until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


All you need to know about IndyCar’s five-way title decider

by Jack Benyon
8 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Five drivers can win the 2022 IndyCar Series championship this weekend at Laguna Seca with Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing offering up a sterling dice to the finish.

Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson and Scott McLaughlin are the drivers in with a chance.

There’s still a race to win and a rookie title to decide too, while there’s also the fight to become IndyCar’s next scholarship star and a group of drivers saying goodbye to their current teams in search of pastures new.

Here’s (hopefully) everything you need to know, and if not, our IndyCar correspondent Jack Benyon will be in the comment section at the bottom to answer anything else.

How will the title be won?

For those of you who like to punish your eyeballs, please see below a full table of possibilities provided by IndyCar’s media relations coordinator Arni Sribhen.

Indycar2022 Points Championship Chart

Otherwise, if you prefer your stats in a more digestible format, here’s a basic scenario for how each of the drivers could win the championship. Dixon, Newgarden and more unlikely, Ericsson, can win the title without winning the race but that depends on where Power finishes. These slimmed down scenarios below – apart from Power – hinge on the driver in question winning the race. See the chart above for more scenarios.

Power is champion if…

* He finishes third in the race or fourth with three bonus points
* Dixon and Newgarden finish eighth with no bonus points, ninth with two bonus points, or worse
* Ericsson finishes third or worse
* McLaughlin finishes second or worse

Dixon is champion if…

He wins the race and:
* Power finishes fourth with two bonus points or worse
* Newgarden finishes anywhere behind Dixon
* McLaughlin finishes second or worse
* Ericsson finishes second with three bonus points or worse

Newgarden is champion if…

He wins the race and:
* Power finishes fourth with two bonus points or worse
* Dixon doesn’t outscore him
* Ericsson finishes second with three bonus points or worse
* McLaughlin finishes second or worse

As Newgarden’s tally of five wins this year can’t be equalled, he wins in any results countback scenario.

Josef Newgarden Sonsio Grand Prix At Road America By Joe Skibinski Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M62657

Ericsson is champion if…

He wins and…
* Dixon and Newgarden finish fourth or worse
* McLaughlin finishes behind Ericsson
* Power finishes 16th with no bonus points or worse

Ericsson needs to win the race or be second with at least four bonus points to have a chance.

McLaughlin is champion if…

He wins and…
* Dixon and Newgarden finish fourth or worse
* Ericsson finishes second or worse
* Power finishes 17th with no bonus points or worse

Anything less than the win isn’t any good for McLaughlin.

What does the form of the contenders tell us?

Scott Mclaughlin Takes The Checkered Flag Grand Prix Of Portland By Joe Skibinski Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M69853

The form tables tell a fascinating tale entering this race. For example, Josef Newgarden has the best average finish at Laguna Seca, but the worst across the last five road course races of this season.

Contender stats at Laguna

Driver Avg start Avg finish
Newgarden 7.5 7.5
Dixon 5 8
Ericsson 9 8.5
McLaughlin* 16 12
Power 5 14

* McLaughlin has only raced at Laguna once before

Power’s average finish at the venue is soured by his 26th in a disappointing race last year, but he was second in 2019 which is the best finish of the contenders in action this weekend, as Dixon finished one place behind in that same race.

It’s worth noting that Ganassi has tested at Laguna Seca in the last fortnight whereas Team Penske elected to run at Portland before the race there instead. So perhaps that will influence the outcome.

One bit of relevant form we should mention is that Colton Herta has been on pole and won the last two races at the venue, which has to be worrying for McLaughlin and Ericsson who need to win to be in contention, although Ericsson could pull it off with an unlikely scenario of second with all the bonus points.

Colton Herta Firestone Grand Prix Of Monterey Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M48612

The contenders’ form over the last five races

Driver Avg start Avg finish
Power 8.6 6
McLaughlin 7.4 6.6
Ericsson 15.6 6.8
Dixon 14.2 7
Newgarden 6.4 9.2

Looking at the wider picture, and things look a little different. While Scott McLaughlin’s 12th at Laguna last year came before his explosion into a title contender in 2022, he’s scored more points than anyone on road courses this season. He’s closely followed in that table by Power in second, Dixon in fourth, Ericsson in fifth with Newgarden sixth.

Generally, the Penske package has been fantastic on road courses this season, but Ganassi’s test at Laguna might have brought it into play if it can qualify well. Ericsson is another driver who has stepped it up this year and his stats over the last five road courses look better than his previous races at Laguna.

And while the average finish doesn’t flatter Newgarden, along with McLaughlin he’s the only one of the contenders to win on a road course over the last five races.

It’s all in the pits

Scott Mclaughlin Bommarito Automotive Group 500 By Chris Owens Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M68794

It’s not a coincidence that each year IndyCar teams try to find every little bit of performance out of their pit crews, or that four of the five contenders have the top four pit crews in the series.

