IndyCar

Who will be the 2018 IndyCar champ boils down to a matter of numbers

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Numbers are the lifeblood of motorsports. Whether it’s speed, elapsed time, margin of victory, number of laps led or more, numbers are at the heart of what makes any form of motorsport tick.

That being said, numbers will obviously determine how the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship plays out.

But in this case, it will be points that make this year’s champion. Sure, speed and elapsed time will play a part, but it’s overall points that will be on the minds of the four remaining championship contenders heading into this weekend’s Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma (California) Raceway.

The most important aspect for Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Will Power and Josef Newgarden is Sunday will be one of two double-points races this season, the other being the Indianapolis 500 back in May.

A maximum total of 104 points are available to be earned by any single driver in Sunday’s race:

* 100 points for the race win, double the usual amount of 50 points awarded in 15 of the other 17 races this year.

Up to four potential bonus points are available, too, which have the potential to be the difference between winning or losing the championship. According to IndyCar, a driver can earn:

* One point for winning the pole.

* One point for leading at least one lap in the race.

* Two points for leading the most laps in a race.

Let’s break down how the numbers play out for the four drivers battling it out for the title:

Scott Dixon: Since winning at Texas in early June – his second of three wins thus far this season (also won at Belle Isle 1 and Toronto) Dixon has been the series points leader. That means the New Zealand native and four-time IndyCar champ has been at the head of the pack for the entire second half the season.

Dixon holds a 29-point lead over Rossi heading to Sonoma. If Dixon wins the race or finishes second, he’s the champion for a fifth time. The key is Dixon can’t lose more than 28 points to Rossi in Sunday’s race to clinch the title. Granted, Dixon needs to win the championship by just one point, but how he gets it and how Rossi fares presents a number of potential scenarios.

“The best would be going in with about a 106-point lead,” Dixon deadpanned after last Sunday’s race at Portland.

If some other driver wins the race, Rossi finishes second and Dixon finishes third through sixth, Dixon would still win the title provided he remains at least one point ahead of Rossi in the overall season standings when all is said and done.

In fact, if Rossi finishes as low as fourth, Dixon can mathematically finish as low as 10th and still win the championship.

Alexander Rossi: If Rossi wins Sunday’s race and leads a lap (1 point) and the most laps (2 points), he will earn 103 points (104 if he also gets the pole), which would give him the championship if Dixon fails to finish at least second.

However, there’s a caveat to Rossi’s title bid: Dixon could finish third (70 points) in Sunday’s race and still win the championship if Rossi wins the race (100 points) and leads at least one lap (1 point), but fails to earn the pole or lead the most laps. But Dixon has to also earn the pole (1 point), lead at least one lap in the race (1 point) and lead the most laps in the race (2 points) to beat Rossi by one or two points, depending on how many bonus points he earns.

Another scenario: if Rossi finishes second and Dixon finishes third, Dixon wins the title.

And then there’s the potential for a tie-breaker: Rossi and Dixon would tie for the championship on points. If Rossi wins the race, he wins the first tiebreaker (total wins, as he would have 4 wins in 2018 to 3 for Dixon). Or if both drivers finish back in the pack with an equal amount of points after the race, the likely tie-breaker would be podium finishes (although both drivers each have eight heading into Sonoma).

Will Power and Josef Newgarden:

The Team Penske teammates head to Sonoma both being a distant 87 points behind Dixon and 58 points each behind Rossi. While Power and Newgarden are still considered mathematically in contention, the odds are very long for either driver.

However, there is one championship possibility for either driver:

* Let’s say Dixon and Rossi both suffer early mechanical failure or are involved in an early crash and each finishes 25th or worse (5 points each). Power or defending season champ Newgarden could still manage to pull off one of the biggest championship-winning upsets in IndyCar history if one of them wins the race outright.

There are a few other variations possible, but these are the most likely scenarios and the ones you should be watching for the most in Sunday’s race.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Previous F1 competition doesn’t guarantee IndyCar success at COTA

Manor F1 Photo
Manor F1 Photo
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AUSTIN, Texas – Familiarity does not breed success, according to three NTT IndyCar Series drivers who have previous experience at Circuit of the Americas in the Formula One United States Grand Prix. Several other drivers, including IndyCar Series rookie Patricio O’Ward, competed in the LMPC IMSA race in 2017.

