For the 17th straight year the NTT INDYCAR Series championship is coming down to the season finale before we could crown our champion. In saying that, the smallest of details could have won the title for a few or lost it for others.
Here’s the top laps that shaped the 2022 championship.
Lap 247 Texas
Josef Newgarden passed Scott McLaughlin on the high side of a track you can’t do that on and held on to win the XPEL 375 at Texas. It was an 10 point swing in his favor. He had 51 points in the win while Scott McLaughlin netted 43 for 2nd. If Newgarden would have finished 2nd, he would have received 41 points.
Lap 6 GMR Grand Prix
Alex Palou spun early while running in the top 10 which relegated him to the start of his backwards slide this summer.
Lap 17 GMR Grand Prix
Josef Newgarden was collected in an early race incident which ended his day with a disappointing 25th place result netting him only 5 points.
Lap 174 Indy 500
Scott Dixon had the Indy 500 won. The race was signed and sealed and coming to his final pit stop of the day, almost delivered. Instead, Dixon was speeding on pit road which took him to the back. As a result, it handed the win to his teammate Marcus Ericsson and a 21st place result for Dixon in a double points event.
Instead of 108 points, Dixon netted 33. That’s a 75 point differential from that 1 speeding penalty.
Think if he didn’t speed where the standings would be at now….
Lap 47 Honda Indy Toronto
Newgarden ran up front until he visited pit lane for service on Lap 47. He brought the Hitachi Chevy to a stop too far from the wall, which caused an issue with refueling. Difficulty changing rear tires also hampered the stop as Newgarden fell to 11th place in the running order. He earned back a spot to finish 10th at the checkered flag. He had a top 5 going prior.
Toronto marked an eventful weekend for Newgarden as an engine issue on Saturday kept him from a productive practice session. They’d have to endure an engine change in Portland as a result of this which dropped him from starting 2nd to 8th. That’s exactly where he’d finish after going with a different tire strategy which didn’t pan out.
Lap 235 Hy-Vee 300
Josef Newgarden was well on his way to sweeping the Iowa race weekend. Then Lap 235 happened. He crashed while leading. That crash on Lap 235 completely altered the standings. Before the crash, Newgarden was leading Marcus Ericsson by 10 points. Will Power was 3rd (-23), Scott Dixon 4th (-44), Alex Palou in 5th (-56) and Pato O’Ward in sixth still at 57 points out. Scott McLaughlin (-101), Colton Herta (-135), Felix Rosenqvist (-140) and Alexander Rossi (-150) rounded out the top 10.
How it sat after?
Ericsson led Power by 8, Newgarden and Dixon were tied for 3rd (-34), O’Ward was 5th (-36), Palou 6th (-44) and McLaughlin 7th (-86).
That crash changed everything.
Newgarden went from a potential for 53 more points to scoring just 9. That’s a 42 point difference.
Lap 50 Nashville
Scott Dixon had pit for the final time with 30 laps remaining in last month’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. Good thing he did off strategy there. A caution would fly 2 laps later allowing Dixon to cycle up to 2nd behind Josef Newgarden who elected to not pit but would have to eventually. Dixon won as a result of this Lap 50 pit call and the Lap 52 caution that soon followed.
If that doesn’t happen, the race win was favoring Alex Palou and McLaughlin while Dixon was likely to finish outside the top 10 giving him at least 30+ points back which negates some of that 75 points he lost in Indy.
Lap 145 Gateway
It was a high speed parade for much of the race until this point. No one was really taking any risks. But when Jack Harvey brought out the opening caution of the race, it allowed Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin and Takuma Sato to do so. Each pit under this caution period and as a result, took home of the top 5 finishing spots. Will Power who dominated the race up until this point was shuffled back to 6th on the wrong end of the strategy.
Newgarden went from 34 points back to 3 which further shaped this season while Power lost 31 points on his teammate, he doubled his margin over Scott Dixon and extend his lead also over Marcus Ericsson and Alex Palou too.