Tight points, 3 winners in 4 races with a fun season heading to Indy

LEEDS, Ala — Pato O’Ward became the 3rd different NTT INDYCAR Series driver to win in the 1st 4 races run this season on Sunday at the Barber Motorsports Park. He beat Alex Palou by .9800-seconds in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, while Palou now becomes the 3rd different driver to lead the points leaving the same 4 races too. Also, 3 of the 4 pole winners in 2022 earned either their 1st or 2nd pole win too.

The thing is, while we’ve had 3 different winners, and 3 different point leaders, all 4 races were still won by Chevrolet’s though too.

The bowties are off to an undefeated start to the 2022 season with 4 wins in 4 races by 3 different drivers. They’ve also won 3 of the 4 poles and have taken 7 of the 12 podium spots as well.

Furthermore, Chevy has led 412 out of 523 (79%).

Chevy, dominated the series when they came back in 2012. However, with the UAK coming out in 2018, Honda turned the tide to close the gap. In 2018, Honda won 11 times compared to Chevy’s 6. 2019 went back to Chevy (9-8) but the two tied in 2020 (7-7). Last year, it was 9-7 in favor of Honda with Chevy now leading 4-0 in 2022.

In the three year span of the Aerokits from 2015 through 2017, it was Chevy 34, Honda 15. With the same car this time around, it’s Honda 35, Chevrolet 32.

Now, we go to Indy to where it’s a place where we’ve seen 1 or the other dominate and not as evenly matched as we thought. Maybe this is the year it is.

Still, heading to Indy, Palou, last year’s champion, leads Scott McLaughlin by a mere 3 points. If you go back to last season, Palou has 6 top 4 results in the last 7 races run and heading to a month to where he was runner-up in the Indy 500. He leads all 3 Penske drivers heading to Indy now.

McLaughlin, has 3 top 6 results in 4 races run this season.

Josef Newgarden is 3rd (-9) with the only repeat winner this season. Will Power (-10) is 4th but is the only driver with a top 4 in every race run in 2022. He’s done that 4 prior times in his career, the first 3 he finished 2nd in the final standings and the last (2014) he won the title.

O’Ward went from 13th to 5th in 2 races and now has a big month ahead. The last time he raced on the Indy road course, he won the pole last August. Then, it’s the Indy 500 to where he’s finished 6th and 4th in his 2 tries. After that it’s to Belle Isle to where he won a year ago.

Scott Dixon has 4 top 10’s to start 2022 and sits -31 heading to Indy. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Scott Dixon (-31) is 6th in points and has a top 10 in all 4 races run, but has just 1 win in his last 26 starts overall dating back to the second Gateway race in 2020 too. He had six wins in the 20 races prior as this span between wins is the second longest of his career. The other was 39 races between wins at Richmond in 2003 and Watkins Glen in 2005 as well as 36 races between his win in Nazareth during the 2001 season and his next victory in the 2003 season opener in Homestead. In fact, Dixon has just 6 podiums in his last 26 starts compared to 20 in his previous 31.

Rinus VeeKay is 7th (-38) but enters Indy with 3 top 10’s in 4 races. He won the Indy road course last year, was on the front row for the Indy 500 and was runner-up in Belle Isle. This could be a big stretch for him too.

The thing is, VeeKay had 6 top 10’s in the first 7 races run a year ago. Then he had a cycling injury missed Road America and his season completely changed. Over the final 7 races post injury, he had 0 top 15’s.

The Andretti Autosport bunch is 8th (Romain Grosjean), 11th (Colton Herta), 13th (Alexander Rossi) and 24th (Devlin DeFrancesco) in points. They’re reeling. Herta, had pit road problems plague him for St. Pete and Texas. He was pushing too hard coming to pit lane in Long Beach and crashed. Qualifying hampered him in Barber and while pushing hard in the race, he spun and went from 6th to 10th. Rossi, had a bad pit call in St. Pete, a mechanical failure in Texas, and a bad pit stop in Long Beach and Barber now. His winless streak is now to 41 races. He has just  has just 8 podiums and only 11 top fives in that span too.

The Andretti Autosport driver seemed to be on a quick path to a championship once he won his second career NTT IndyCar Series race in Watkins Glen during that 2017 season. From the Toronto race that season through the one at Road America in 2019, Rossi had six wins, 16 podiums and 22 top five finishes in a span of 33 races. 

But, here we are.

He was second in the championship in 2018 and third in 2019. But, this dip started during the middle of that ’19 season which is why he didn’t hoist the Astor Cup championship trophy that season and why he’s hasn’t yet overall. He was 10th in the final standings last year and currently 16th now following an 8th place result in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

He hasn’t won a race since Road America in 2019. He led 54 of 55 laps that day. In fact, that was the 10th race of that season. At that point, he had led in 7 of the 10 races to account for 182 laps led.

But, over the last 40 races during this winless streak, he’s led a total of 95 laps. He led 83 laps in 2020, two last year and 10 in St. Pete. That’s it.

Also during this 40 race drought, he has finished 17th or worse in 7 of his last 19 starts. He had 6 finishes of 17th or worse in his previous 47 races.

Indy is a huge month so we’ll see how much this changes between now and June.

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