With 13 races down and four to go, the race for the Indycar driver’s championship is extremely close between Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Andretti’s Alexander Rossi, with the defending champion Scott Dixon stepping into the spotlight by winning at Mid-Ohio. Meanwhile the race for the manufacturer’s title is probably closer than it should be.
In this quick update, we’ll talk about:
- Where things stand now
- How things will go if the races follow the form of last season’s version of the same races
- How things will go if the races follow the form of similar races earlier this season.
- What’s like to happen in the Manufacturer’s race
Where things stand now: Newgarden leads, Rossi is 16 points back, Penske’s Simon Pagenaud is 47 back from Newgarden, and Dixon is 62 off the lead. July’s races were Toronto, Iowa and Mid-Ohio. The end result was that former champions Simon Pagenaud (who dominated the Toronto weekend) and Scott Dixon (who won Mid-Ohio and finished second at Toronto and Iowa) closed the gap to leader Josef Newgarden (who won Iowa) and Alexander Rossi.
Were it not for a spectacular brain fade on the last lap, Newgarden would be close to having his second driver’s title wrapped up. Newgarden was fighting Ryan Hunter-Reay for third place and on the last lap tried to pass RHR in the keyhole curve. There was contact with Hunter-Reay that resulted in Newgarden spinning out and stalling. He ended up turning fourth place into 14th. That was a 19-point swing for Rossi (who finished 5th). Without that “incident” Newgarden’s lead on Rossi would be 35, and the race would be much different
Where do we go from here? Winning a normal race is 50 points. There are three in a row starting this weekend in Pocono, next weekend at Gateway and the weekend after that in Portland. Winning the final race is 100. Anyone within 21 points of the lead before the final race at Laguna Seca could win the championship by winning the race.
There are two ways to look at it: Past performance on these tracks last year (replacing Sonoma with Laguna Seca), and comparing the tracks coming up to the results at similar tracks. If you look at how the drivers did last year, things look good for Rossi since he was strong at the end of the season. If you look at it with this year’s performances in mind, not so much, because Newgarden has been consistency fast since the Indy 500. In both of these analyses, neither Pagenaud or Dixon have much of a shot.
Last season, Rossi won a dominating victory at Pocono and finished second at Gateway. Newgarden was mid-pack at both races. If that happens again, Rossi will have the lead heading into Portland, where they all finished mid pack last season. If the pattern from last season plays out, Rossi would go into Laguna with a 28-point lead on Newgarden. All Rossi would have to do is keep Newgarden 1 place ahead of him.
If we go by this season’s results, we get a much different overall result. In the three oval races this season Rossi only finished ahead of Newgarden once (Indy 500). That carries Newgarden forward.
How does Rossi win? The mission for Rossi at Pocono and Gateway is simple: Finish ahead of Newgarden. If he doesn’t, it will be tough to catch up. Rossi can’t afford another Iowa, where he finished mid-pack and Newgarden won the race. If Rossi can finish ahead of Newgarden on both ovals he would have a small advantage on the last two road courses. Rossi’s overall performances have been slightly better than Newgarden’s.
When I run the analysis based on 2018 results, Rossi wins the title by 31 points, and Dixon finishes third. When I run the analysis based on 2019 results, Newgarden wins by the same 31-point margin and Dixon finishes fourth.
In the manufacturer’s race, Honda is ahead 1,146-1,070. That is basically a two-race lead. This is despite the fact that Chevy has won 7 of the 13 races, including the double-points Indy 500. Honda has a built-in advantage because of the way the points work for manufacturers. And for Honda to lose, Chevy has to win three of the four races, and probably finish 1-2-3 in a couple of them.
The Advantage for Honda is that Team Penske are the only three cars that have scored points for Chevy, and soon Will Power and possibly Pagenaud will be unable to score points because they will exceed their season engine limit.