After winning the first race of the Gateway doubleheader weekend on August 29, Scott Dixon held a commanding 117-point lead (386-269) over Josef Newgarden in the NTT IndyCar Series championship standings.
Five races later, a new storyline has emerged, as Newgarden used a win and a fourth-place finish at the Harvest GP doubleheader held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to cut Dixon’s lead to 32-points as the series moves to the season finale at St. Pete in three week’s time.
Dixon finished P9 and P8, respectively, in the two races over the weekend.
“Still a lot of hard work to do there,” Dixon told NBC after Saturday’s race (as reported by Motorsport.com) in which he struggled to eighth. “As always, the NTT IndyCar Series comes down to the final race, even without double points, and the lead that we had – over 100 points at one stage.
“It’s nice to be on the leading side of the points at this stage. It’s still a big margin, so he has to get most laps led, all the four bonus points and we have to finish ninth. But they have been pretty good in St Pete in previous years. You know, we’re definitely going to have our work cut out.”
Despite never winning at St. Pete, Dixon does have the upper hand. Newgarden can do everything right on Oct. 25, and if Dixon finishes better than P9, he wins his sixth championship.
Then again, if you believe in momentum, Newgarden obviously has it. While Dixon’s results since his last win haven’t been awful — just a representation of the massively high standards we have set for him — his best finish is still P5 (Gateway 2) while Newgarden has won twice and only finished out of the Top 5 once.
Still, it’s going to be an exciting weekend, because both drivers bring strengths into the weekend, and both are notoriously great closers. Newgarden also comes in as the defending champ, having won on the streets of St. Pete in March, 2019.
Power, Rossi Closing Strong
Will Power and Alexander Rossi are two drivers who have had seasons they’d love to forget, but both have made a late-season charge.
Power, who notched his first win of the year at Mid-Ohio 2, won the 61st pole of his career on Saturday and led wire-to-wire to win for the fourth time on the IMS road course and the 39th time in his career, which moves him into a tie with Al Unser for fifth on the all-time list.
Power, who leads the series with four poles this year, has moved himself into fourth in the season standings, and is just 13 points behind Colton Herta in third. Expect more of the same at St. Pete, where Power has two wins and has won the pole four of the last five years.
Rossi is still searching for his first win of the year, but is now on a run of four straight podium finishes, including P2 and P3 over the weekend. He’s looking to take the next couple of steps up the podium at St. Pete in hopes of avoiding the first winless season in his fifth year in IndyCar.
Rookie of the Year
While there is still the championship to be settled at St. Pete, the Rookie of the Year race is over as Rinus Veekay has pulled out to a 54-point lead on Alex Palou.
Technically, Veekay has to start the race at St. Pete, but he becomes the second Dutchman to win the honor, following in the footsteps of his mentor Arie Luyendyk, who won the award in 1985.
Veekay had a great start to the weekend at the Harvest GP, winning the first pole of the year and leading 15 laps before coming home third to also pick up his first podium. It’s certainly been an up-and-down season for the 20-year-old, but he’s held his own and sits 14th in the standings but only 20 points behind 10th-place Felix Rosenqvist.
Have you checked out The Rumble Strip podcast this week? Eric Hall and I talk about some silly season action and make our Harvest GP picks. You can check it out here, as well as subscribe and listen on iTunes and iHeart Radio.
Photo credit: Walt Kuhn/IndyCar Media