Power Wins Second IndyCar Title; Palou Victorious in Season Finale Featured
Standing in a rain of confetti, Power recaptured the championship trophy for the first time in 8 years. Power, then 33, won his first championship in 2014 with 3 wins, dominating a season in which he never fell below second in the points standings. This year, he faced a tougher road. While he did lead the points standings early in the year, he didn’t regain the points lead until race 13/17 at Indy. Power now joins an illustrious list of multi-time IndyCar Champions with his second title on Sunday in 2022.
Power entered Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca with a 20-point lead over teammate Josef Newgarden and 6-time champion Scott Dixon. If he placed on the podium, he was guaranteed the title, and his chances of doing so looked good on Saturday. Power qualified on the pole and led the field to green. Said Power of his pole, which was the fifth of the season for him,
“I couldn't really enjoy the pole yesterday because I was so focused on the race.”
Rookie Callum Ilott put in a stellar run to start second in Sunday’s race, and had an immensely impressive race until lap 39, when his engine failed. He ended up bringing out the only caution of the race, as the remainder of the event was incident-free. Power led the first 14 laps before giving it up during a pit cycle, in which the lead changed hands multiple times. Alex Palou emerged as the leader as the race approached halfway, and he settled in as the sole frontrunner for the win. While he was eliminated from championship contention at Portland last week, Palou was winless on the season, which made the win at Laguna Seca all the more enticing. The driver of the no. 10 NTT Data Honda ran away with the lead and the win while Power fought to clinch the championship.
Josef Newgarden, still with a chance at the title, drove up to second after starting in 25th place due to a qualifying spin. He did all that he could, but was unable to catch Palou for the lead or a break that would allow him to gain more points on Power. Palou resulted in leading 67 out of 95 laps en route to a dominating win in what may have been his last race for Chip Ganassi Racing, winning by over 30 seconds. Newgarden placed second, and Power clinched his second title by taking the final podium spot.
Felix Rosenqvist, with an uncertain future in IndyCar, closed out an up-and-down season of his own to place fourth, and Christian Lundgaard wrapped up an impressive rookie season in fifth, capturing the Rookie of the Year crown.
Scott McLaughlin capped off a strong sophomore season in sixth, and Romain Grosjean finished seventh. Pato O’Ward, Marcus Ericsson, and Alexander Rossi concluded the top 10.
Power’s championship comes a year after his worst points finish in 13 years in 2021, when he finished ninth with only one win. This year, he also only had one win, at Belle Isle, but he was remarkably consistent. He had an average finish of 5.9, and only had one finish worse than 15th (19th at Road America). The championship drive was smooth and calm down the stretch as he slowly reeled in Marcus Ericsson, tallying 5 podiums in the last 7 races. Power led the series in podiums with 9, and he finished every race on the lead lap. His consistency is ultimately what won him the championship.
“You can't leave anything on the table,” Power explained. “That's what makes this series so tough and unique is that you've got all these disciplines. Even the difference between a road course and a street course is quite significant in our series because the street course is extremely rough and bumpy and tight. There's not a series like it. I'm going to say it's the toughest series in the world because of what you've got to master to win it and the competition level. You don't even have to take my word for it; just do the math on lap times, and you'll see that we're the toughest, the most competitive series in the world.”
Power was glad that it came down to the wire and wasn’t a runaway for the championship this year.
“Yeah, it was a hard fight to the end,” he said. “You're fighting Dixon and Newgarden, like two of the best guys in the series. It's very satisfying. Very satisfying. That matters. It's not fun -- it's fun at the time when you win with ease, but it's way better when it was a difficult fight to the end, which it was. It adds to the satisfaction. “
Newgarden, with his podium finish, came up second in the season points standings to Power. For the 2-time champion, now runner-up for the championship in three straight seasons, there may have been a scenario where things worked out differently; Newgarden was dominating late at Iowa when something broke in the car, knocking him out of the race and costing him dozens of points. When he fell short by only 16 points to Power in the end, the season was surely bittersweet.
Scott Dixon placed third in the standings, his sixth straight season of being top-5 in points. Scott McLaughlin finished in fourth, and 2021 champ Alex Palou climbed up to fifth with his win. 2022 Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, who led the points for multiple weeks this summer, resulted in sixth in points, meaning the top 6 spots in the standings belonged to drivers from either Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing.
With the checkered flag flying at Laguna Seca on Sunday, the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season is in the books. Not without its own intrigue and excitement, the ultra-competitive field put on a stellar show once again. Now, as 2022 concludes, all teams and drivers turn their eyes to the offseason, contract negotiations, and preparing for the beginning of the 2023 season next spring.
Ethan Miller is 17 years old and resides in Pennsylvania. He aspires to become a sports writer following high school, and views writing for Speedway Digest as the next step towards a career in journalism. Ethan currently hosts the QuickPitPodcast with a few fellow NASCAR fans, which can be found on all major podcast platforms.