INDYCAR: Despite Dixon’s big points lead, Newgarden still confident he can bounce back

Josef Newgarden, left, and Scott Dixon two weeks ago at Toronto, which Dixon won. Photo: IndyCar

Short of someone slicing his tires or putting nails in them when no one is looking, Scott Dixon is definitely in the driver’s seat in the quest for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

With five races remaining this season, Dixon – who is going for a fifth career IndyCar championship — comes into this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a commanding 62-point lead over his closest challenger for the title, defending series champion Josef Newgarden.

Third-ranked Alexander Rossi is 70 points behind Dixon, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay (-91) and Indy 500 winner Will Power (-93).

“With five races to go, I’m still saying anyone that’s within 120 points, they’re still in the conversation and have to be considered in the conversation when you look at Sonoma,” Newgarden told MotorSportsTalk.

Just outside that 120-point spread Newgarden referred to are four additional drivers who could still be in the championship conversation, especially if they win one or more of the remaining quintet of races.

Those five and the margin they’re behind Dixon heading into Sunday’s race are Robert Wickens (-125 behind Dixon), Simon Pagenaud (-144), Graham Rahal (-151) and James Hinchcliffe (-152).

While not looking ahead, Newgarden is also realistic that the championship could be won or lost in the season finale at Sonoma Raceway on Sept. 16.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Newgarden said. “There are still a lot of people in it when you look at the finale at Sonoma.

“Because (Sonoma) has double points, it really changes the way it looks, the spread of points. You don’t have to be so tight up against each other. Indy (the Indianapolis 500) is the same way: Indy can reward you and so can Sonoma.”

Dixon, who is tied with Newgarden for most wins thus far this season (three apiece) will prove hard to overtake, let alone beat, given the season he’s had thus far.

But as far as Newgarden is concerned, he and his team have to worry more about their own situation and try to forget Dixon is where he is currently in the standings.

“I think the big thing for us is we have to find ways to capitalize on days where we’re not winning, or even days where we lose too many points,” Newgarden said. “Toronto is a good example, it was obviously a mistake that led to winning or a second-place finish, and it turned into a ninth-place finish. Those are the kind of days that really hurt us.

“I think as a whole, we’ve probably been stronger from a speed standpoint than Scott, but he’s had more consistent finishes in the top five, and that’s going to add up at the end of the year.

“The last five races it comes down to if we can figure out how to have a better average and take the wins when we can get them, hopefully.

“But more importantly, just finish second or third on days when we’re not winning and make sure don’t turn those into ninth’s or 10ths. I think that’s really the key to try and overhaul Scott for the championship.”

And given that double points will be in play at Sonoma, the whole championship could once again come down to the final race, as it has for the last several seasons.

“We’ll see who will have the best average (in the last five races),” Newgarden said. “But I think the end game is putting yourself in position for Sonoma, where you can decide your own destiny. If you can do that, it makes your job a lot easier going into Sonoma.

“If you can win the race to also win the championship, I think that’s the kind of position you want to be in going into Sonoma.”

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World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws

The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)