With IndyCar 2016’s first half complete, it’s Pagenaud’s title to lose

Photo: IndyCar

After his third successive Verizon IndyCar Series victory at the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Simon Pagenaud completed something he hadn’t done in six years – the in-season three-peat.

Then after the three races since that point to kick off May, Pagenaud has also built his points lead, despite missing two big opportunities in back-to-back races at the Indianapolis 500 (double points) and the first race at Detroit.

Pagenaud left the Angie’s List Grand Prix with a 76-point lead over Scott Dixon.

Three races later, despite finishes of 19th and 13th occurring before a runner-up on Sunday, that lead is now 80 points at the halfway point of the season.

“We leave here with an 80-points lead. We were strong everywhere,” Pagenaud said after finishing second on Sunday. “We were strong in Indy, just couldn’t finish the way we wanted it. Hopefully we can be strong in Texas and it will be okay.

“But, yeah, I’m very happy. I think we salvaged a pretty good weekend. Helio had a pretty bad day today. Dixon is behind. Those are the main contenders. So 80 points lead is big.”

Three golden opportunities to make up points and bring the field back to him have passed.

For a comparison of just how big Pagenaud’s lead is compared to the rest of the field, here are the respective gaps in positions down to 14th-placed Sebastien Bourdais, who was the highest-scoring driver in the field in the Detroit doubleheader weekend:

  • First (Pagenaud, 357) to second (Dixon, 277): 80 points
  • Second (Dixon, 277) to 14th (Bourdais, 210): 67 points

In simplest terms, that means there is a heck of a lot of shuffling that can go on for most of the field, but none of it will matter from a championship standpoint if Pagenaud doesn’t come back to the field with one or two more sub-15th place finishes to lower the gap.

He dodged two major bullets with the fact no one made up too much ground on him at either the ‘500 or Detroit race one.

And with only 67 points separating that next group of 13 drivers, it’s going to be difficult for any one driver to make too much headway from here unless someone gets on a roll of about two or three win/second-place finishes in a row.

The challenge from here for Pagenaud and Team Penske is to maintain enough calculated aggression to ensure he never settles the rest of the way.

Without that aggression, it can bite you and cost a championship. To be honest, that more or less undid Juan Pablo Montoya last year. He starred through his win at the Indianapolis 500, but then went nine more races before scoring his next podium at Pocono, the second-to-last race of the year.

This is also Pagenaud’s first true opportunity at being the “lead title contender” and will be a great test of his mental fortitude and resolve these final eight races.

Ryan Briscoe and Will Power in their first respective shots in 2009 and 2010 both failed to deliver the title in their first shot at it.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, meanwhile, pulled it off in 2012 – albeit with a bit of help when Power crashed out at Auto Club Speedway.

It was only after losing a title, and three of them in a row, that Power was able to pull through and deliver his first and thus far only championship in 2014.

After his phenomenal first half of the year – three wins, three runner-ups and four poles – it’s now time to see if Pagenaud has what it takes to secure his.

Otherwise, it could set up for another year for Chip Ganassi Racing to steal it away. Scott Dixon cleaned up Helio Castroneves’ lost chance in 2013, courtesy of a legendary second half comeback (then in a 19-race schedule), while he also famously capitalized on Montoya’s demise last year. Dario Franchitti took the 2009 and 2010 titles after Briscoe and Power faded late.

You can see the quest to catch Pagenaud in the final eight races of the year starting this Saturday night, at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, from Texas Motor Speedway.

Here’s the points breakdown after the Indianapolis 500 on the left, and then after Detroit on the right, with positions gained:

1 22 Pagenaud 292 1 22 Pagenaud 357
2 9 Dixon 235 2 9 Dixon 277
3 3 Castroneves 224 3 3 Castroneves 271
4 21 Newgarden 211 4 21 Newgarden 259
5 5 Hinchcliffe 205 5 98 Rossi 242 +1
6 98 Rossi 203 6 26 Munoz 242 +1
7 26 Munoz 199 7 10 Kanaan 240 +1
8 10 Kanaan 192 8 12 Power 240 +3
9 83 Kimball 189 9 2 Montoya 233 +1
10 2 Montoya 187 10 83 Kimball 227 -1
11 12 Power 178 11 5 Hinchcliffe 226 -6
12 15 Rahal 173 12 15 Rahal 225
13 28 Hunter-Reay 162 13 28 Hunter-Reay 224
14 11 Bourdais 134 14 11 Bourdais 210
15 14 Sato 134 15 18 Daly 177 +4
16 27 Andretti 130 16 14 Sato 173 -1
17 7 Aleshin 127 17 27 Andretti 166 -1
18 8 Chilton 122 18 7 Aleshin 155 -1
19 18 Daly 108 19 8 Chilton 139 -1
20 41 Hawksworth 91 20 41 Hawksworth 110

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Seattle: Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac overtake Chase Sexton


Another crash while leading at Seattle dropped Chase Sexton from the top of the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings while solid performances by Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac allow them to climb the chart and threaten to make this a two-rider battle with six rounds remaining in the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Seattle
Cooper Webb wags his finger at Chase Sexton after winning his heat in Seattle. – Feld Motor Sports

During the race, Webb knew he had ground to make up. Riding behind both Tomac and Sexton early in the Main, he was as far back as fifth on Lap 7 at Seattle. That position would cost him the red plate and give away the advantage he began to build with his first win of the season in Tampa. Sexton is often at his best as he battles from the back and he methodically worked his way through the field. At the end of the feature, he was nearly five seconds off Tomac’s pace, but during the past 45 days, he holds the advantage. A resurgent Tomac that could erase that advantage quickly though.