Although the course is the same – 20-turns and 3.41-miles – the cars are completely different. The highly-advanced, technologically-driven Formula One cars are advanced beyond the realm of anything allowed in the NTT IndyCar Series. It’s more about the driver in IndyCar, which uses an impressive, but simpler formula to help showcase driver skill more than technology in its races.

Money buys speed in Formula One, but an IndyCar team doesn’t need a $400 million budget to go racing. It can get by on $5 millions to $10 million a year and contend for plenty of race victories and championships.

Andretti Autosport star Alexander Rossi drove in five Formula One races with Manor in 2015. The above photo is from his only F1 contest at COTA that season. He was the first driver ever to turn laps at COTA shortly after it was constructed in 2012.

Rossi had his best F1 finish in the 2015 United States Grand Prix when he started 17thand finished 12th.

“When I’ve come here in the past, I came into the weekend fully knowing that there was no chance to ever really do anything from a results perspective,” Rossi said. “To could come here to a track that I’ve spent a lot of time at, not necessarily driven a whole lot, but spent a huge amount of time at. To come into this weekend’s race, competing on a level where we have as good a shot as any, to win the race would be pretty cool.

“There’s kind of an almost unfinished business box that we’d like to tick here in some way. I’m very excited to get the weekend started.”

Chilton raced the entire F1 season in 2013 and 2014 with Marussia. He started 21stand finished 21stin 2013. He started in the first 16 races during the 2014 F1 season but was out of a ride by the time F1 arrived at COTA that season.

Me and Alex probably had pretty similar experiences,” Chilton told NBC Sports.com “Obviously the more laps are better — but the car we were in, we weren’t doing much racing, so the sort of racing experience part isn’t going to help.

“It’s good to be back. I first came here in 2013 for the (United States) Grand Prix. I loved the track. I love the city. I really enjoyed the whole facility, the race track. It’s a pretty long track in an Indy car but it’s got lots of overtaking potential for us and hopefully we’ll put on a great show.

“It’s great to have an English band like Muse on Saturday night, as well.”

Marcus Ericsson of Sweden has the most experience at COTA of any driver in the field for Sunday’s INDYCAR Classic. He competed in 97 F1 contests from 2014-2018 before becoming an IndyCar rookie with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this season.

Ericsson was 15thin 2015, 14thin 2016, 15thin 2017 and 10thin last year’s USGP.

“I’ve been here quite a few times,” Ericsson said. “It’s one of the best tracks on F1 and I think it’s great we are going here with INDYCAR. It’s going to be a great weekend.

“The racing should be very good. It’s already good on F1 on this track and from what I’ve done in INDYCAR, it’s going to be a really good show from everyone and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ericsson emphasized that the his F1 experience does not necessarily give him any type of advantage in an IndyCar.

“I think for me I was here a couple months ago in F1 doing the race in ’18. I had all my reference points and then I did the first run and realized that didn’t really work,” Ericsson explained to NBC Sports.com “So I don’t know that the experience — it’s good to know the track, but then the Indy cars are very different cars to the F1 (car) so you have to sort of drive it quite differently and in the end, I think it didn’t really help the maximum amount in my opinion.

“The problem is we had two days of testing already in IndyCar. If we had come here straightaway without any testing it would be an advantage of one hundredth approximate. But now, if you don’t get the track in two days, I don’t think you would be in IndyCar.

“I don’t think it’s a big advantage now going into the weekend.”

But every little bit helps and if all of those little “bits” of information are added up, previous experience can provide a benefit in the race.

“For sure there’s things I can bring from my experience there that helps in INDYCAR, but the Indy car to drive today is different than the Formula One cars with the power steering and everything,” Ericsson continued. “I think it’s two different cars and what I found here on the test; things that worked in the F1 car didn’t really work in the Indy car. I think both cars of very difficult to be fast in but in different ways.

“For sure my experience in F1, it’s helped me to get into INDYCAR.”

James Hinchcliffe, who has never driven in Formula One, or at COTA, believes he has the best experience of any driver in Austin this weekend.

“I know where the restaurants are, so that’s cool,” Hinchcliffe said.