Barring a repeat of a Team New Zealand disaster of 2013, Scott Dixon is in the box seat to claim his sixth IndyCar drivers title.
Only four drivers realistically remain in contention to dethrone Dixon by the time the season finale rolls around at St. Petersburg next month, with Josef Newgarden the Kiwi’s nearest rival 96 points adrift.
The remaining two title contenders are sophomore Pato O’Ward and two-time Indy 500 victor Takuma Sato, the latter proving to be a real thorn in Dixon’s side over the last few races with a strong turn in speed.
Three, potentially five races remain in the 2020 schedule with Mid-Ohio yet to seal a permanent date on the calendar having been postponed amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in the state.
But from the three races currently pencilled in on the calendar, outscoring Newgarden by 12 points at the next race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course will guarantee Dixon the championship with two races remaining. An incredible feat considering the condensed nature of this year’s championship.
A herculean effort from the brink of defeat is required by Newgarden who conceded over the weekend the task at hand is quickly becoming out of his reach.
“It’s getting hard now,” said Newgarden. “We keep taking a step forward and then two steps backwards.
“If we can flip that where we take at least two steps forward and maybe a step back, it’s okay, you’re coming out with a net win. We can’t quite claw forward.
“We just can’t have situations like yesterday where the yellow bites us. We can’t afford that. We cannot afford that with the amount of points we are down.
“It’s just not going to happen. But I believe we can. If those unfortunate things stop happening, I think we can fight [Dixon]. But it’s tough. We have to have some help.”
Dixon, on the other hand, has seemingly strolled with a lissom touch to a commanding points lead and is now two wins away from matching his personnel best championship-winning campaign in 2008.
A strong factor behind his success has undoubtedly been a shift in the operations of Chip Ganassi Racing. Within the space of 12 months their win percentage has rocketed from scratching the surface of double digitals to 55%.
The team underwent a significant shakeup ahead of the season opener with regular engineer for Dixon, Chris Simmons, promoted to a new performance oversight position. Filling that vacant role on the No.9 car was renowned engineer Michael Cannon from Dale Coyne Racing.
CGR pitstops and race strategies have, for the large part, also been executed with flawless perfection and have left their rivals to clamber behind and catch up on all areas of the track.
Behind Newgarden, O’Ward sits third in the standings and has come close to scoring a maiden win on three separate occasions this year.
The resurgent Arrow McLaren SP outfit have quickly risen to be a match for their Penske and Rahal Letterman Langigan rivals. The Mexican will need a strong turn in fortune to challenge Dixon for the championship given his points deficit but did keep Newgarden honest in the final race of the weekend at Gateway, suggesting the potential to snare runners-up over the final few races.
Even if Dixon wraps up the title before the season finale he will still have some boxes left to tick off including a first win on the streets of St. Petersburg. The Kiwi has finished runners-up at the venue on four occasions but is yet to clinch that elusive trip to victory lane.
An announcement of the shape of the final portion of the calendar, including the inclusion or exclusion of Mid-Ohio, is expected to be made before the Harvest Grand Prix at Indianapolis on October 2-3.