Every year, there’s always that one defining moment during the course of a Verizon IndyCar Series season that we can pinpoint as the determining factor in the championship race. Last year’s was the pass that Josef Newgarden made on Simon Pagenaud in the closing laps of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at the Gateway Motorsports Park. It’s really hard to project what would have happened over the final 30 laps of that race, but what if Newgarden doesn’t make that move or Pagenaud defends it a little better?
Pagenaud, was well on his way to winning that race and say he doesn’t get knocked out of his racing line entering Turn 1. Instead of finishing third, he finishes first or at the very least second. Instead of 36 points scored that night he gets 51 for the win or 41 for second. In turn, Newgarden would receive 43 points for finishing second.
Pagenaud, lost the championship by 13 points to Newgarden last year. If he wins Gateway and gets 51 points for the victory, Pagenaud would have scored 644 points for the season. If Newgarden finishes second, he scores 632 points for the year.
Pagenaud as you can see, is the champion, not Newgarden.
Well, there was another defining moment in 2018, one that I have a feeling could make or break this years championship race. I can’t help but wonder, what if Alexander Rossi doesn’t lock up his brakes towards the end of the second doubleheader race at Belle Isle? He was fighting his Andretti Autosport teammate of Ryan Hunter-Reay off harder than he should have at that moment.
Don’t take me wrong by this though, as I applaud Rossi’s aggression and that’s the reason that he’s is in the position that he’s in right now. It’s also in turn the real he’s in the position that he’s in too. You know, 29 points behind Scott Dixon.
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What if Rossi eases into the corners a little easier and doesn’t lock up his brakes. Say, he takes it a little easier on “baby girl.” At the very least, Rossi finishes runner-up. Instead, he locked up the brakes and went down into the runoff area. He finished 12th. Granted, I know he was pushing hard to keep Hunter-Reay behind as he wanted a win. Granted too, in June, he wasn’t thinking points racing and how can I blame him there?
Rossi, started on the pole and led the most laps (46) that day. He received four additional bonus points for the race as well. He scored 22 points in Belle Isle on June 3. Fact. Scott Dixon finished fourth and scored 32 points. Fact.
Well, if Rossi doesn’t lock up his brakes, worst case scenario is that he comes home second. He would have scored 44 points in the championship race that day instead of 22. That’s a 22 point difference.
Dixon, well he would have been bumped down the finishing order to fifth and received 30 points. That’s a 24 point swing.
Instead of being 29 points down heading to this weekend’s season finale in Sonoma, he’s five points down. With double points on the line, Sunday would become a one-on-one matchup between who finishes higher than the other.
If Dixon wins the title, look back on Belle Isle as a primary reason why.