5 things I’m watching for Sunday’s season finale in Laguna Seca

Veteran Revival

Last year we had a 24 year old battling a 21 year old for the championship. This year 4 of the top 5 drivers are each over the age of 30. 2 of which are in their 40’s.

Scott Dixon is 42. Will Power is 41. Josef Newgarden and Marcus Ericsson are each 31. A year after the kids stole the show, the veterans have taken it back. Is this is revival or a one off opportunity?

“I can’t tell you how much experience does play into it, though,” said the 41-year old Power. Over a season, over even a race, it makes a big difference, and that’s why you see the championship as it is.

“There’s definitely some super quick, young fast guys. What is putting the whole thing together is the experienced bit in my opinion, and you don’t even have to be the quickest guy. You have to be experienced and smart and, obviously, a great team as well makes a difference.”

Scott Dixon at the Portland International Raceway. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Penske vs. Ganassi Again

The championship this year is once again down to Team Penske vs. Chip Ganassi Racing. It will mark the 10th straight season that one of them has won the title. However, who takes home the crown on Sunday?

Ganassi has won the last 2 championships. Penske is eyeing their first since he took over the series. Ganassi has 2 drivers left, Penske has 3. Numbers say Penske.

But Penske also has been more consistent this season too.

Colton Herta has won Laguna Seca in 2 straight years. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Andretti Autosport Spoiler

Colton Herta has dominated this race in each of the last 2 years. He won the pole for each and led nearly every lap (175-for-185) each time to score victories. Can he do so again on Sunday? His teammate Alexander Rossi qualified 2nd last year while Romain Grosjean finished 3rd with Coyne. The trio looks like play spoiler this weekend. While they don’t have anyone in the championship fight, they can take home some trophies still.

Scott Dixon at the Portland International Raceway. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Did Ganassi’s Testing Plan Help Or Hurt Their Title Chances?

Testing during the season is strategic. With so few days available, you have to pick and choose to where you want to use them. Coming to the final 2 races of the year, Ganassi and Penske each had 1 date left. Penske used theirs in Portland. It helped. Ganassi saved theirs for here. Did that plan win them a title?

You try to have all different programs, but then you also try to tailor yourself as well. It was definitely an interesting day.

“The hard thing about Laguna is that the tire I feel like is not very well matched, so you have literally got — if you get five sets of tires, you have maybe 20 laps of actual decent pace. Then you are really working on digs,” Scott Dixon said.

“I think the test went well across the board. We have probably ticked some boxes and worked out some question and answers that we needed to, but where we lie, we’re not really sure until we get to next week.

“There’s a track that we were a little bit average at. If you look at our team in general, you know, just being a bit iffy this year. Even here Alex did a superb job to kind of skim through on each qualifying group, but if you look at the segments, we were kind of, like, 12th in back of all the cars.

“We have some work to do, and hopefully we will get there. Laguna Seca, they have a big resurface change in the offseason, which will change the tracks a lot. Yeah, Will touched on that earlier. It’s technical and sometimes quite difficult to get your head around.”

Ganassi tested at Portland last year so they figured why go back again? It paid off in 2021 so how much could really change in a 12 month span? They lacked pace more in Laguna Seca from 2021 in comparison to Portland so why not go there instead?

Penske tested in Portland and dominated the weekend. Can Ganassi do the same in Laguna and do enough to get Dixon to the lead over Power?

Does that pay off and them plus what could be a solid weekend out of the Andretti camp put enough distance between them and the Penske’s to make up ground in the points and take home a 3rd straight drivers championship?

Bonus Points

This is an area that could make or break this year’s championship. You get 50 points for a race win but 1 point for a pole, 1 point for a lap led and 2 bonus points for most laps led. That means that all Will Power has to do is finish 3rd without any bonus points and he’d wrap up this year’s championship. That’s because you get 35 points for a 3rd place finish. He’s 20 points up on Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden, 39 points up on Marcus Ericsson and 41 up on Scott McLaughlin.

If any of those 4 get max points (54) and Power gets (35) that’s only a 19 point difference. He covers it all.

However, this is where bonus points come in. Who gets the pole? That’s 1 point.

Power has 4 of them this season. McLaughlin has 3. Newgarden has scored one pole this year. Dixon has 1 (Indy 500) while Ericsson has never earned an INDYCAR pole.

Dixon hasn’t won a pole outside of the Indianapolis 500 since 2016 (Watkins Glen). He’s qualified 13th or worse in 5 of the last 6 races. Ericsson has been 12th or worse in the same span.

So it’s down to laps led then. Ericsson has 37 total laps led this year. He’s led a lap in 5 races but has just 1 lap led in the last 8 (Gateway). Dixon has failed to lead a lap in 5 of the last 6 races. The only race he’s led is 15 laps in Nashville. In fact, his 2 wins (Toronto, Nashville) are the only 2 races to where he’s been out front since July 3. He’s led the most laps once all season (Indy 500).

McLaughlin meanwhile has led at least 10 laps in each of the last 4 races and led the most laps on 4 occurrences this season. 3 of those 4 he won in.

Newgarden has led 78 or more laps in 3 of the last 6 races and has led at least one lap in 9 races. McLaughlin has led at least one lap in 8 races. Power has led at least one lap in 9 races himself including 5 of the last 6.

Trends state that it’s going to be tough for the Ganassi duo to get bonus points too which heavily favors the Penske trio for this year’s title.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s