Will Power Time?
Team Penske hasn’t won the spring race here since 2019. However, they dominated the two Harvest Grand Prix’s in 2020 with Josef Newgarden leading 34 of 85 laps in his win during the first doubleheader race of the race weekend. A day later, Will Power led all 75 laps in victory.
Last August, Power led 56 of 85 laps in another win.
While they were 3-20-25 back in May, can they dominate another summer race again?
They’ve won each of the last 2 natural road course races on the season by 2 different drivers. Power has won each of the last 2 Indy road course return trips and has 3 top 4 finishes in 4 natural road course starts this season. Scott McLaughlin has 3 top 7 finishes in the same 4 races including a Mid-Ohio win on July 3.
Newgarden while he won at Road America, that’s his only top 5 in 4 races run this season on these tracks. He also has just 1 podium in 11 IMS road course starts too.
That could set up another Power dominated day.
Marcus Ericsson never qualifies well here but he’s had 5 top 10’s in his last 6 Indy road course starts. Only 2 of those 5 were a top 5 though with none being a podium. Will Power has 5 Indy wins and primed for a 6th. Scott Dixon hasn’t had a top 5 in any of his last 5 Indy road course tries. Josef Newgarden has 3 top 5’s in his last 4 here but 1 podium in 11 starts. He’s not even cleared to race yet. His fate lands in protocols on Thursday. Pato O’Ward has never finished better than 5th here. Alex Palou has been 27th and 18th in his last 2 Indy tries and has just 1 top 5 in his last 8 starts on the season.
That’s why points are a factor again this weekend with these 6 blanketed by 44 points entering Saturday’s race.
7th place in points Scott McLaughlin enters off of a podium in Iowa and a win the last time out on a natural road course. 8th place in the standings Colton Herta won here in May and has 5 top 4’s in his last 6 tries here too.
Dixon/Ericsson Surging, Palou Tailing Off
3 of the top 6 in NTT INDYCAR Series points right now belong to one camp – Chip Ganassi Racing. In saying that, things could change maybe this weekend because Team Penske has been great here in this race while Arrow McLaren SP drivers are likely destined to each being in or around the top 5 on Saturday.
At one point in time, Scott Dixon was the man on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. He had a span of 4 straight top 2 finishes including a win in the 2020 COVID race that July. Since then? He’s been anything but.
Dixon was 9th and 8th respectively that October of 2020. In May of 2021, he finished 9th. He was 17th last August here and 10th again in May. If you count his 1st 3 starts on this 2.439-mile road course, Dixon has finished 7th or worse in 8 of his 12 starts.
What’s baffling is, he’s no where to be found in qualifying either. In his last 5 starts, he’s qualified 12th, 15th, 16th, 26th and 21st respectively.
For a team as dominating as Ganassi and the resources that they have mixed without much changes to this car, you’d think that they’d find a way to make this No. 9 Dallara-Honda fast for Dixon and one with balance to win.
They’ve found it with Alex Palou as he’s had a ton of speed the last 2 years here. He’s qualified 4th, 6th and 2nd respectively with Ganassi. However, he blew an engine while running in the top 3 last August and got off course in the rain while being in the top 5 in May. When it went right, he was 3rd in May 2021.
If they can combine speed and get better luck, Ganassi can absolutely win on Saturday. Plus, Marcus Ericsson has 3 straight top 6 finishes on natural road courses in 2022 to go along with 5 top 10’s in 6 Indy road course tries in general. He also has 19 top 10’s in his last 22 starts in general including 8 straight top 8’s. Dixon has 5 top 5’s in his last 6 races run too.
Will Power is the obvious favorite here but there’s an opportunity to see some sleepers steal a win away on Sunday. Pato O’Ward is coming off of a win but he’s not finished better than 5th here before in 6 tries. Josef Newgarden is also coming off of an Iowa win and leading 148 laps a day later, but he’s had just 1 podium in 11 Indy road course starts. Scott Dixon has 5 top 5 finishes in his last 6 starts on the season but hasn’t finished better than 5th on a natural road course all year and has no top 5’s in his last 5 on this track. Alex Palou has 1 podium in 6 Indy road course tries and only 1 top 5 in the last 8 starts on the season.
That opens the door for a sleeper to capitalize.
How about Callum Ilott who’s shined on these types of tracks this year. He qualified 7th and finished 8th back in May. He enters having scored a pair of top 12 finishes at Iowa.
What about Romain Grosjean? He finished runner-up here in both races last season and has 3 top 10 finishes in his last 5 starts on the season including being 7th and 9th respectively in Iowa. He has as many top 10’s (6) this season (12 races) as he had last (13).
Conor Daly is also one to watch. He qualified well last week (3rd, 4th) as well as qualifying 4th here in May and finishing 5th.
Maybe someone like Scott McLaughlin can come in and win. He has 3 top 7 results in 4 natural road course starts this season including a win the last time out on one in Road America. He enters with a podium in Iowa too.
Scott Dixon won 2 weeks ago in Toronto for his 52nd career series victory. That tied him with Mario Andretti for 2nd most all-time. The next win for the Ice Man moves him into 2nd place all by himself.
Last weekend, Will Power won the pole for both races at Iowa. That gives him 66 for his career. His next pole will tie him with Andretti for most ever.
Now, can both drivers capitalize this weekend?
Power won the pole here this past May as he has 5 poles on the 2.439-mile road course.
Dixon won here in 2020 and has 4 top 5 finishes and 10 top 10’s in 12 starts here.