Note: The INDYCAR Writers’ Roundtable is taking the opportunity of the two-week break in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule to analyze the first eight races of the 17-race season and offer discussion and opinions about a variety of topics in the first half of the season. This multipart series ends today.
Today’s question: Which driver will win the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship in 2022?
Curt Cavin: Applaud the consistency of Marcus Ericsson and respect the potential of Alexander Rossi, but this is Josef Newgarden’s championship to win. Why? Because his best tracks are still to come. Eight venues remain, and the two-time series champion has won races at five of them. At the two ovals, including Iowa Speedway, where the doubleheader will be held July 23-24, Newgarden has combined to win six races. He has won twice each at Mid-Ohio and Toronto, and he has a single win on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Don’t fault Newgarden for never winning NTT INDYCAR SERIES races on the Nashville street circuit, Portland and Laguna Seca. Only six series races have been held at those venues in his era.
Zach Horrall: I think this is Will Power’s year. Power and his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet team have by far been the most consistent team this season with three podiums and three fourth-place finishes. Yeah, he was a little off at the Indianapolis 500 and finished 15th, but some bad luck and contact with Devlin DeFrancesco at Road America prevented a stronger day and likely cost him the championship lead. He’s only second and 27 points behind Marcus Ericsson, so he has plenty of time to take back what I expect will be his when we get to Laguna Seca in September.
Paul Kelly: As much as I like being a contrarian, I agree with Curt: Josef Newgarden will win his third NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship this year for Team Penske. I called Joe New the championship favorite after his win at Road America, and nothing in the last 10 days or so has changed my mind. Newgarden is the most complete driver in the series this season. He’s the only driver with multiple victories, and they have come on an oval, street circuit and natural road course, earning him, his charities and the team the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge bonus. That’s the kind of versatility that wins titles. Inconsistency has been Newgarden’s only flaw this season, and nobody wins a championship on a roller coaster. His Month of May was pretty miserable, with finishes of 14th at Barber, 25th on the IMS road course and 13th in the Indianapolis 500. But since then, Newgarden has finished fourth at Detroit and won at Road America. That form will continue, and he’ll hoist the Astor Challenge Cup for the third time in the last six seasons.