Power clinches second IndyCar Series championship; Palou dominates season finale at Laguna Seca

Will Power capped off a strong consistent season with his second NTT IndyCar Series championship while Alex Palou capped off an up-and-down season embroiled with off-track drama amid his racing future by winning the season-finale Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, September 11.

Power, the 2014 IndyCar champion from Toowoomba, Australia, commenced the championship weekend on a high note by surpassing Mario Andretti for the most poles in IndyCar history at 68 on Saturday. During the main event on Sunday, he outlasted a variety of strategies and on-track competition from his fellow competitors and teammates to finish in third place behind race winner Palou and runner-up Newgarden, who fell short of overtaking his veteran teammate at Team Penske and spoiling the party of having his shot of winning his title.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, points leader Will Power claimed his record-setting 68th IndyCar career pole position after posting a pole-winning qualifying lap at 112.505 mph in 71.6127 seconds. Joining him on the front row was rookie Callum Ilott, who recorded the second-best qualifying lap at 112.475 mph in 71.6320 seconds.

When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Power took off with an early advantage through the first two turns. Behind, Alexander Rossi and Pato O’Ward both made a three-wide move on Callot to move up to second and third as the field scrambled and jostled for early positions. Through Turn 2, Helio Castroneves went off the course in the sand, but the event remained under green.

Through the first five scheduled laps, Power was leading ahead of Rossi, O’Ward, Ilott and Romain Grosjean while rookie David Malukas, Alex Palou, Scott McLaughlin, Simon Pagenaud and Marcus Ericsson were in the top 10. Meanwhile, Dixon was in 13th and Newgarden, who started at the rear of the field, was mired back in 19th.

By the ninth lap, the first round of green flag pit stops ensued as Colton Herta, Dixon and Ericsson pitted. Back at the front, Power was still out in front by three-and-a-half second over Rossi followed by O’Ward, Ilott and Grosjean. When Lap 15 struck amid a continuation of green flag pit stops, Power surrendered the lead to pit as Ilott and Palou moved up the top of the leaderboard.

Nearly 10 laps later and with nearly the entire field having made at least one pit stop under green, except for the leader Felix Rosenqvist, another round of green flag pit stops slowly commenced as Rosenqvist pitted. By then, Newgarden also pitted as Power cycled back to the lead over Alex Palou, O’Ward and Ilott. On Lap 26, however, Palou muscled his No. 10 NTT Data Dallara-Honda back into the lead over Power’s No. 12 Verizon 5G Dallara-Chevrolet in Turn 4.

Through the first 30 scheduled laps, Palou was ahead by more than five seconds over Power followed by O’Ward, Ilott and Rosenqvist while Rossi, Grosjean, Ericsson, Ludngaard and Newgarden were in the top 10. Meanwhile, McLaughlin, who was just in the top 10, pitted under green while Dixon was mired back in 23rd.

Five laps later, Palou continued to lead by more than 10 seconds over Power followed by Rosenqvist, O’Ward and Ilott. Another three laps later, the front-runners led by Palou pitted under green as Palou remained in front of Power, Rosenqvist, O’Ward and Newgarden.

Shortly after, the first caution of the event flew when Ilott, who was having a stellar run on the track after starting on the front row for the first time in his career, stopped his No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Dallara-Chevrolet on the track in Turn 2 and retired due to a mechanical issue.

When the event restarted under green on Lap 42, Palou retained the lead ahead of Power, Rosenqvist, O’Ward and the field in spite of Graham Rahal going off the course. While Palou maintained a steady advantage over the field, Power continued to fend off Rosenqvist for second while Newgarden bolted his No. 2 Hitachi Dallara-Chevrolet into fourth place over O’Ward through the Corkscrew section.

By Lap 45 and with the event surpassing its halfway mark, Palou was leading by more than five seconds over Power, who was locked in a tight battle against teammate and title contender Newgarden while Rosenqvist and Grosjean were in the top five. Meanwhile, O’Ward was mired back in sixth while Ericsson, McLaughlin, Rahal and Lundgaard were in the top 10 in front of Dixon.

With 45 laps remaining, Palou continued to lead by more than eight seconds over Newgarden while the championship leader Power settled in third. Grosjean was up in fourth in front of Rosenqvist while O’Ward, Ericsson, McLaughlin, Rahal and Lundgaard occupied the top 10. Meanwhile, Dixon, who just pitted under green, was back in 23rd behind Takuma Sato.

