IndyCar championship clinch scenarios for Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden at St. Pete

IndyCar championship clinch scenarios
Chris Owens/IndyCar
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The good news for Josef Newgarden: There are nearly 200 scenarios in which he can clinch the IndyCar championship Sunday at St. Petersburg, Florida.

The bad news is there are nearly 19,700 ways in which rival Scott Dixon will win the championship.

Entering the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a 32-point lead, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who has led the standings since opening the season with three consecutive victories, is a heavy favorite for his sixth championship.

Now that Newgarden didn’t gain a bonus point for a pole in qualifying, Dixon will clinch the title with an 11th-place better regardless of where Newgarden finishes.

TITLE OUTLOOK: Click here for the championship-clinching scenarios

ENTRY LIST: Here are the 24 drivers racing at St. Pete

But Dixon remains stung by two lost weekends at Mid-Ohio and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, losing nearly 70 points off his lead over four races and ensuring the IndyCar championship will be settled at the season finale for the 15th consecutive season.

“It was definitely a trying last few race weekends between Mid-Ohio and Indy,” said Dixon, who has an average finish of 8.4 in 15 starts at St. Pete. “I’m still mad at myself for making that mistake (in a spin) at Mid-Ohio and letting those points get away. As always, the NTT IndyCar Series points title comes down to the last race, and even without the double points like we’ve seen before. I’m just really proud of this PNC Bank team and everyone who works so hard to win. Honda has been pushing hard. For whatever reason, we were just struggling to get comfortable with the balance of the car the last few races and that’s one of the key things we’ll be working on for St. Petersburg.”

Dixon, who has four victories this year, needs 22 points to clinch and holds all the tiebreakers.

Depending on maximum bonus points (one for leading a lap, one for a pole position, two for leading the most laps), Newgarden could win the championship with a Dixon finish as high as 10th. Newgarden must finish at least third to have a shot.

“It really all comes down to this weekend,” said Newgarden, who has three victories this season. “It’s been a year where the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet and our team have been through a lot, from success to dealing with mistakes to just the victim of bad timing. But none of that matters headed into this weekend. We either win the championship or we don’t. My Hitachi Chevy team has put everything they have into this season, and they plan to keep working hard through the race weekend. It’s going to certainly be a tough battle with Scott Dixon this weekend because he has been so strong and consistent all year. We can’t afford to make mistakes, so strategy and execution will be critical. We feel really good with the momentum we have right now, but you can never count out a guy like Dixon.”

In the likely event that both complete all 100 laps in Sunday’s race, Newgarden and Dixon also are playing for some history. Both can join Tony Kanaan (2004) and Simon Pagenaud (2017) as the only drivers to complete every lap during the season.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III