Today’s question: Let’s say the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season enters its final race in the same scenario as Formula One this Sunday with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton – the top two drivers tied atop the standings. Who would you want those two NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers fighting for the title to be, and why?
Curt Cavin: Oh, this is a great question, one of the best we’ve ever had! My mind is racing with ideas: Rossi vs. Herta, Pagenaud (now at Meyer Shank) vs. any of the Penske drivers (preferably Power), Grosjean vs. Hunter-Reay, Kanaan vs. Helio. But realistically, I’d say Herta vs. O’Ward can and probably will happen, and it would be great theater. Both are fast, fearless and know each other well from their Indy Lights days at Andretti. And we thought they were going to be teammates at Harding Racing in 2019. But give me any of the above!
Zach Horrall: Oooof, the matchups here could be endless! But I’ll say this up front – I’ve had enough of these nice guys winning championships and being so welcoming to their direct competitors (I’m looking at you, Alex Palou). I want mind games. I want rivalries. I want intensity. I don’t want the two drivers going for North America’s premier open-wheel title to enjoy each other. The gamesmanship is what makes this Verstappen vs. Hamilton battle so intriguing. In that sense Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal are my guys. These two won’t take crap from anyone and would make it a fun battle. Palou and Scott Dixon are too nice to fight back, but Josef Newgarden has some fight in him if you get him going, so I’ll take Rossi/Rahal vs. Newgarden.
Paul Kelly: I’m sensing a trend here – Alexander Rossi must be one of the two protagonists. Rossi’s blend of California cool and sarcasm would be an intense challenge for its intended target, as his snark can be barbed. That would be a perfect ingredient for any title showdown recipe. Pato O’Ward would be the ideal rival for Rossi. There are similarities – both drive with their elbows out and aren’t afraid to hip-check foes when needed. But the differences also are mouthwatering. Rossi isn’t a graybeard at 30, but he’s not one of the under-25’s taking the series by storm like O’Ward, either. Interesting contrast. Plus, there would be a major “ice, meet fire” story line between the detached edge of Rossi and the heart-on-sleeve personality of O’Ward, who often processes thoughts from his mind straight to his mouth without a filter. Fascinating. Sign me up for next September at Laguna Seca!