PORTLAND, Ore – If you’re looking to pick a race winner for Sunday’s Portland Grand Prix (2:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network) look no further than the top four drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings. Yes, I know that’s an easy statement to make when we’re onto the penultimate race of the 2018 season and the top four drivers are the best favorites to win. Shocking, I know.
But, you want to be right don’t you?
Between Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Will Power and Josef Newgarden, that foursome have won 12 of the 15 races run this season. That gives you an 80-percent chance of getting the pick right. Then, break it down this way too, since June 9, this group has won six of the last seven races. The only one that they didn’t win was July 8 at the Iowa Speedway when James Hinchcliffe won. Even still, Newgarden led 229 of 300 laps that day.
They’ve won 80-percent of the races during the entire season and 86-percent of the races over the last two months. On top of that, we’ve run four races on natural road courses in 2018 and these four have won them all.
Then there’s this, all four of them have been on hot streaks lately. Dixon, has four straight top five finishes in his No. 9 Honda and 10 in the last 11 races overall on the season. Rossi, has led 254 laps over the last three races and has two wins and a second place finish in those events. Since June 9, Rossi has just one finish outside of the top 10 in his No. 27 Honda.
Power, has three straight podiums and four top six finishes over his last five starts on the season in his No. 12 Chevrolet. He’s led 142 laps over those last five races too.
Newgarden, has six straight top 10 finishes to his credit in his No. 1 Chevrolet including a win at Road America on June 24. In terms of the best racers on natural road courses, Newgarden is likely the best. He led 73 of 82 laps in his win at Barber back in April and 53 of 55 laps in that win at Road America.
This group was strongest in the test on Thursday, strong in practice on Friday and should be contenders the rest of the way.
Dixon, was seventh, first, second and fourth respectively this weekend.
Power was first, second, fifth and first respectively this weekend.
Newgarden, was fifth, third, third and sixth respectively this weekend.
Rossi, was third, ninth, seventh and 23rd respectively this weekend.
How The Trends Fare For The Championship
Ryan Hunter-Reay is also in the mix of this championship race but he’s 147 points out. Anyone who’s not within 105 points of the championship leader leaving Portland will be eliminated. That means Hunter-Reay needs to win on Sunday and hope for some luck. Hunter-Reay, has four finishes of 16th or worse in his last five starts on the season, including three DNF’s in them. He has a lot of ground to make up and was only eighth, seventh, 15th and 17th respectively in the four sessions this weekend.
But, what about the other four?
The 26 points which separate the Dixon and Rossi is the fifth-largest margin with two races remaining since 2010. Hunter-Reay, who trailed Power by 36 points with two races remaining in 2012 won the championship that year at Fontana, and Dixon, who was 34 points behind Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015 won the title at Sonoma. Those are the only two instances where a driver has overcome a larger deficit to win the championship. Dario Franchitti overcame a 25-point deficit to Ryan Briscoe in 2009. The average deficit with two races to go since 2007 is 23.54 points.
Also, since 2008, the driver who has led the championship with two races to go has failed to win the championship five times. Dixon in 2008, Franchitti in 2011, Power in 2014, Simon Pagenaud in 2016 and Newgarden in 2017 are the exceptions who have won the title after leading with two races remaining.
So, it’s entirely possible for Rossi to come back.
Power, while far back, made it a point to reference that he scored 162 points in the Month of May and went from 10th to first in the standings in the month alone. He won both races at Indy, one of which was double points. Dixon, finished on the podium in both races but due to the points, Power leaped him. He’s hoping for a similar situation over these final two races.
With Dixon being quick this weekend, we’re going to see what we saw the last few weeks in terms of drivers taking chances. Dixon, knows that he can just rattle off top five after top five and put the pressure on everyone else to make mistakes. He doesn’t make them all that often. Last weekend, he admitted to me that he made a rare mistake at Gateway which cost him a position on the track. Rossi, had to make a gutsy decision to save fuel and is worked out in his favor. Power and Hunter-Reay have said that they have to take risks now and be aggressive. Newgarden, said that he needs to win out.
See the intensity level here.