It’s a Team Penske vs. Chip Ganassi Racing battle for this year’s NTT INDYCAR Series championship. 5 drivers remain mathematically eligible with 3 of the 5 having won a title in the past.
However, for Will Power, this is the 1st time since 2018 that he’s been in a position to take home the title. For Josef Newgarden, this is the first time since 2019 for him too. While he entered the season finale in each of the last two years with a chance, it wasn’t very realistic. He was too far out.
Scott Dixon has been in this moment more times than not over the course of his career while Marcus Ericsson never has. How much of a role does this play out for each?
Still, here’s why each of them are in this position right now.
The reason he’s here in this position is because of his consistency. Power has just 1 win all year. That came back on June 5. That shouldn’t have him on the verge of his 2nd career championship at this moment. However, he also has 11 top 4 results in 16 races run too which does.
The reason however that his lead isn’t any bigger though is because of qualifying. Odd, I know. He started 12th and finished 15th in the Indy 500. He qualified 15th back in June at Road America and finished 19th as a result. He started 16th in Toronto and was only 15th in the race too a month later.
The reason that he’s also in the lead though is how he’s responded to his bad starts. Power went from 19th to 4th in Barber, 16th to 1st in Belle Isle, 21st to 3rd in Mid-Ohio, spinning on the opening lap with Pato O’Ward in Indy 2 and finishing 3rd.
That’s why he’s in the position that he’s in today.
Josef Newgarden (-20)
The reason he’s here is because he has a series best 5 wins. He has almost more wins himself (5) than the rest of the top 6 in points combined (7). The reason that he’s not leading the points is because he’s also finished 13th or worse in 5 starts too. With his only podiums being his wins, that stands out as to why Newgarden is where he is right now.
Newgarden won 2 of the first 3 races of the year. Overall though, 4 of his 1st 6 finishes were 13th or worse. He’s since rebounded with 4 top 6’s in his last 5 starts have him in this situation for a 3rd title.
Scott Dixon (-20)
He’s tied for 2nd in points because he’s been consistent too. He’s had a top 10 in all but 1 race run all year and in that race, it was the double points Indy 500 to which he was speeding on his final pit stop while leading. Think of that.
He did gain some of those lost points up in Nashville to where the field flipped due to a late race caution. Dixon was likely destined to finish between 8th to 11th but got a win instead.
Still, the Indy 500 situation is one of the main reasons right now as to why Dixon isn’t leading this championship. So is the fact that he had 3 top 5’s in the opening 8 races to the season. In the last 8 races, he’s had 5 including 2 wins. He’s had almost as many wins as he had top 5’s in the first half of the year.
The other factor is qualifying. He’s started 12th or worse 9 times including coming from 16th to 3rd last week.
That’ll help a comeback.
Marcus Ericsson (-39)
Sure the win in the double points Indy 500 helps. It doesn’t hurt. But Ericsson is also in the hunt for a championship because he also has 11 top 10 finishes and 5 top 5’s too. He had 7 top 5’s in his 46 previous starts.
That in part is why the factor he’s not in the lead of the points is down to qualifying.
Ericsson has started 12th or worse 9 times in 2022. Still, he’s finished in the top 10 in 5 of those 8. Just think of where he’d finish if he started a few rows further up in those races. He has started in Row 3 or better just 3 times all year. 2 of those 3 he finished either 1st or 2nd.
His engine stopping in the Indy road course and starting 25th could have been a dagger. He rebounded to finish 11th. Imagine if he started 11th where he could have finished.
That and lacking podiums at the end of the year is what has him in 4th.
In crunch time, he’s lacking those top 5 finishes. He’s had 1 in the last 8 races and even that was a 5th place run in Toronto. He had 4 in the previous 8 starts.
Scott McLaughlin (-41)
That mid May-June 5 stretch is to why McLaughlin is here. After 3 top 6’s in the first 4 races run on the season, he had finishes of 20th, 29th (double points) and 19th respectively. In the 9 races since, he has 6 top 4’s including 5 consecutively.