Down to the final 30 laps of the event, Palou, who was navigating his way through lapped traffic, was leading by nearly 19 seconds over runner-up Power, who continued to maintain his lead in the championship standings and had completed a pit stop under green. Grosjean moved up to third in front of Rosenqvist, Newgarden and O’Ward. Lundgaard, the leading Rookie-of-the-Year contender, was in seventh while Rossi, Herta and Malukas were in the top 10. McLaughlin, Ericsson and Dixon were in 11th, 12th and 13th.

Then two laps later and with some of the front-runners pitting under green, including Palou, Newgarden, who has yet to pit, cycled his way into the lead after pulling ahead of Palou as he ignited his final bid to capture his third IndyCar title over teammate Power, who was in third. 

With 22 laps remaining, Newgarden surrendered the lead to Palou as he pitted under green. When he returned to the track, he managed to keep his No. 2 Hitachi Dallara-Chevrolet in the runner-up spot ahead of teammate Power, who pitted prior to the final 30 laps.

Seven laps later and with 15 laps remaining, Palou remained as the leader by more than 25 seconds over Newgarden while Power settled in third. By then, Grosjean and Rosenqvist were in the top five while McLaughlin, Ericsson and Dixon were in 10th, 11th and 12th.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Palou continued to lead by more than 28 seconds over Newgarden while third-place Power remained in third and maintained the lead in the championship standings. Grosjean and Rosenqvist remained in the top five followed by Lundgaard, Rossi, McLaughlin, Ericsson and Herta while O’Ward, who was in the top 10, pitted his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Dallara-Chevrolet before blending back on the track in 12th behind Dixon.

With five laps remaining, Palou stabilized his huge advantage to 29 seconds over Newgarden, who continued to run one spot ahead of teammate Power but was unable to overtake his Team Penske teammate for the lead in the championship standings. Meanwhile, McLaughlin, Ericsson and Dixon were back in eighth, ninth and 11th as their title hopes were slowly evaporating.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Palou remained as the leader by over Newgarden with Power pursuing behind. Having no direct competition lingering behind him for a final lap, Palou was able to cruise his way through the circuit for a final time as he captured his first elusive checkered flag of the 2022 season by more than 30 seconds over Newgarden.

With the victory, Palou grabbed his fourth career win in the NTT IndyCar Series, his first at Laguna Seca and first since winning at Portland International Speedway in September 2021. The victory was enough for the reigning IndyCar champion to conclude the season tied with Scott McLaughlin for fourth place in the final drivers’ standings as he enters this off-season period with uncertainty amid his contract dispute with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Photo by James Black (Penske Entertainment).

“We struggled a bit some races, especially last couple of races,” Palou said on NBC. “Today was awesome. Awesome job by all the team. Strategy was on point. It’s good to finish a season with a win. It was just an awesome day. Struggled a bit during the whole weekend, and I don’t know what happened today, but everything clicked, so super happy to win a race this year. We’re gonna enjoy the moment now and we’ll see what happens [next year].”

While Palou celebrated a victory, Power celebrated his second NTT IndyCar Series championship after finishing third, one spot behind teammate Newgarden, who rallied from the rear of the field but fell 16 points shy to his Team Penske veteran. With the accomplishment, Power became the first repeat IndyCar champion since Scott Dixon won his sixth title in 2020 as he recorded his first title since 2014 and the 17th IndyCar title for Team Penske, which extended the team’s record.

Overall, Power concluded the 2022 season with a single victory after winning the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at The Raceway at Belle Isle in Michigan. He also recorded four poles, nine podiums and 13 top-five results throughout the 17-race schedule.

“I couldn’t have [planned a perfect weekend],” Power said. “Let me tell you. In the off-season, my wife said to me, ‘I believe you’re gonna beat Mario’s [Andretti] record [in poles] and you’re gonna win the championship. She said that to me. It actually gave me confidence that I could do it. The fact that she said that, that’s how much confidence I have in her gut feel. I just couldn’t believe that that came true. I just knew I had to get the most out of those stints and not lose any more positions. Man, I had to drive the [car] today. It was on the edge. Very loose. What a relief to get that done. I can’t thank Verizon enough. They’ve been with me for close to 12 years now. Without them, I would never have had this career and obviously, [team owner] Roger Penske, the whole team and Chevrolet.”

Meanwhile, Newgarden remained positive in a season where he achieved a season-high five victories, a pole and six podiums throughout the 17-race schedule.

