Indy 500 Qualifying 2022: Top Storylines to Track This Weekend

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 21, 2022

Jimmie Johnson leaves the pits during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Friday, May 20, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Two drivers with different levels of experience gained plenty of attention ahead of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. 

Jimmie Johnson made the jump from NASCAR to Indy Car as a full-time driver for the 2022 season, and he will go through his first Indy 500 qualifying session on Saturday. 

Johnson has a single top-10 finish in five starts on the Indy Car Series circuit this season. A strong qualifying session would provide a boost to a season with finishes mostly outside out of the top 20. 

Colton Herta comes into Saturday's qualifying in much different form than Johnson. He won the Indy Car Series race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the focus shifted to the oval. 

Herta is one of the rising stars of open-wheel racing, and he will be one of the favorites to win the race next Sunday. 

Herta qualified on the front row in second place last season. He will try to make the front row again through qualifying on Saturday and Sunday. 

The fastest 12 cars from Saturday's qualifying session advance to Sunday's Fast 12 shootout for the pole positions. The 13th through 33rd spots on the starting grid will be solidified on Saturday. 


Top Storylines to Watch

How Will Jimmie Johnson Fare In First Indy 500 Qualifying? 

Jimmie Johnson's foray into the IndyCar Series has not gone as planned.

The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion recorded four finishes outside of the top 20. His only top 10 finish came at Texas Motor Speedway. 

Johnson crashed during Friday's qualifying session, but he was able to bounce back to produce some nice speeds inside his Chip Ganassi Racing car. 

Johnson has his first chance to qualify for the Indy 500 on Saturday. He should make the field with ease, but it will be intriguing to see where he lands on the grid. 

He has plenty of power inside his car. Ganassi cars have been to Victory Lane at Indy four times since 2000. 

The Ganassi team put three drivers in the top 11 last season, including second-place finisher Alex Palou. 

Johnson's results early on in the IndyCar season show he is going through some growing pains in the open-wheel car, but he should feel more comfortable on the oval than other tracks since he drove it many times in a stock car.   


Colton Herta's Impact on Qualifying

Colton Herta is the hottest name in American open-wheel racing. 

The 22-year-old was signed as a developmental driver by the McLaren Formula 1 team at the start of the year, and he could be the next American to make the jump overseas. 

Herta delivered a handful of impressive results on the IndyCar circuit so far this season. He won on the Indianapolis road course and took fourth on the St. Petersburg, Florida, street course to start the season.

Herta qualified on the front row for last year's race alongside Scott Dixon and Rinus VeeKay. He finished in 16th place. 

Expectations are higher this season for Herta because of the attention paid to him from the McLaren team. 

An Indy 500 win would be a great step in his career, and it would break in a new era of winners. Indy Car veterans Takuma Sato, Helio Castroneves and Will Power are among the recent winners. 

Herta could challenge for one of the top qualifying spots on Saturday and the pole position on Sunday. 

If that happens, Herta will be the most talked-about driver in the buildup to the 2022 running of the Indy 500.