Tyre provider Firestone has the Pit Stop Rankings where it judges each pit crew by least cumulative time spent on pit road and awards points for doing so.

Pitstop rankings
1 McLaughlin
2 Power
3 Dixon
4 Newgarden
8 Ericsson

It’s not a perfect way to rank them but it does usually even out by the end of the year and gives a good representation.

It will be interesting to see if Marcus Ericsson – currently eighth – gets any of the crew from the fifth-placed no.10 car’s personnel. That car is also in the Ganassi team and driven by 2021 champion Alex Palou who is now out of title contention, but The Race understands there’s no intention to make such a change at the moment.

Pitstops will be absolutely vital in this championship finale. Even if there aren’t as many pitstops as some are predicting, how tight the pitlane is here will be a key factor and presumably the best pit crews will deal with that best.

However, this is a championship-winning scenario, so pressure can creep in and form can go out of the window.

Will tyres play a major role?

Scott Mclaughlin S Firestone Tire Grand Prix Of Portland By Joe Skibinski Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M69857

While people might not often like tyre-degradation defined races, it might be the best thing at Laguna where passing can be tricky among the frontrunners.

Scott Dixon told The Race earlier this week that the event could be as many as five stops, which would certainly shake things up and keep it interesting until the chequered flag. Not what the competitors want to hear, but better for everyone watching.

Last year was a three-stopper so five would be a significant departure from that, but there is an alternate tyre which Dixon reckons is the 2019 Mid-Ohio compound that could degrade quicker than last year’s tyre.

Rookie battle

Christian Lundgaard Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Joe Skibinski Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M67964

Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Dale Coyne with HMD’s David Malukas will fight it out for rookie of the year.

While it looks close in the points – Lundgaard leads by five – he has to be the favourite coming in.

That’s because Lundgaard has scored 30 more points on road courses this season than Malukas, and the second-place that put Malukas in range to challenge was scored on an oval.

You can’t rule Malukas out though. The likeable talent tested at Laguna Seca so that might help. Some will remember Romain Grosjean’s barnstorming drive – Jimmie Johnson certainly will – at Laguna last year for the Coyne team. Can Malukas pull off something like that?

Either way it will be a worthy winner.

A guaranteed Swedish champion (no, not him)

Linus Lundqvist Indy Lights Grand Prix Of Portland By James Black Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M69430

Marcus Ericsson might be an outsider for the IndyCar title now, but there’s one Swede in this paddock who all but has his title wrapped up.

Dale Coyne with HMD’s Linus Lundqvist just needs to start the first race of the weekend to guarantee the Indy Lights title and the $1.2million value scholarship for three IndyCar races including the Indianapolis 500 that comes with it.

Lundqvist has been in a class of his own so far this season, wrapping up five wins and finishing in the top five at every race. Winning the Indy Lights title will give him enough points for a Formula 1 superlicence, which not only shows his impressive ascent, but also how ridiculous a system it is given that Colton Herta can’t get one despite what he’s done in IndyCar.

It’s a shame there’s not an obvious home for Lundqvist in IndyCar yet as the Palou lawsuit hold-up keeps dominos from falling in silly season. The quality of the team he ends up with for 2023 is perhaps out of his hands at the moment even though he is highly regarded by many.

Drivers saying farewell

Alexander Rossi Grand Prix Of Portland By James Black Referenceimagewithoutwatermark M69959

Alexander Rossi will leave Andretti Autosport after seven seasons with the team for Arrow McLaren SP after this race. His replacement, Kyle Kirkwood, will start his last race at his home as a rookie this year, AJ Foyt Racing, before moving over.

Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist’s future on the grid is unsure as he hopes to remain at McLaren but that’s the seat Alex Palou could occupy depending on the outcome of his lawsuit with Ganassi.

Palou will almost certainly contest his last event for Ganassi, the team he won the championship with last year, unless Ganassi wins its lawsuit against him and effectively forces him to honour his contract and race.

More handy race information

Schedule (all times local, BST in brackets)

Friday, September 9
IndyCar practice 1 1430-1545hrs (2230-2345hrs)

Saturday, September 10
Indy Lights qualifying 0930-1000hrs (1730-1800hrs)
IndyCar practice 2 1015-1115hrs (1815-1915hrs)
Indy Lights race 1 1225hrs (2025hrs)
IndyCar qualifying 1405hrs (2205hrs)

Sunday, September 11
IndyCar warm-up 0900-930hrs (1700hrs)
Indy Lights race 2 1000hrs (1800hrs)
IndyCar race 1230hrs (2030hrs)

Firestone tyre allocation: Six sets primary (hard, black sidewall), four sets alternate (soft, red line on sidewall). Both types of tyre have to be used. Rookies get an extra set of hard tyres.
Race distance: 95 laps / 212.61 miles
Push-to-pass: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation

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