IndyCar: Could fate finally snap Dixon’s, Rossi’s runs of late? Will Power hopes so

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PORTLAND, Oregon – With two races left in the season and still in contention for the IndyCar championship, Will Power knows what he has to do in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland to still have a shot at the title heading into the season finale in Sonoma in two weeks.

“We simply have to finish ahead of (points leader Scott) Dixon and (second-ranked Alexander) Rossi,” Power said Friday at Portland International Raceway. “There’s just no other two ways about it. That’s what we have to do. If we don’t, we really don’t have a chance at Sonoma.

“That’s what we have to do, and that’s what we’re setting out to do.”

So Power is going to have to defeat Dixon and Rossi – currently 1-2 in the standings – by talent, having a better car and hope for a little luck.

Or bad luck for Dixon and Rossi.

Dixon currently leads Rossi by 26 points, while Power is 68 points back and defending series champ Josef Newgarden is 78 points behind.

If Power can earn the pole during Saturday’s qualifying, it would go a long way towards giving him a leg up on the two drivers he’s chasing.

While IndyCar returns to Portland for the first time since 2007, the track may still be the same 1.964-mile length, but it has changed in a number of ways since the last time Power raced there.

“Ideally we need to be on pole,” Power said.

The reason is simple: If Power starts from the pole, he has a better chance of holding off challenges by Dixon and Rossi than trying to play catch-up if they qualify and start Sunday’s race in a higher position.

“If we’re around them, obviously we’ve got to race them very aggressively, need to get by them at the start or at some point,” Power said. “Yeah, it’s just take it as it comes.

“Obviously no one knows what’s going to happen or how it’s going to play out, but we’ve got to be on our toes and make the right decisions.”

But fate could also play a big part in Sunday’s outcome.

Consider:

* Since finishing second at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in mid-May, Dixon has shown incredible consistency, with three wins (Belle Isle 1, Texas and Toronto), and seven other top-five showings (the only bad result in that stretch was 12th at Iowa) in the last 11 races.

* Also since the Indy Grand Prix (finished fifth), Rossi has been on an equally impressive roll of his own. He’s captured two of his three wins this season (back-to-back triumphs at Mid-Ohio and Pocono), has five other top-five showings in that same stretch (including finishing second last week at Gateway), and two other top-10 finishes.

That’s why Power is putting his faith in fate Sunday afternoon, that both Dixon’s and Rossi’s run of good luck turns bad, at least for one race, allowing Power to close the gap with what he hopes is a strong finish on his own part to allow him one last shot at the championship at Sonoma, which awards double points to drivers.

Power has been having a streak of his own of late, which only strengthens his hope that it’s his turn to overtake Dixon and Rossi: he’s coming off a win last week at Gateway, was second at Pocono and third at Mid-Ohio.

Could the odds go in Power’s favor and against the two guys he’s chasing, particularly Dixon?

“I just know being around racing for so long now, it’s just so rare to have a season without a bad race,” Power said when asked by MotorSportsTalk. “It’s just so rare.

“But you know, eventually if you have enough seasons, maybe that falls into place and maybe that’s what’s happening with Dixon.

“But yeah, you’re right. I mean you have years like that where it all falls into place, but it seems as though you will always have a bad race.

“Maybe that won’t happen this year. Or maybe it will. We need that. I don’t wish anything bad, but if he (Dixon) could just have a bad pit stop or something, that would be nice.”

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Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”