Today’s question: The new PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge will offer $1 million to the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver who can win at least once in the 2022 season on the three different types of tracks – road courses, street circuits and ovals. The winning team and driver will share $500,000, with $500,000 donated to the team and driver’s chosen charity. Since a driver achieved it in six consecutive seasons – 2015 through 2020 – who do you think is the most likely to accomplish this in 2022 and at which tracks?
Curt Cavin: I think you start by deciding which drivers can – and likely will – win one of the oval races, and Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden are, in my opinion, the best bets. I’ll lean toward Newgarden because two of the five oval races this season are at Iowa Speedway, and he has won three times there, including two of the past three. You’d also expect Newgarden to be strong at Texas Motor Speedway, where he is a former race winner, and World Wide Technology Raceway, where he won last year. Newgarden also has a recent win on the St. Petersburg streets and won last year’s race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Zach Horrall: My pick is Pato O’Ward. Given O’Ward’s talent, it’s odd to think this pick is outside the box, but Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon so regularly win on each type of track that you’re almost crazy not to pick one of them. But O’Ward has proven to me that he can do it. He won on the Texas oval and the Belle Isle street course in 2021, so he’s 2/3rds of the way there. He almost scored his first career win at Road America in 2020, and his best road course finish last season was fourth at Barber Motorsports Park. After a near championship win last year, I expect O’Ward to be an even bigger force in the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, and that includes winning on each track type the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has to offer.
Paul Kelly: It’s time to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey with a Team Penske driver to answer this question. Why? Because this feat has been achieved six times in the last seven seasons, with four of those instances by a Team Penske driver. Josef Newgarden is the only Penske driver to complete the “triple play” in the same season twice during that span, so he’s a prime candidate to win the cool, new PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge. But Joe New will have a new engineer this season after Gavin Ward’s departure to Arrow McLaren SP, so I think it will be tough for him to be successful this season on all types of tracks as he and his new to-be-announced engineer develop a strong working relationship. Scott McLaughlin is in only his second NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, and he needs to get his first career win before I can think of him winning three times in one season. Then again, Alex Palou won three times in 2021 after entering the season with zero wins. But sorry, Scotty Mac – maybe 2023 is your year to dominate. So, by process of elimination, I’m picking Will Power. DJ Willy P has achieved this feat before, in 2016 by winning at Detroit, Road America, Toronto and Pocono. He also has stability on his side, as he has worked with the same engineer, David Faustino, for 15 years. I think that continuity – and a consolidation of resources and focus through Team Penske’s downsizing to three cars from four – will help Power record a serious bounce-back year after winning just once in 2021. Will wins the GMR Grand Prix on the road course at Indianapolis, on the streets of Toronto and on the short oval at World Wide Technology Raceway en route to a return to the top three in the championship standings in 2022.