until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


How contentious Indy 500 rule would've affected 2023

by Jack Benyon
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Josef Newgarden had a realisation in 2023: that he could win the Indianapolis 500 and not win the IndyCar title because the series' centrepiece race no longer offered double points.

That realisation became reality this year when Newgarden won the Indy 500 at his 12th attempt, in the year IndyCar elected to not double scores at its biggest race.

It was a controversial decision. Many, like Newgarden and Will Power, had expressed a dislike of the double-points rule in the first place - yet some fans felt it was a good thing because it reflected the importance of the race.

The Race has written much about this, with this writer of the opinion that awarding double points actually discouraged drivers from the very thing you want from them at the Indy 500, to go for the win, because the points loss was just too great versus the risk.

With The Race (inadvertently, admittedly) getting its own way, how did single points at the Indy 500 impact the season? Could it have halted a near-perfect Alex Palou season? Given Newgarden the boost he desired? Been worth as much as $1million extra to some teams?

Let’s investigate.

Standings with double points at the Indy 500

1 Alex Palou 688
2 Scott Dixon 606
3 Josef Newgarden 529
4 Scott McLaughlin 504
5 Patricio O'Ward 490
6 Marcus Ericsson 478
7 Will Power 432
8 Alexander Rossi 405
9 Christian Lundgaard 401
10 Colton Herta 378
11 Kyle Kirkwood 357
12 Felix Rosenqvist 329
13 Romain Grosjean 301
14 Rinus VeeKay 297
15 Graham Rahal 284
16 Callum Ilott 284
17 David Malukas 270
18 Santino Ferrucci 249
19 Hélio Castroneves 232
20 Marcus Armstrong 214
21 Devlin DeFrancesco 194
22 Agustin Canapino 185
23 Jack Harvey 158
24 Conor Daly 158
25 Sting Ray Robb 152
26 Ryan Hunter-Reay 150
27 Benjamin Pedersen 138
28 Takuma Sato 96
29 Simon Pagenaud 93
30 Ed Carpenter 56
31 Linus Lundqvist 35
32 Tony Kanaan 32
33 Marco Andretti 26
34 Juri Vips 18
35 Tom Blomqvist 16
36 RC Enerson 10
37 Katherine Legge 10

Palou's dominance intact

Despite Newgarden’s Indy 500 win, he still wouldn’t have come close to stopping Palou’s dominant year, with Palou beating the Penske driver by a whopping 159 points under that scoring system.

Newgarden ended up 177 points behind in the real standings - he would, though, have ended up third overall instead of fifth.

Scott Dixon would still have been second, but Palou’s winning margin would actually have extended owing to his better-than-Dixon's Indy 500 finish, boosting Palou’s lead from 78 to 82.

Where things would have been more interesting was approaching the final four races, where Newgarden would have been 66 points behind instead of 84 points and comfortably Palou’s closest rival after a double win at Iowa.

Misfortune pinned him a lap down at the Indy road course and early contact ruined his Laguna Seca race, but he undoubtedly threw away a top-five gambling for a win at Gateway.

Who knows if the other races would have gone to plan, and how Palou would have been impacted by Newgarden being that bit closer with plenty of momentum.

As it was, Palou’s brilliance was not undone by this controversial rule, or the fact it was rightfully abolished, for 2023.

An Andretti-altering change?

The Leaders Circle is for IndyCar’s full-time entrants - cars completing all the races that finish in the top 22 receive a payout of close to $1m for their trouble.

In a contentious end to the season at Laguna Seca, Devlin DeFrancesco was halted from rejoining the track seemingly due to crash damage, which cost him a position and Andretti a place in the Leaders Circle, while Juri Vips (in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car that Jack Harvey started the season in) and Agustin Canapino of Juncos Hollinger Racing made the cut.

Leaders Circle with double points Indy 500

18 Santino Ferrucci 249
19 Helio Castroneves 232
20 Conor Daly/Ryan Hunter-Reay 223
21 Devlin DeFrancesco 194
22 Jack Harvey/Juri Vips 190
23 Agustin Canapino 185
24 Pagenaud/Blomqvist/Lundqvist/Daly 176
25 Sting Ray Robb 152
26 Benjamin Pedersen 138

Juncos was close to not being able to keep Canapino on for 2024 as it was initially short of the budget required to keep the Argentinian driver, so who knows how missing out on the Leaders Circle money would have impacted that team, which eventually kept Canapino and ditched Callum Ilott for Romain Grosjean.

On the Andretti side, it finally decided to drop down to three cars in 2024. But with that extra Leaders Circle budget, who knows if it would have gambled to sign another driver and keep four cars on the grid.

The almost $1m it would have won with double points at the Indy 500 might have given it the freedom to make a different choice.

It’s great that IndyCar removed double points from the Indy 500. It felt like it removed some inhibitions in the race and gave some drivers an even greater impetus to risk their positions and go for a victory in one of the world’s biggest races.

Thankfully, it didn’t change a whole lot in the standings either, and the things it would have changed probably wouldn’t have been deserved. Canapino deserved to reach the Leaders Circle as a rookie up against a second-year driver - DeFrancesco - in one of the series’ best cars.

Palou deserved his title in what was one of the most dominant seasons any of us will likely see in IndyCar’s current format. He was absolutely masterful.

Ultimately, we shouldn’t need to do this feature again, because the end result will always be better if that race is single points. It’s better for the Indy 500, too.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks