Photo: Justin R. Noe/ASP Inc.

IndyCar Championship Picture Observations

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

PORTLAND, Oregon — Four drivers remain eligible for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship crown but if anyone is going to beat Scott Dixon, it might take divine intervention at this point.

Dixon was involved in the first lap incident that took out Marco Andretti and Ed Jones and delayed Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe. Once the metaphorical and literal dust cleared, Dixon drove back to the pits without losing a lap. Later in the race he was clocked at 50.2 mph in the pits when the limit is 50 mph and had to serve a drive-thru penalty. Yet Dixon still finished fifth in his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda and extended his points lead over Alexander Rossi.

Rossi had a lot to gain, instead his team made a wrong call on pit strategy and the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda finished eighth, but he wasn’t the only driver to take a risk on pit strategy.

Team Penske called Josef Newgarden into the pits under the same yellow Rossi pitted under and despite leading during the midway part of the race, the No. 1 Verizon Chevrolet could only get back to 10th position. However, Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet had a worse day than Newgarden as he had a first gear issue early in the race and ended up sliding into the Turn 12 tire barrier on Lap 42.

The points as they stand right now:

  1. Scott Dixon 598
  2. Alexander Rossi 569 (-29)
  3. Will Power 511 (-87)
  4. Josef Newgarden 511 (-87)

No other drivers are mathematically eligible for the championship, but what is the overall outlook for Sonoma in two weeks? Dixon and Power both have three wins, Newgarden has a second place finish last year while Rossi finished fifth at Sonoma in 2016.

The finale has double points on the line so here’s how the top 10 finishers would score:

  1. 100
  2. 80
  3. 70
  4. 64
  5. 60
  6. 56
  7. 52
  8. 48
  9. 44
  10. 40

Not counting any bonus points, but the only way for Power or Newgarden to get the championship would be if they were to win and Dixon would have to finish 24th or worse. The only times Dixon finished that low was at the 2005, 2014 and 2017 Indianapolis 500s and Toronto in 2012. With Dixon having started 303 races, that’s a 1.32 percent 24th and lower finish rate. For Rossi to win the title, he’d have to win with Dixon finishing third or worse or at least gain 30 points on Dixon no matter where Power or Newgarden finish.

The big takeaway from this is that Dixon has a large probability of winning the IndyCar championship unless his team makes a strategic mistake or Rossi has a perfect weekend like Mid-Ohio, Pocono or Long Beach.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.