What the IndyCar championship contenders are saying entering the Laguna Seca finale

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Five contenders from two powerhouses will face off for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship in the Sept. 11 season finale at WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway.

Representing Team Penske are points leader Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin. Chip Ganassi Racing has Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson.

Dixon (2003, ’08, ’13, ’15, ’18, ’20), Newgarden (’17, ’19) and Power (’14) are past champions; Ericsson and McLaughlin are seeking their first titles.

Either a Penske or Ganassi driver has won the NTT IndyCar Series championship in 13 of the past 14 seasons.

In the closest championship battle in nearly 20 years, Power has a 20-point lead over Newgarden and Dixon, 39 points over Ericsson and 41 points over McLaughlin.

After McLaughlin’s victory at the Grand Prix of Portland, here’s what each of the remaining title contenders was saying about the season finale (watch their postrace interviews in the video above):


WILL POWER

“I just want to win this championship for the guys who have been with me for more than a decade like my engineer Dave (Faustino) and my data acquisition guy Robbie (Atkinson) and the group. It’s a lot less selfish for me this time around because they deserve it. I feel their pain over the years of losing so many. I’d love to win it for them. … We’re in the best position and have the best shot. We’ll do everything we can.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN

“At this point, it just kind of is what it is. We’re going to try to win that race and go for broke. It’s been kind of a weird year. Everyone has done such a great job on this 2 car. I’m so proud and happy with everybody. They’ve really put a good effort together. It’s either been winning the race or some weird luck has happened. We just seem to be on the odd end of these things and they’re not working out. I don’t know how Laguna is going to play out. We’re going to go and play to win. We’ll see what happens.”

SCOTT DIXON

“Laguna is probably the slipperiest circuit we go. Anything is possible. We’ve won on tiebreakers. We’re in it and won’t give up as a team until it’s over. It’s going to be interesting. It’s pretty tight between three to four cars. Ultimately, if we’re in it, we’ll try everything that we can do.”

MARCUS ERICSSON

“The championship is quite far away now. I go (into Laguna Seca) to win the race. We had a good test there, the car’s been good in the past, and I aim to win, and we’ll see how far that gets us up there. That’s the mindset for the last one.”

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN

“I’m a big golf guy and the (IndyCar Championship Media Day) is actually at Pebble Beach so I’m really excited for that. I wanted to be in the championship fight so I can go to Pebble. It’s working out and we’re going there. I’m so excited. I think Greg (Penske) told me I could play Pebble, so all good as long as I can bring some friends.”

Max Verstappen could clinch second F1 title with victory in Singapore Grand Prix

Max Verstappen F1 Singapore
LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images)
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While last year’s intense Formula One title battle went to the wire and captivated the world of sport, this year’s F1 championship long has seemed a procession for Max Verstappen that could end Sunday in the Singapore Grand Prix.

If the Red Bull driver wins, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crumbles, Verstappen will claim his second consecutive series title.

Verstappen leads Leclerc by 116 points with six races remaining in the 2022 season and will clinch the title if he scores 22 points more than Leclerc, his most realistic head-to-head challenger.

Verstappen, who turned 25 on Friday, must win to clinch a second world title, along with two other scenarios involving Leclerc. If Verstappen wins, Leclerc can finish no higher than ninth; if Verstappen wins and earns a bonus point for fastest lap, Leclerc can finish no higher than eighth.

“It’s quite a long shot,” Verstappen said. “I need a lot of luck for it to happen here, so I don’t really count on it.”

It is more realistic that Verstappen secures the title Oct. 9 at the Japanese GP.

“I think Suzuka will be my first proper opportunity to win the title,” the Dutchman said. “So I’m looking forward to Singapore right now, but I’m also very excited for next week.”

Still, there’ll be no tension in the air Sunday night at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, as in Abu Dhabi last year when Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton lost the title on the last lap to Verstappen. Hamilton missed out on a record eighth F1 title in a controversial finish following a chaotic late restart.

That fans won’t get to see any such drama this season is much to Hamilton’s regret.

“I feel for the fans . . . Last year, going right down to the wire, that was intense for everybody and so it’s never great when the season finishes early,” Hamilton said. “For you, as the one individual (winner) it’s great, but for the actual sport, (it) is not spectacular. Let’s hope for the future that it’s a bit better.”

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez (125 points back), Mercedes driver George Russell (132 behind) and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (152) are mathematical title challengers only.

Red Bull is unlikely to allow Perez an opportunity to beat Verstappen, though, and would deploy him to defend its star driver. Verstappen has won 11 of 16 races, including the past five, taking his career tally to 31.

“It’s been a really special season, and I’m enjoying it a lot,” he said. “But I (will) probably enjoy it more after the season, looking back at it.”

He’s also won from seven different grid positions – a single-season F1 record – including starting from 14th at the Belgian GP last month.

“It’s even good to watch when you’re in the car,” McLaren driver Lando Norris said. “Especially when he starts (far back) and still wins quite easily.”

Hamilton hasn’t been close enough to challenge Verstappen this year after so long in the spotlight.

Two of Hamilton’s came on the last day: in 2008 with an overtake on the last corner of the final race, and in 2014 when he beat then-Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in Abu Dhabi. Two years later, he lost the title in the last race to Rosberg.

Hamilton won the championship with three races left in 2015, and he won the 2020 title at the Turkish GP in a shortened season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With seven titles, that put him even with fellow great Michael Schumacher, who won the 2002 championship with six races remaining. An outstanding campaign saw Schumacher place first or second in 16 of 17 races and third in Malaysia – a race won by his younger brother, Ralf.

Hamilton has a record 103 victories but none this season.

Mercedes has struggled with ground effects, where the floor generates aerodynamic grip – an issue known as porpoising or bouncing – that has been particularly difficult on street circuits like Monaco or Azerbaijan.

Singapore’s tight and sinewy 3.1-mile street course again could be challenging.

“We hope that the car works better here,” Hamilton said. “It really depends how bumpy it is, and the bumps often set the car off. Maybe the car will be fine. Maybe it won’t.”

He does think Mercedes has figured out how to maximize opportunities when they do come.

“We know where those limitations are; we just have to try and work around them,” he said. “I think we were very fortunate, we’re in a much better place I think. So I hope that we’re not far away (from a victory).”

Russell seems to have coped better, however, and leads sixth-place Hamilton by 35 points in the standings. He has seven podium finishes compared to six for Hamilton, who was fifth in the second practice after leading the opening session. The Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc topped the second practice.

Williams driver Alex Albon returns to racing just three weeks after being hospitalized with appendicitis and then suffering subsequent respiratory failure.

Albon jumped back into the Williams FW44 for the first practice session on Friday in hot and humid evening conditions.

“It’s definitely audacious to come back for the toughest race of the season having only just recovered,” Russell said. “But it just goes to show the sort of grit and determination he has.”

Drivers lose around 5 kilos (11 pounds) in weight through dehydration during Sunday’s race.