As we move closer to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, IndyCar and all of auto racing across the NBC Networks has a great chance for exposure you cannot get anywhere else. The last Winter Olympic Games in 2018 saw an estimated audience of 1.8 billion viewers. NBC averaged 19 million viewers in primetime across NBC, NBC Sports and NBC’s streaming platforms. Although down for the numbers seen in 2010 and 2014, the 2022 Winter Olympic Games should exceed those numbers of 2018. Although not guaranteed, this is a great opportunity for NBC to promote the upcoming IndyCar season, as well as the season opening race a few weeks later on the streets of St. Pete. A mega win for IndyCar would be an interview with James Hinchcliffe. Although he won’t be in a cockpit in 2022, his ties to speed and Canada would make for a great conversation.
With 15 Olympic sports making up the winter Olympics, I wanted to have some fun and put together an “IndyCar Nation” squad, pairing drivers with the sports I feel would suit them the best. Based on some of these events, different drivers would fit the mold better than others. Let’s dive into some of the drivers that would be great participants in the 2022 Winter Olympics, hypothetically of course.
FIGURE SKATING: Takuma Sato
One of the most popular sports in the upcoming Winter Olympics is figure skating. Look, I don’t know much about ice skating in general, but it certainly looks hard as hell and you have to be very light on your feet. Most of the competitors are always super short as well. The nod on this has to go to Takuma Sato. Sato would effortlessly guide across the ice and gracefully hit all of his landings while going all out for the final move to impress the judges. Gold to Takuma!
ALPINE SKIING: Colton Herta and Romain Grosjean
Alpine Skiing is a tougher sport to pin a driver to. This is a sport that takes precision, leg strength and the ability to fly through the air. Just like his ride at Iowa back in 2020, I am going with Colton Herta for this event. We know the California kid is daring and quick, which fits perfectly in this sport. The biggest problem would be getting George Steinbrenner IV and Michael Andretti to sign off on this equally dangerous downhill battle. Grosjean's grandfather was a two Olypian in Alpine Skiing, so of course he should have it in his blood right? Although he resides in Miami now might be a little rusty, the quick and methodical second year IndyCar driver would tear up the slopes for team IndyCar.
THE BIATHLON: Simona De Silvestro
The Biathlon takes to the slopes as participants ski around a 10 KM course with a rifle strapped to their backs. Each time the competitor stops at a shooting range, they are required to fire off 5 shots at the target. The guns must be loaded at the shooting stations. For this task, we need a fast, methodical competitor. I am giving the nod to Simona De Silvestro. I’d imagine she is a pretty good skier and can focus on the target ahead. Not sure how her shooting skills are, but she has always been a fast and accurate driver.
BOBSLED: Sage Karam and Marco Andretti
Moving onto one of the more popular sports in the winter Olympics, we have the bobsled! Known officially in the Olympic world as the bobsleigh, the bobsleigh can feature two teammates in one sleigh, or four. For this, let’s stick with the two man bobsleigh team. For this event, you want two drivers that are fast and light. Why not a team USA livery on a bobsleigh for Sage Karam and Marco Andretti. Although Sage is better off wrestling in the summer Olympics. The Nazareth, Pennsylvania duo would find speed on the track. Rhythm and chemistry are key in the bobsleigh. With these two on board, Team USA and Team Nazareth would claim the checkered flag, err the Gold medal.
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING: J.R. Hildebrand
Cross country skiing is all about patience, saving your best for the end and staying consistent. Due to age and mangled feet, I will not be able to pick Rick Mears for this event. Helio Castroneves would certainly be in the running for this, but let's save him for something else. We need a driver that is smart, saves his body and can stay patient. Insert a guy that I think has some experience in skiing from his California roots, J.R. Hildebrand. Hildebrand knows patience, how to save his equipment and be there at the end.
CURLING: Juan Pablo Montoya and Pato O’Ward
The next sport up is one of the most popular in the winter Olympics, Curling! If you haven’t curled, it is a super fun sport that takes great vision, precision and fast hands. A two driver team will be necessary, and look no further than Juan Pablo Montoya and Pato O’Ward. Montoya is known for his fast hands throughout his career and O’Ward handled numerous cars that should have gotten away from him, especially on street courses.
ICE HOCKEY: Ed Carpenter, Scott Goodyear, James Hinchcliffe, Devlin DeFrancesco, Marcus Ericsson
Hockey and driving a race car have plenty in common. Split second decision making, communication and speed bode well for both the hockey player and the race car driver. At goalie, give me Ed Carpenter. I don’t know if he would be that good, but the team did release a video of him playing goaltender with his sons youth hockey team, so we know he has some experience. Scott Goodyear can lace up the skates as well. James Hinchcliffe and Devlin DeFrancesco are Canadian and would be a good fit. Give me Marcus Ericsson in there too. He took some shots at the Anaheim Ducks practice facility last year as a guest of Hampus Lindholm. Ericsson grew up playing hockey and did so until the age of 16.
Massive amounts of people from all over the globe will be tuning in to watch the Olympics across the networks of NBC. I am sure the network plans to have advertisements and mentions of the upcoming NTT IndyCar season that starts in St. Pete on February 27th and mentions of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500. Voice of IndyCar on NBC Leigh Diffey will be an announcer on a variety of events, so we know Diff will plug IndyCar a few times. The Olympic games get underway Wednesday February 2nd.
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