There are 19,872 different possibilities on how the championship picture for the 2020 IndyCar Series will play out this weekend at St. Petersburg.
For Kiwi driver Scott Dixon, the vast majority play into his favour as he looks to close in on a sixth career title and only one behind A.J Foyt’s all-time record of seven.
After winning the opening three races on the bounce, Dixon looked to have the 2020 IndyCar championship wrapped around his finger.
Several key rivals were already contemplating how they would approach the duel for runners-up as the New Zealander’s lead was at times a mammoth 90 points clear of the field. The figure was the third-largest points advantage heading into the final three races in IndyCar/IRL history.
However, misfortune and an impressive turn in consistency from Josef Newgarden have allowed the Penske driver to ensure this year’s title is decided in a last race showdown, something that has occurred every season since 2005.
For Dixon, the equation is relatively simple. His 32-point lead means if he finishes ninth or higher, regardless if Newgarden starts on pole, leads every lap and wins, he will still seal the title.
The Chip Ganassi driver has never won on the Florida street circuit but is averaging a 7.8 finish from his last ten outings there. From which, he has only finished outside the top-nine on three occasions. So, an average day at the office will suffice for a sixth championship crown.
If Dixon and Newgarden were to come out of the round tied on points, Dixon would still win on countback. The same goes even if Newgarden wins the St. Pete race and ties the standings. Both would have ended the year with four wins, but the Kiwi would have scored one more runner-up finish than his rival.
Newgarden has been on impressive form over the latter stages of the year. His average over the last four races has been a top-three result, whereas Dixon’s has been a lowly 9.25.
Nevertheless, even should this form continue into St. Pete and Newgarden finish third, he would still be required to either start on pole or lead the most laps to prevent Dixon – who would only need to finish 24th – from clinching the title.
Ultimately, anything lower than third for Newgarden without pole and leading the most laps will only be enough to win the crown if Dixon DNFs.
Foyt won his seventh and final championship in 1979. Now, several decades later, one standout Kiwi is just a single race away from closing into with one title of matching the once imagined unconquerable.
The season-finale is set to get underway from 7.20 am NZT on October 26.