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.
PALA, California – In his 450 bike debut, Jett Lawrence scored a perfect round at Fox Raceway in Pala, California to win Pro Motocross Round 1. He posted the fastest time in both qualification sessions, won the holeshot in both motos, and scored a pair of wins to take the overall victory and the early points’ lead.
No one seriously questioned Lawrence’s opportunity to make noise in the 450 class. Few would have been surprised to see him podium in his Pro Motocross National, but Lawrence outperformed all expectations by dominating Moto 1. He entered the weekend with zero points and his eye on 20th in the standings so he would receive an automatic invitation to the inaugural SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).
He well surpassed expectations.
“It’s awesome,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “I can finally smile. I’ve been trying to stay serious and not get too excited with emotions coming up – and now I can finally let loose. The second one was a little harder, I couldn’t hear him but I’d look back and I’d still see the red bike. It was like a chess match.”
By the end of the race, Lawrence made up 30 percent of the points he needed to claim 20th and served notice that he will be one of the favorites to win the championship. He closed the gap even further in Moto 2, but the two races had entirely different storylines.
While Lawrence was able to run away from the field in the first race and win with a 10-second advantage, Honda teammate and defending Monster Energy Supercross champion Chase Sexton pressured him for the entire 30 minutes plus two laps that made up Moto 2.
Lawrence is the 16th rider to win in his first Pro Motocross race, the 10th to do so in an opener and second youngest, (behind Rick Johnson, 17 when he won at Hangtown in 1982).
Sexton was within two seconds of Lawrence for the entire moto. He rode a patient race with the realistic expectation that the 450 rookie Lawrence might make a mistake. Lawrence bounced from rut to rut in this race, but would not be forced into losing his focus.
“Toward the finish line area I had some decent lines, I thought maybe, if I could get close enough, I could make a move,” Sexton said. “I tried my hardest; I got close. I made a bit of an attempt with maybe 10 minutes to go and messed up. Jett was obviously riding really good. We were pushing the pace and it was a fun moto. It felt a little like last year.”
With his 1-1 finish and the overall victory, Lawrence remains perfect at Fox Raceway after sweeping Victory Lane in five rounds his 250 career.
Dylan Ferrandis returned to the track after suffering a concussion in the Supercross season in Round 4 in Houston. He attempted to return for the Daytona Supercross race, but another hard crash on Media Day set him on the sideline.
“Earlier this week I was pretty far from a podium position, so got together with the team and we made it happen,” Ferrandis said. “It was very hard. [Aaron Plessinger] was pushing me and I had to dig very deep.”
In a pre-race news conference, he indicated that the best course of action was to get up to speed before he fully sent his bike into the turns. But adrenalin is a wonderful factor and once he got into the pace of the race, he held off charges from Cooper Webb in Moto 1 and Plessinger in Moto 2. Ferrandis’ 3-3 finishes in the two races earned 40 points and puts him back in the conversation to be among the top 20 in the combined SuperMotocross standings.
Plessinger and Webb each ended the day with 34 points. Plessinger won the tiebreaker for fifth overall in the standings. But it was an adventurous afternoon for Plessinger who had to overcome a pair of falls in the first Moto to finish fifth.
Round 1 of the Pro Motocross season marked the return of Webb after he suffered a Supercross series ending concussion in a heat race at Nashville.
“This was a last minute decision,” Webb said. “I sat out last summer and I didn’t want to do that again. Once I got cleared from the doctor, it was game on.”
The battle between Lawrence and Sexton gave Honda a 1-2 finish in this race for the second straight year, but perhaps most importantly, it provided a glimpse of what can be expected during the opening rounds.
I think there is more to come from Chase,” Lawrence said. “He had that crash in practice so it rung his head a bit, but I know it’s going to be a war in the outdoor season. I know there’s going to be times when I’m behind Chase and can’t get around him. It’s going to be an awesome season and I can’t wait to race my teammate.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Jett wasn’t the only Lawrence to win Fox Raceway Motocross. Hunter’s win in the 250 class marked the first time in history that brothers won a Motocross National on the same day.
The reigning 250 East Supercross champion scored the overall victory with a third in Moto 1 and a victory in Moto 2. A poor start in the first race forced Lawrence to mount a charge from behind. Riding with discomfort, Lawrence was out of his rhythm early. A spirited battle with Jo Shimoda and Justin Cooper for third through fifth forced him to push through the pain of an injury suffered at the start of the week.
“The start was crucial,” Lawrence said. “I had a massive crash Monday and could barely ride press day for three laps, I was in so much pain. This one goes out to Dr. [Rey Gubernick]. He has magic hands.”
Lawrence’s strong start to Moto 2 put him in a better zone and he pulled an eight-second advantage over the second-place rider.
Haiden Deegan got a taste of the Motocross series last year, but that was all it was: a nibble.
Deegan failed to crack the top 10 in either of two starts and had some questions for himself before the race began. Deegan did not believe there were high expectations placed on him for this race, which is precisely how he described his first Supercross attempt. In that inaugural SX race, he finished fourth and was as surprised as anyone in the field.
Again: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Deegan surprised himself again by finishing second in only his third Motocross National. He finished sixth in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2, giving him a second-place finish overall.
“I’m actually a little surprised,” Deegan said. “A lot of people said I wouldn’t even be close to this. I guess we’re proving people wrong and that’s what we’ve got to do Second place in my first full season. I’m hyped.”
RJ Hampshire made a statement in Moto 1. An entirely new discipline allowed Hampshire to grab an early advantage. But then a poor start to Moto 2 provided an entirely different challenge. Two falls on Lap 1 dropped Hampshire to 39th in the running order.
“I didn’t have a great start and got mayhem in that second corner and went down,” Hampshire said. “Picked [myself] up in last and made some really good passes and then going uphill on the [backstretch], someone got out of whack – took me out and I was dead last again. I didn’t really know if I had a shot at the podium, but I was digging really deep.”
It took half of the race to get back into the points in 20th, but Hampshire kept digging. Passing riders one at a time, he climbed to 11th in Moto 2 and salvaged enough points to give him the third position overall.
Maximus Vohland made a statement of his own by holding off a determined Lawrence on the last two laps. Lawrence was able to pressure Vohland when they were slowed by a lapped rider who fell in front of the battle.
Tom Vialle was in a position to take the final overall podium spot with a solid third-place finish in the second moto. He did everything he could, but Hampshire’s determined charge from the back of the pack was capped off with a two-position advance on the final lap to slide onto the final step of the box.