Today’s question: What’s the one thing you’re most interested in heading to the final two races of the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season?
Curt Cavin: For me, it’s “Can Will Power hang on?” The driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet has considerable experience in these title fights, but he couldn’t finish the deal in 2010, 2011 and 2012 despite having the lead heading to the finale in two of them. The 2012 defeat was particularly heartbreaking as Power crashed relatively early in the finale at Auto Club Speedway while battling Ryan Hunter-Reay when all he had to do with finish close to RHR. Bob Jenkins’ call on the television broadcast summed it up: “It’s happened again.” Yes, Power finally got his series title in 2014 and his Indianapolis 500 victory in 2018, but he has held the points lead after five of this season’s 15 races, including the past three, and a championship against the likes of Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden would be big for his resume. A lot is riding on this for Will.
Arni Sribhen: I’m looking forward to the drama that will happen. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship has come down to the final race every season since 2006. And that was the year the championship was decided in a four-way, winner-take-all battle that was decided by a tiebreaker with Sam Hornish Jr. winning his third championship over Dan Wheldon, Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon. Here’s hoping that this year’s title will be another four-way title finale between the NTT INDYCAR SERIES titans for the Astor Challenge Cup. Just remember, no point lead is ever safe. Especially for a Team Penske driver leading the title race. Ryan Hunter-Reay trailed Will Power by 36 points with two races remaining in 2012, and Dixon was in third place – 34 points behind Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya – in 2015. Dario Franchitti overcame a 25-point deficit to Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe in 2009. Will Power and Josef Newgarden should be wary. Dixon is still in the mix, and Marcus Ericsson is only 17 points back. That’s not nearly enough of a gap to say he’s out of the championship. It will be an interesting two weeks on the West Coast, to say the least.
Paul Kelly: I thought it was uncanny and unreal how the top seven in the points qualified in the top seven at World Wide Technology Raceway and raced mainly for those spots until the first caution period. Such excellence on display. I would love to see that dream scenario repeated among the championship contenders at Portland and Laguna. It almost certainly won’t, so I’m wondering out loud which drivers not involved in the title fight will affect who lifts the Astor Challenge Cup on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 11. It could come by beating title contenders on track, such as David Malukas’ performance last Saturday night, perhaps protecting a teammate in contention with a deft block against a rival or – but hopefully not – collecting a championship aspirant in an incident. And if there’s a place where chaos could put a huge stamp on the championship race, it’s Turn 1 at Portland after the green flag and every restart. That tight, precarious complex could be Calamity Corner, with title dreams ending up in a pile of carbon fiber fragments. Speaking of Malukas, we have a real race again for the Rookie of the Year title between Malukas and Christian Lundgaard, and I’m very keen to see over the next two races who wins that coveted honor.