Bright Future Still Ahead
I feel like we talk about this a lot, but it’s true again and even more so now because with Pato O’Ward signing a contract extension through 2025 to remain with Arrow McLaren SP and Andretti Autosport’s F1 endeavors looking bleak, the series as a result gets to keep both O’Ward and Andretti’s focus home.
O’Ward is only 23 and has a lot of time left to score a championship. Colton Herta is just 22. Yes Herta’s name is getting mentioned for Alpha Tauri plans, but it also may not happen either. Even if it does, there’s plenty of other younger drivers around here.
They’ll be vying for wins with Rinus VeeKay who’s going to be back for a 4th season with ECR in 2023. He’s only 21. David Malukas will surely be back and is just 20. Christian Lundgaard is the rookie of the year and will be back with RLL again in 2023. He’s also only 21. Kyle Kirkwood shifts over to Andretti Autosport next season. He’s only 23. So is Callum Ilott.
That’s a lot of star power at such a young age that all showed promise again this past season. They each had flashes of brilliance and enough to shine brightly in a crowded field.
While saying in one breath the future is bright with young star power, I can say with the other breath that the veterans aren’t going anywhere either. Alex Palou was the only driver in the top 6 in points under the age of 29. 2 of the top 3 in points were in their 40’s signifying that while the youngsters came to play in 2021, the veterans came back in 2022.
Never Count Out Scott Dixon
I think we tend to do this too much. It’s because we keep hearing the rumors that Scott Dixon could soon be hanging his helmet up. When he starts off slow, we wonder if this is it. With the rise of the kids coming into the series and their speed, could Dixon continue doing what he does best and racing at a high level?
He went over a year without a win and was struggling to put his blue and order No. 9 Dallara-Honda on the podium. Then came the summer months to remind us…never again. Never again will I doubt Scott Dixon.
It’s not like he was bad this season. He had a top 10 in all but 1 race to keep him in the fight. He did what he always does. He takes a top 10 car and puts it there in the top 10. If he doesn’t have a top 5 in it, he’ll gladly take 6th to 10th. While doing so, he’ll let the others take themselves out by striving for too much and taking a 1st to 5th place car and finishing outside the top 10.
It all balances out in the end.
When Dixon gets a car like they have, he’s calculated enough to take it to a podium which is why as the season went on, those top 10’s turned into top 5’s and those top 5’s turned into wins.
That’s why there’s no reason to ever doubt Dixon again.
“Big 2” Separating Themselves From The Rest
A year ago, we were wondering if the “Big 3” were getting company to making this a “Big 4.” Heck the writing on the wall was that maybe it was a “Big 5” if you factor in RLL who won the Indy 500 in 2020 and took 2 of the top 3 finishers that day. RLL and Arrow McLaren SP were hot on the scene to threat Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport for supremacy in the series.
That however was short lived.
2022 showed that not only is this not a “Big 5” or even a “Big 4” heck I can make a case that it’s not longer a “Big 3” anymore. This is a “Big 2.”
Only reason you throw Andretti in there is because they’re a juggernaut. However, they’re not performing for the resources that they have and while they allowed AMSP to close up, the other 2 ahead pulled away.
Penske and Ganassi each put 3 cars in the top 7 of the final points standings. They combined to win 13 of the 17 races run this season and earned their 10th straight championship in the process. No other team outside of Penske or Ganassi has won an NTT INDYCAR Series championship since 2013.
They’ve also won 14 of the last 15 too.
In the Aeroscreen era, they’ve combined to hoist the victory trophy after 33 of the 46 races. Andretti is next with 6 wins, AMSP has 4 while ECR, MSR and RLL each have 1.
In this season alone, Penske had 22 podiums and Ganassi taking home 14 podium trophies. Next best was Andretti with 7. AMSP had 4 while ECR, MSR, DCR and RLL each had 1.
That’s 36 out of 51 belonging to the “Big 2.”
With taking home 76% of the wins (13-for-17) and 68% of the podiums (35-for-51), this duo has separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
Will Power only won once. Scott Dixon won just twice. They managed to take 2 of the top 3 spots in the championship. How?
Consistency is how.
Factor in Marcus Ericsson’s one win (Indy 500) and Alex Palou having just 1 win and you get 4 of the top 6 in the final standings combined for 5 wins.
On the flipside, Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin and Pato O’Ward each combined for 10 wins between themselves, but only 1 of them finished in the top 4 in points.
Consistency is how.
Dixon led the series with 15 top 10 finishes. Palou and Power each had 13. Ericsson was next with 12.
Newgarden had 5 finishes in 2022 of 13th or worse including 2 being 24th and 25th. McLaughlin also had 5 finishes of 13th or worse but 3 of them were outside the top 20 including 29th in the double points paying Indy 500. You could say that’s the difference then right? Double points. Newgarden and McLaughlin each had bad days. Well, O’Ward was runner-up too that race but also had 7 finishes of 12th or worse with 3 being 24th or worse.
Dixon, Power, Palou and Ericsson minimized their mistakes and when they had cars not capable of winning, they happily lived to see another day and took what the race gave them and what they gave them were top 5’s and 10th.