INDIANAPOLIS – We’re already officially halfway through the Verizon IndyCar Series season now, as we’re eight races into the 2016 season and only have eight more to go. With that being said, Simon Pagenaud appears like he’s the clear cut favorite to hoist the Astor Cup championship trophy at Sonoma Raceway in the season finale in September, as his second place finish at Belle Isle on Sunday capped a dominating first half of the season for the Team Penske driver.
Currently, Pagenaud holds a wide 80 point lead in the standings over second place Scott Dixon and an 86 point advantage over third place Helio Castroneves. With that type of lead, it appears the hunt for the title has realistically going to come down to just these three drivers, as it’s likely going to be a three horse race for the 2016 title.
With how Pagenaud is running, I just do see how anyone any further back will be able to close that much of a gap on Pagenaud and only have eight races to do so.
Fourth place in the standings is Josef Newgarden as he’s a wide 98 points back. I guess he has a shot as he has some very good tracks coming up, but will Pagenaud do bad enough for Newgarden to cut enough of that lead down?
When Pagenaud isn’t winning, he’s finishing second so I don’t see how he can.
Out of eight races this year so far, Pagenaud has finished first or second six times. He has three wins and three second place efforts in the first half of the year.
So, if Dixon, Castroneves or Newgarden nabs some wins, will Pagenaud be the man following behind in second, meaning they really didn’t cut enough out of the lead by winning the race anyways?
Two Andretti Autosport drivers are tied for fifth with Alexander Rossi and Carlos Munoz being 115 points behind. I honestly don’t see a rookie in Rossi being able to close a gap of 115 points on Pagenaud and I don’t think Munoz has enough in him this year as he will contend, but I don’t see him having enough to close a gap of that much.
Will Power and Tony Kanaan are tied behind them for seventh but they’re 117 back.
Power has the capability to close that gap as he has shown he can win in bunches, but Kanaan has just two wins since 2011. He needs to at least double that win total in the last eight races.
From there, it’s Juan Pablo Montoya in ninth at 124 points back and Charlie Kimball in 10th at 130 points out. I just don’t see how these guys can close the gap either.
So, right now, it appears this is Pagenaud’s race to lose for the title as the only ones even close enough to capitalize IF Pagenaud has any bad luck would be Dixon or Castroneves.
The rest need Pagenaud to finish outside the top 10 at least two or three times, but for someone that has finished in the top two six of eight races this year, that’s a lot to ask for.