Sunday, August 21, 2022

Winners and Losers -- Gateway Edition

 Wow, was that a weird evening or what?

Saturday night's race at WWT Raceway was like a play with more than a few acts. The first act was a bit boring as the track was still hot and passing was difficult. Then, with rain coming, several drivers went off-sequence, leading to a lot of crazy passes because of different tire degradation due to cars being on different strategies.

Lightning and rain followed with 43 laps to go, which led to some Rain Delay Theater, taking the remainder of the race under the lights were a clean, cool track led to several cars coming alive. And of course, the final 43 laps where while only one pass took place up front, down in the field there was some type of craziness that included one young driver making a charge to the front.

So who were the winners and losers Saturday?


Josef Newgarden: It was certainly a Penske Party up front as its three drivers led 218 of the 260 laps, with Newgarden leading 78 on his way to a fifth win of the season. He also tightened the championship and is now just three points behind teammate Will Power at the top of the standings with two races left. The win was also the 25th of his career, tying Gordon Johncock on the all-time wins list and putting him within striking distance of Rodger Ward (26), Johnny Rutherford (27) and Rick Mears (29). Pretty impressive when you consider he is in his age 31 season. But how does he compare with the best in IndyCar history after their age 31 seasons? Check this out:

AJ Foyt -- 32 wins
Scott Dixon -- 26
Mario Andretti -- 30
Michael Andretti -- 29

Of course, all of the drivers listed competed under different circumstances. For instance, Mario didn't begin racing in IndyCar until he was 25, and Michael lost a year in Formula 1. But, the numbers are the numbers, and if Newgarden stays with Penske the rest of his career (duh!) he will finish his career in the Top 5 on the wins list. 

David Malukas: No doubt the absolute driver of the day. Malukas won twice last year at Gateway and looked just as comfortable on Saturday night, leading four laps and charging through the field in the final stint, which culminated in a pass on Scott McLaughlin in Turn 2 on the final lap of the race. That pass, using the high line and showing no regard for his own personal safety (kidding, it was an incredible pass) was highlight material. Malukas has certainly raced his way into a better ride next year if he wants it.

Scott McLaughlin: Remember last year when Scotty was pretty much racing in the midfield, and, by his own admission, having confidence issues? I don't either, because in Year 2 he has shown what made Team Penske sign him in the first place. We all knew he was a successful, smart, and clean racer thanks to his massive success in Supercars, but for a while it was a concern that it might not have transferred to open wheel machines. Forget that, he's the real deal, and the only thing that might keep him from a bunch of wins and a title may be his own teammate, who is just as good.

Scott Dixon: Look who's back...back again. While Dixon finished P8 in Saturday's race, he's still third in points and just 14 in arrears of Newgarden. As usual, he's gained momentum as the season has progressed. In his last eight races since the Indianapolis 500, he has two wins, five total Top 5 finishes and has never finished out of the Top 10. This is just what the guy does.


Will Power: I'm probably being a bit hard on Will, especially the way he dominated the race by leading 128 laps in the early going. But, with his P6 finish he came back to the championship field a little bit, and while he is still the leader -- and my odds-on pick to win the championship -- things are really, really tight as four drivers are within 17 points and anything can happen in the next two races. Power could make it easy on himself and just win the final two races, which he is capable of doing, but at worst he has to podium in both races to grab the Astor Cup.

Alex Palou: His P9 finish probably closed any chance he had to defend his championship, as he sits in fifth and is 43 points behind Power. That's a workable deficit with a little luck, but to win the championship he would need Power, Newgarden, Dixon and Marcus Ericsson to all falter. That's not gonna happen.

Pato O'Ward: A guy finishes P4 and he makes the losers list? Unfortunately, yeah. He really did drive a great race and was solid all night, but he really needed to either win the race to make up some ground. As it stands, he's now 68 points behind and time has pretty much ran out. After his awesome, P2-P1 weekend at Iowa, his P12 at the IMS road course and P24 in Nashville did a ton of damage.

As the season winds down, who ya got for the championship? Follow me on Twitter @15daysinmay and let me know! 

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