Aussie Power in tight IndyCar title fight

·4-min read

What's 10 points worth? That's what Will Power hopes he doesn't find out while trying to close out the closest IndyCar championship fight in nearly 20 years.

The Australian takes a 20-point lead into Sunday's season finale at Laguna Seca Raceway over six-time champion Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden, Power's Team Penske teammate and a two-time IndyCar champion.

Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson remains in contention, as does Scott McLaughlin, who sits 41 points behind compatriot and teammate Power.

In all, five drivers mathematically have a shot but there are plenty of Power fans who believe the Toowoomba ace could have had some breathing room in this title fight had Team Penske done him any favours.

McLaughlin last week dominated at Portland to win his third race of the season and Power finished second to retain his hold on the points lead.

Power definitely did not have a car as good as McLaughlin's, but challenger Dixon was closing fast behind him in both the race and title fight.

If Team Penske had called for "team orders" and asked McLaughlin to cede the lead to Power, he'd have 10 additional points over Dixon and Newgarden.

The call Dixon considered a "no-brainer" never came and now Power must finish no lower than third to clinch the title.

Those additional points could have taken some of the pressure off Power to be perfect on Sunday and helped him preserve the hold he's had on the championship three different times this season, including the last four races.

Even though Power was calling for the team orders over his radio at Portland, he knows Team Penske has never used them and it's the fairest way to manage three individual teams.

"They've never done that. When you think about it, it would have been unfair on Josef to do that because if I was in his position, I would not be happy to be put 30 points back," Power said Thursday.

"From a team perspective, it was a fair thing to do. It would be great to get 10 points. But yeah, Team Penske doesn't do that."

Dixon and Ericsson are teammates at Chip Ganassi Racing and understand how the boss wants them to race.

"I think the thing Chip stresses is that you race clean, you race fairly, you help your teammates and you hope the organisation wins," Dixon told The Associated Press. He added the Penske trio "do seem to race more singularly."

There's been wide speculation McLaughlin allowed Newgarden to take the lead and the win after a late restart at Gateway last month. McLaughlin has said publicly Newgarden, his close friend and co-host of their YouTube series, used "the slipstream effect" to pass him fairly.

Penske and Ganassi have teamed to win 14 of the last 16 IndyCar championships, nine have gone to Ganassi, including the last two.

Power, coincidentally, was on the losing end of three consecutive title races from 2010 to 2012 and finished runner-up twice to a Ganassi driver.

He won his only title in 2014, his only Indianapolis 500 four years later, and has had to go head-to-head with his Penske teammates every year.

Coming off his the worst season of his 14 years driving for Roger Penske, Power had career lows in nearly every category and was ninth in the final 2021 standings but has returned to top form.

He attributes it to now being 41 years old and a father, which have both mellowed many of his quirks and matured his approach to performance.

Although he has only one win this season, Power has been remarkably consistent with an average finish of sixth and at Gateway tied Mario Andretti for most poles in IndyCar history with 67.

But he's been seemingly cast away at Penske, where the tight bond between Newgarden and McLaughlin has made Power the odd driver out of the cool club on a three-car team.

Power wasn't really joking when asked about McLaughlin allegedly giving Newgarden the Gateway win and said "that's his best buddy, so he is probably going to do that."