Most Indycar fans know where the race for the driver’s title stands: After two bad races at Pocono and Gateway for Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon, it’s Josef Newgarden’s race to lose. In order for Simon Pagenaud (-38), Rossi (-46) or Dixon (-70) to catch him, they’d have to win both the remaining races and hope some serious bad juju befalls Newgarden. So far this season, Newgarden has been coated with Teflon—Nothing bad sticks.
The manufacturer’s race is not nearly so clear cut, and except for Pagenaud and Dixon, involves a totally different cast of characters. Going into Portland, Honda leads 1,301 to 1,227. But to understand how close it is and understand what’s going on during the races, you have to get into complex details. Here are a few key points about the Manufacturer’s race within a race.
The scoring system
On it’s face, this should be simple:
- The manufacturer that wins the race gets 5 points.
- In addition, the points scored by the top 2 “eligible” drivers is added to each Manufacturer’s score. This includes the “laps led” points the top two eligible drivers score.
The most points that a manufacturer can score on either remaining weekend is 97: 5 points for winning, 2 points for most laps led, 50 points for first place and 40 for second. And the double points for Laguna Seca does not affect the manufacturer race.
The least number of points that Honda could score on a normal weekend is 39. That would be if Chevy swept the top 9 places and the first two Hondas were 10th and 11th. So the most points Chevy could gain would be 58. Since Honda is leading by 74, Chevy would have to gain an average of 37 points each week. To get that result, Chevy could finish 1-2 with Honda 3rd and 8th. This is very possible.
Of course, this assumes that all cars are “eligible” to score points, which they are not. The number of cars eligible to score points drops each week.
Which cars are eligible?
In order to be eligible to score Manufacturer’s points:
- Must be a full-season entry. So Conor Daly cannot score in the fifth Andretti car for Honda at Laguna Seca, but he CAN score for Honda as a last minute replacement for Marcus Ericsson at Arrow at Portland.
- Must have used less than five engines. Once a car uses a fifth engine, it is no longer eligible. This eliminates more cars each week and creates some interesting possibilities.
Chevy Cars that are ineligible:
Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Ed Jones.
Honda Cars that are ineligible: Daly (Laguna Seca), Felix Rosenqvist, Sebastian Bourdais, Takuma Sato, Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta.
This creates situations where one manufacturer wins the race and the other gets more points. Takuma Sato won the Gateway race for Honda, but because he was ineligible to score Manufacturer points, Chevy actually closed up the race. Same thing for Will Power winning Pocono.
It is also important to understand that while the ineligible drivers can’t score, they can take points away from the opponent. This includes your own ineligible drivers. If Rossi wins Portland, those 51 points are taken away from Chevy AND Honda
How eligibility affects the Manufacturer possibilities.
On its face, all this looks good for Team Honda. The Honda lineup of Drivers includes Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Santino Ferrucci, Zach Veach, Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe, Marcus Ericcson (Conor Daly for Portland) and Marco Andretti. While Chevy is Simon Pagenaud, Mateus Leist, Tony Kanaan, Spencer Pigot, Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton.
Most of these cars are on their fourth engine. So any engine changes puts a car on the ineligible list. Since they are both in the race for the Driver’s Championship, it is possible that either Simon Pagenaud or Scott Dixon might take a new engine. That would make them ineligible.
From the Honda point of view, the bad news here is that this state of affairs lowers the minimum number of points possible to 25. So it is possible for Chevy to gain 73 points each race. Assuming another two Hondas change engines before the finale at Laguna Seca, this would mean that if Honda leads by 80 points or more after Portland, the Manufacturer’s race would be over.
The nightmare scenario for Honda would be for, say, Pagenaud to win the Portland Race and Pigot to finish second, followed by a combination of the following: Sato, Rossi, Bourdais, Herta, Rosenqvist, Power, Newgarden and Jones. That would mean the top “eligible” Hondas would be 11th and 12th, which would total 37 points to Chevy’s 97, cutting the Honda lead to 14.
Is that likely? Probably not. Is it possible? Certainly.
The race within a race at Portland
The two drivers to worry about on the Chevy side are Pagenaud and Pigot. If one of them wins the race, the Manufacturer’s championship is in serious doubt.
Similarly, if you see any of Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Santino Ferrucci, Zach Veach, Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe, Conor Daly and Marco Andretti running in the top five, you should breathe easier.
Going by history at Portland, Honda should be OK. Last year Sato won, Hunter-Reay was second and Bourdais was third. Pigot was fourth, Dixon Fifth and Pagenaud sixth. If that happens this year, Honda would score 76 points (5 for winning the race, 41 for RHR and 30 for Dixon), while Chevy would score 60 for Pigot and Pagenaud). A repeat like that would give Honda a 90-point lead and the championship.
The caveat in all this is you won’t know for sure what the manufacturer points are until about an hour after the race when it is posted on Indycar.com. This is because we won’t know if any other cars became ineligible once the race weekend starts.