influence on the Indy 500.”
While Johnson’s influence on the race was noticeable, many feel that Malukas was robbed of the award. Regardless, Johnson loved every second of being a part of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
“It was special,” he said. “It was more than I could have ever imagined. To be there with my family, experience that, it was really cool.”
ROMAIN GROSJEAN – ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT
QUALIFYING: NINTH – RACE: THIRTY-FIRST (-22)
Grosjean was the only Andretti car to start inside the top ten and fought around that spot for the first stint of the race. After the second caution, Grosjean slipped outside the top fifteen, running as low as seventeenth. His day went from bad to worse on lap 106, losing control of his car in turn two and wrecking. He was one of several drivers that found themselves the victim to turn two, and Grosjean could not explain why he lost control.
“I don’t know what happened, the rear end snapped on me without any warning,” he said. “I guess a few guys got caught out in the corner (Turn Two) but it was a corner where the car was pretty good over the race. I don’t know what happened, I wasn’t trying anything different. I was happy with the balance of the car. I’m going to try to analyze and move on from that.”
CALLUM ILOTT – JUNCOS HOLLINGER RACING
QUALIFYING: NINETEENTH – RACE: THIRTY-SECOND (-13)
Ilott had a quiet weekend towards the back of the field, but unfortunately he too fell victim to Turn Two. On lap 68, the British driver lost control and smashed the wall, much like Rinus Veekay before him and Grosjean after.
“It is a shame to end such a great run here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway like this,” said Team Co-owner and Team Principal Ricardo Juncos. “We have made so many improvements and were looking solid after our final practice on Friday. Unfortunately, today was not our day, but we will move on from here.
“We are thrilled that Callum was able to get out of the car on his own, which is a true testament to the safety that Dallara and IndyCar have put into these cars, after witnessing such hard hits like he did today. We are going to look over the data to see what went on and will regain the positive momentum we have had this season.”
Although he was able to walk out under his own power, Ilott suffered a broken right hand following the impact. He will be re-evaluated ahead of next weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.