Tomac struggled in Indianapolis with a neck strain. That contributed to his worst performance of 2023 and his second result outside the top five. He finished third in Detroit two weeks ago, but it was a distant third after finishing off the podium in his heat during that round. In Seattle, it appeared the same thing might happen when Tomac finished third in the prelim behind his two principal competitors Webb and Sexton. The Main was a different story.

Tomac dropped to fourth in the opening laps behind both of his rivals early in the race, but he got around Webb on Lap 2 and kept charging. When Sexton fell to the ground on Lap 11 and dropped to fourth, Tomac was in position to strike. He scored his sixth win of the season to tie James Stewart for second on the all-time wins list. He now shares the red plate with Webb as the rounds wind down.

MORE: Eli Tomac gets rebound win in Seattle

Sexton has the speed, but he lacks the seasoning of Webb and Tomac. He’s pressing hard on every lap and that has bitten him several times this year. Sexton’s mistakes are costing him with a 10th-place finish at Indy, the loss of seven points at Detroit and a fifth in Seattle as the riders he’s battling stood on the podium. No one seriously questions Sexton’s talent or speed, but ultimately the results are what counts.

Justin Barcia is hitting his stride. He advances two positions this week after scoring his fourth consecutive top-five and second podium in that span of races. Barcia finished between sixth and eighth in five consecutive rounds from Anaheim 2 through Arlington, but he’s mostly avoided controversy and that puts him fourth in this week’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Seattle.

Jason Anderson had a solid performance in Seattle, but with a fifth-place finish in his heat and fourth in the Main he just keeps losing a little ground to the leaders. The biggest impact to his standing in the NBC Power Rankings is a 10th-place finish in Indianapolis that will take a while to age out of the 45-day formula. He’s tied for fourth in the championship points with Ken Roczen, who sits sixth in the rankings below. It’s important to be the rider “best in class” with Webb, Tomac and Sexton stealing the show.

450 Rankings

Rider Power
1. Cooper Webb 87.77 2 1
2. Eli Tomac 86.23 3 1
3. Chase Sexton 85.77 1 -2
4. Justin Barcia 80.71 6 2
5. Jason Anderson 80.69 4 -1
6. Ken Roczen 80.46 5 -1
7. Aaron Plessinger 75.86 7 0
8. Adam Cianciarulo 71.13 8 0
9. Christian Craig 69.86 9 0
10. Justin Cooper 62.88 10 0
11. Justin Hill 59.86 11 0
12. Dean Wilson 52.86 12 0
13. Josh Hill 49.00 15 2
14. Colt Nichols 48.67 13 -1
15. Shane McElrath 45.62 14 -1
16. Benny Bloss 43.00 16 0
17. Grant Harlan 38.08 20 3
18. Max Miller 37.67 24 6
19. Lane Shaw 36.67 21 2
20. Cade Clason 34.67 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points

The 250 West riders were back in action in Seattle and that gave Jett Lawrence the opportunity to break out of a tie with his brother Hunter Lawrence on the all-time wins list. It also provided Jett the opportunity to take back the top spot in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Seattle.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Seattle
Jett Lawrence regained the top spot overall in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings with a near-perfect race in Seattle. – Feld Motor Sports

Jett has stood on the podium in every race this year with the exception of the second Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2 and that level of perfection gives him bragging rights. Rest assured that while the two brothers have a bond that is unapparelled in motorsports, there is no one they would rather beat. Neither has been particularly successful in Triple Crown rounds this year, however, and Jett could lose his advantage in two weeks in Glendale, Arizona under that format.

Lawrence is now two wins away from capturing the fourth-most wins at this level.

A rivalry is developing between Lawrence and Cameron McAdoo. Tired of losing to the affable Australian, McAdoo pushed the envelope last week in Seattle. He crowded Lawrence in the whoops during their heat race and sent both to the ground. That frustration could bubble over with four rounds remaining. One thing is certain, when these two riders are in proximity on the track, the cameras will be aimed in their direction.

Supercross 250 Points

A little means a lot this season. Finishing second to Lawrence in four of five rounds, RJ Hampshire would be losing ground to the leader no matter what, but an 11th-place finish in the overall at Anaheim 2 places him eighth on the chart below behind two of the 250 West riders and five 250 East competitors.

In the mains, Levi Kitchen has been all over the board with a win, one more top-five, two results on the high side of the single digits and a crash-induced 21st at San Diego. He’s really shown his speed in the heats, however, with a perfect record of top-fives and a win.

Mitchell Oldenburg makes the top five list among West riders with a perfect record of top-10 finishes. He’s heading in the wrong direction, however, falling from ninth overall to 11th after finishing outside the top five in both his heat and the Main last week.

250 Rankings

Rider Power
1. Jett Lawrence – W 90.75 2 1
2. Hunter Lawrence – E 90.43 1 -1
3. Nate Thrasher – E 84.00 3 0
4. Cameron McAdoo – W 80.50 4 0
5. Haiden Deegan – E 78.21 5 0
6. Jeremy Martin – E 78.00 6 0
7. Jordon Smith – E 76.77 7 0
8. RJ Hampshire – W 76.75 10 2
9. Levi Kitchen – W 76.67 8 -1
10. Max Anstie – E 74.43 11 1
11. Mitchell Oldenburg – W 73.67 9 -2
12. Max Vohland – W 72.55 13 1
13. Tom Vialle – E 72.07 12 -1
14. Pierce Brown – W 68.64 19 5
15. Enzo Lopes – W 67.83 17 2
16. Chris Blose – E 67.43 15 -1
17. Chance Hymas – E 67.10 16 -1
18. Michael Mosiman – E 65.80 18 0
19. Stilez Robertson – W 64.45 14 -5
20. Phil Nicoletti – W 59.25 20 0

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days for the 450 class and last 90 days for 250s (because of the split nature of their season).

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 10 AT SEATTLE: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Cooper Webb
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage