Some were wondering why in last Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland that team orders wouldn’t have been put in place to allow Will Power to pass Scott McLaughlin to win the penultimate race of the 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series season.
McLaughlin’s chances of earning a title in his 2nd full time season are low. Power could have used those 10 extra points via a win plus the one bonus point of a lap led. With Scott Dixon now in 3rd place, wouldn’t it have been better to swap the two out
“I get it from the standpoint that Scott (McLaughlin) is in,” said Power of the situation. “I’ve been there, and you don’t want to give up a win.”
What about in the final laps? A Power win would have gained him 10 more points and almost out of reach for Sunday’s season finale at Laguna Seca (3 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). That would have put him 31 points up instead of 20. Instead, they remained status quo. McLaughlin crossing the finish line in 1st, Power in 2nd.
“Absolutely. I was on the radio asking for it,” Power noted of being allowed by. Even Dixon expected it to happen.
“I think I called it with ten laps to go, I was surprised they haven’t swapped yet,” he said.
“I don’t know. Yeah, 10, 11 points would be great, Power chimed it. “I think we go in there pretty confident that we could get it done. 20, it’s still a big fight, yeah.”
McLaughlin said it was all circumstantial.
“No, they said that they would — at the end of the day it was completely circumstantial,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious what position you’re in if you do need to give up. I told Will before the race that I would fight him cleanly, and I think that’s all he expected.
“I didn’t know he was asking for team orders, a switch or whatever, but I can’t control that. I just drove my race, and I’m a team player. I’ll do whatever I need to do, but for me I think the best thing we could do was win the race, either car. I think that’s exactly what happened.”
A few days later, Dixon is still wondering why they didn’t swap positions. Tim Cindric knows why he’s still discussing it.
“I think there’s probably a little mental game going on between those two guys,” said the President of Team Penske. “I think if you focus on last week, you’re not focused on this week.”
Cindric said on Wednesday that there never was any thought of doing so. While the points would have been nice, what happens if Dixon passes them both he noted.
“I think from our standpoint focusing on this week is really it,” he said. “Yeah, it’s always a tough decision from a team standpoint when you’re leading points, not the one leading the race, whatever else. I think we’ve been pretty consistent on that front.
“I think there’s more of a mental game happening there between those two trying to figure out how to worry about last week instead of worrying about this week.”
That’s why he’s not looking back but focusing on this week’s race instead. He has all 3 of his drivers in the race to win the Astor Cup on Sunday. Chip Ganassi Racing has 2. With a 60% chance of one of his drivers winning the title, it’s more focused now on, how do they not let this get away from them.
Both Cindric and Mike Hull of Chip Ganassi Racing are wary of Colton Herta’s ability at Laguna Seca too knowing that he could easily steal the win in the season finale. Herta has led all but 10 laps there over the last 2 visits including taking a race win and pole in each.
Cindric said he’s actually rooting for a Herta victory. By doing so, he’d take a sizeable gap away by taking those 51 points. 2nd place gets 40 points. 3rd gets 35. 4th gets 32 and 5th 30. The gap between 2nd to 5th is the same from 1st to 2nd.
“Herta has been pretty dominant here,” Cindric noted. “In some ways I hope he’s dominant again because the difference between winning and second, obviously 10 points different. From where we sit you kind of want other teams in the mix.”
In saying that, how do you race each other. Are team orders brought back up?
“Honestly, try to help if you can,” Scott Dixon said on helping Marcus Ericsson. “I’ve been involved in quite a few of these, and it never really comes into play, or at least it hasn’t as much as you would think it would.
“Situations like today with the 3 and the 12, I thought that would have been a no-brainer, but obviously, go to the last one. We’ll have to see where it lies. We always work as a team to achieve the best, and if we can help all of our teammates, we definitely will.”
Mike Hull of Chip Ganassi Racing says that there’s no easy way to help one another on Sunday that it’s best to just let the race and the track come to you.
“I think we just have to race the racetrack and see what happens here,” Hull says. “It still comes down to that.
“It’s a very simple thing: we just race cars. That’s what we do. We race to the best of our ability. We do that as a team.
“For Marcus to help Scott, I think Marcus first needs to help Marcus. If that helps Scott, it helps Scott. And vice versa, if Scott needs to help Marcus on Sunday, he’ll do that. That goes for the other two people on our team, which are Alex and Jimmie.
“We race the racetrack and we try to help each other as much as we can. I thought Tim’s answer was spot on to you earlier about how you can’t manipulate the outcome, how you let the outcome manipulate it for you.”
Tim Cindric agreed.
“When you look at it, each one of those drivers is trying to race for a championship of their own name” he said. “At the same time they realize the way in which they race each other. Whether it’s for the Indy 500 or championship, what have you, they’re going to go out and race. The one that executes the best I think will be the one that wins the championship.
“I think they’ve been successful enough to understand that the shoe’s going to be on the other foot at some point in time. Roger stresses not only in a racing team but within his other companies that if the team is successful, you’re successful.
“That’s going to play out for different individuals in different ways, especially when you’re the driver. That also has to do with the inner competition between teams. Like I said, there’s a different euphoria if you work on the 2 car team and they win versus if you work on the 12 car team and they win, what have you.
“There’s a little bit of that competition in between. Then you have the sponsors obviously that you have responsibilities to.
“When it comes to team orders, that type of thing, people forget that you have other obligations to other people aside from yourself. You have obligations to the driver, to your sponsors, to their families and all the rest on down the line. Those aren’t very obvious things, especially when you’re talking about whether someone wins a race or doesn’t win a race.
“There’s all kinds of different considerations on that front. But we make a choice to have three cars in which we feel like, to start the season or start each race, should have the tools to compete for the win and should have the talent to compete for the win.
“We’ve never really had a program where we’ve looked at any of our series. I’m very fortunate to sit in that position because I understand from a business perspective it’s not always possible to have three top-level drivers, not having to buy a ride, what have you, within your fleet supporting the business model.
“It’s something that I take a huge amount of I guess appreciation for not being in that position, but at the same time it’s almost easier if you have an A and a B driver to balance those things because it’s understood in the beginning what their different roles are.
“It’s a difficult balance, but I think that they work together, the three of them do, as well as any other three drivers. At the same time we call it the red mist, kind of gets in the way on the racetrack sometimes. I can’t say that anybody’s perfect on that front. Everybody is competitive to a certain degree.
“Yeah, I think with a successful team, these guys are going to drive together for a while, so they have to kind of figure it out themselves some days, too. No different than at Iowa, those guys had to race each other really hard, but they had to race each other fair. Both of them put each other in the fence in Iowa toward the end. Nobody’s happy.
“There’s a certain amount of responsibility the drivers have to the team, as well.”
Will Power said the dynamic of he and Josef Newgarden won’t change but Scott McLaughlin is more in a position of help.
“Yeah. I think that he is definitely in a position that he will just have to help simply. I don’t think there will be any question about it.”