IndyCar newsflash: Alex Palou the favourite heading into season finale
Alex Palou heads into final race of season as the favourite following victory in Portland and second place at Laguna Seca – Colton Herta dominates at Laguna Seca, Romain Grosjean secures another podium and an Andretti cockpit for 2022 season
After Alex Palou turned into victory lane for the third time this season in Portland, the Chip Ganassi driver is 35 points ahead of Pato O’Ward (McLaren SP) in the standings after a second-place finish at Laguna Seca. This makes the Spaniard the clear favourite before the finale in Long Beach, while O’Ward and Josef Newgarden (Team Penske, 48 points behind) still have at least a mathematical chance of winning the title. With a maximum of 54 points still up for grabs, the two chasers will have to put all their eggs in one basket while hoping for Palou to encounter problems.
Meanwhile, Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport) dominated the action at Laguna Seca. Despite a clear start/finish victory, however, the youngster no longer has any mathematical chance of intervening in the championship fight. The podium in Monterey, California, was completed by Romain Grosjean, who secured an Andretti cockpit for the coming season thanks to his strong showings.
Palou on track for first European title in five years
Exactly five years ago, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) won the last IndyCar title for a European driver. Palou could put an end to the drought – if he finishes at least 11th in Long Beach. At the same time, Palou would be the first Spaniard ever to win the IndyCar crown.
O’Ward, who finished fifth at Laguna Seca, needs the maximum points haul of 54 at the finale if the title is to fall into Mexican hands for the first time. In that scenario, Palou should finish a maximum of twelfth. Newgarden, on the other hand, with a 48-point gap, has – from a realistic point of view – at most a purely mathematical chance of winning title number three. Thus, Palou should be ranked 25th at best, provided that Newgarden achieves the maximum 54 points.
Defending champion Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) has no more chances of winning his seventh championship after his collision with ex-F1 driver Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) and the resulting 13th place at Laguna Seca. In all likelihood, a maiden champion will therefore be crowned on the streets of Long Beach in the person of Palou or O’Ward.