Photo: Will Power has a shaky six point lead heading into the final oval race of 2022. Indycar photo by James Black
World Wide Technology Raceway has a tough act to follow. After the smash hit at Iowa, the final oval of the year, which usually puts on a great event, may seem a bit less so this year. Hy Vee is assisting in the production, but I don’t know if they can match Iowa’s energy.
Saturday’s race begins the final stretch of the 2022 Indycar season with three races in 22 days. I always feel sorry for the winners of these last races if they are not one of the title contenders. The focus is on the drivers going for the title. And we have quite a title fight going. Seven drivers have a mathematical chance of winning, but only five have a realistic shot at the Astor Cup.
The top five are within 33 points of leader Will Power, and just 12 points separate the top three. This race could stabilize the title picture or it could jumble it even more.
Team Penske has been strong at Gateway the past few years. Josef Newgarden has been especially dominant here. In the last three races at WWTR, Josef Newgarden has won twice. Will Power has two poles and two third place finishes. Scott McLaughlin finished fourth in 2021 in his debut. The team has been strong at Texas and Iowa as well, with Newgarden winning at each track and Power and McLaughlin sweeping the poles.
I don’t see Team Penske having any fall off this weekend. The finishing order of this trio will determine who remains in the championship hunt.
What Does Ganassi Have?
Scott Dixon is right where he wants to be- second in points, jus six behind power, with just three races left. If Dixon can’t win here, which he did in 2020 race 1, he has two chances on road courses to get by Power. I would not count him out.
Will Weather Give Us a Night Race?
Storms are forecast around race time Saturday, and a delay could push the event to the night race everyone wants. I detest rain delys, but I wouldn’t mind this one.
Kirkwood’s Best Opportunity
Rookie Kyle Kirkwood has a chance for a bit of redemption Saturday. Kirkwood thew away a career best finish at Nashville with his late crash. Gateway has been the best track for A. J. Foyt Racing. the team has a podium and to top fives in this event. Can Kirkwood bring the car to the finish?
A Second Groove
The first half hour of the post qualifying practice Friday will feature nine cars- one from each team except Foyt, running in the high groove to laydown some rubber to improve the racing line. Some drivers believe the high line will be good for the start and restarts, but that everyone will settle in to the low groove after a few laps.
Indycar did this at Texas, and it did help the race a bit.
Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi have no realistic hopes of winning the championship. Both Andretti drivers were running well last year before encountering issues. Herta and Rossi overcame qualifying and early race problems at Nashville to finish the top five. The duo could have a say about who wins the title by having good results and taking points away from one or more of the contenders.
In fact, I think that is what will happen. Herta will win the race, and Rossi will grab a top five spot. Obe of the top four chasers will have a big issue and see his hopes dashed, and this tight title fight will become even titghter.