“You know, I hate to say it, but in a lot of ways, this has been a really tough year,” Newgarden said. “It’s gonna be a welcome off-season. Mentally, it’s been a taxing season. We’ve had a lot of highs, but we’ve had a lot of lows. Just riding the roller coaster this year has brought me to a braking point at a couple points in the year, but I’m proud of the team. This is a big day for everybody. To win the championship, huge congrats to Will [Power] and the entire [Penske] team. This is an effort by everybody, whether it’s the No. 2 car, the No. 12 or No. 3. We all take a lot of pride in it. All these crew members, they work on every single car. The ultimate goal is to win a championship for Team Penske. We did that. There’s a ton to be proud of. We nearly got there. We’re gonna come back stronger next year. We got to be in a different position and I know we can do better than what we did this year.”

Meanwhile, Scott Dixon finished 12th on the track and in third place in the final standings, the highest Chip Ganassi Racing competitor in the standings but 39 points shy of winning his record-tying seventh IndyCar championship. Nonetheless, he capped off the season with two victories, which tallied his wins total to 53 as it marks the second-most victories in American open-wheel competition behind AJ Foyt (67). He also recorded a pole and a total of four podiums throughout the season.

“We ultimately just didn’t have the pace,” Dixon said. “I think it was definitely a strange race in the fact that we tried everything we could. Just frustrating. I think that we couldn’t bring what we needed to today. Congrats to Palou and obviously, a big congrats to Will Power. It was a tremendous year that he ran there. You win some, you lose some. I know this team never gave up. We pushed as hard as we could all year. Unfortunately. we ended up third.”

Scott McLaughlin, who came into the event trailing teammate Power by 41 points, ended up in sixth place on the track and in a tie with Alex Palou for fourth place in the standings, 51 points shy of his first IndyCar title despite claiming his first three IndyCar career victories. Marcus Ericsson, the 2022 Indianapolis 500 champion, fell back to sixth in the standings and 54 points shy of his first title.

Felix Rosenqvist finished fourth on the track followed by rookie Christian Lundgaard while McLaughlin, Grosjean, O’Ward, Ericsson and Alexander Rossi completed the top 10.

Lundgaard, who finished 14th in the final standings, was named the recipient of the 2022 IndyCar Rookie-of-the-Year title by finishing two spots ahead of the second-highest rookie candidate: David Malukas.

Chevrolet wrapped up the manufacturers’ title with 1,510 points, 211 points over Honda, in a season where the manufacturer achieved 11 victories throughout the 17-race schedule.

There were seven lead changes for five different leaders. The race featured one caution for three laps.

Race Results.

1. Alex Palou, 67 laps led

2. Josef Newgarden, five laps led

3. Will Power, 17 laps led

4. Felix Rosenqvist, five laps led

5. Christian Lundgaard

6. Scott McLaughlin

7. Romain Grosjean

8. Pato O’Ward

9. Marcus Ericsson

10. Alexander Rossi

11. Colton Herta

12. Scott Dixon

13. David Malukas

14. Rinus VeeKay

15. Devlin DeFrancesco

16. Jimmie Johnson

17. Simon Pagenaud

18. Graham Rahal

19. Helio Castroneves

20. Jack Harvey

21. Kyle Kirkwood

22. Simona De Silvestro 

23. Takuma Sato

24. Conor Daly

25. Dalton Kellett

26. Callum Ilott – OUT, Mechanical, one lap led

*Bold indicates 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion

Final standings

1. Will Power – 560 points

2. Josef Newgarden – 544 points

3. Scott Dixon – 521 points

4. Scott McLaughlin – 510 points

5. Alex Palou – 510 points

6. Marcus Ericsson – 506 points

7. Pato O’Ward – 480 points

8. Felix Rosenqvist – 393 points

9. Alexander Rossi – 381 points

10. Colton Herta – 381 points

11. Graham Rahal – 345 points

12. Rinus VeeKay – 331 points

13. Romain Grosjean – 328 points

14. Christian Lundgaard – 323 points

15. Simon Pagenaud – 314 points

16. David Malukas – 305 points

17. Conor Daly – 267 points

18. Helio Castroneves – 263 points

19. Takuma Sato – 258 points

20. Callum Ilott – 219 points

The NTT IndyCar Series teams and competitors enter an off-season period before returning to action in 2023 for a new season of competition. The 2023 schedule is yet to be determined.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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