Crazy as it seems, we’ve reached Labor Day weekend and the unofficial end of summer.
We’ve also reached the penultimate round of the IndyCar season, which returns to the Pacific Northwest this weekend after a very successful rebirth in Portland a year ago.
So who is bringing the momentum to the PDX, and who is looking for a little bit of good mojo?
Let’s find out as we examine which drivers are coming in hot, and which aren’t.
Santino Ferrucci — The 20-year-old American makes his 20th IndyCar start this Sunday, and is coming off back-to-back fourth-place finishes at Pocono and Gateway. Last weekend at Gateway Ferrucci led a race-high 97 laps and finished the oval season with just one finish out of the Top 10, which was a 12th-place effort at Iowa. He’s also moved up to ninth in the season points standings and sits two points ahead of Felix Rosenqvist in the Rookie of the Year standings. Is a podium in his very near future?
Conor Daly — After beginning the year unemployed, Daly will end up finishing the season having run seven races this season, for three different teams. After finishing sixth at Gateway last week, Daly jumps into Marcus Ericsson’s No. 7 car this weekend, as Ericsson’s services were needed in Formula 1 this weekend. Daly is in a very good ride this weekend and jumps back into his familiar No. 25 Andretti Autosport machine for the season finale at Laguna. Two good results to close out the season could solidify Daly’s ride next season, as he has shown he’s deserving of one in his efforts in 2019.
Simon Pagenaud — Since winning at Toronto last month, Pagenaud has finished in the Top 5 in three of the last four races, and keeps inching his way towards Team Penske mate Josef Newgarden in the championship standings. His P5 at Gateway leapfrogged him past Alexander Rossi and he now sits 38 points in arrears of Newgarden. Wow, all of the doubts about Pagenaud’s future that cropped up in the spring seems so long ago, doesn’t it?
Takuma Sato — Last week’s unlikely winner at Gateway comes into this weekend as the defending champion here at Portland. Sato has had some very “No Attack, no chance” moments this year — especially at Pocono — but overall is having the finest IndyCar season of his career. With two wins and standing sixth in the season points, a strong close to the year makes a Top 5 finish in the championship standings a possibility.\
Newgarden — Since winning at Iowa, Newgarden has spun out on the last lap at Mid-Ohio, finished a very non-competitive fifth at Pocono, and followed that up with a P7 at Gateway after winning the pole but spinning out on the last lap. I’ll pin the blame on that incident on Ferrucci, but the fact of the matter is that if Newgarden focused on points rather than two last-lap dive bomb moves, he’d probably be up by more than 50 points right now. I can also understand his getting into Santino’s face afterwards but dude, you are trying to close out a championship. He’s got to block that kind of stuff out.
Alexander Rossi — Last year Rossi dropped three podiums in his last five races to position himself for a championship. Over the last two weekends he’s gone P18 and P13 and has fallen to third in the championship standings and 46 points behind Newgarden. It’s reaching the point where Rossi may need to win the last two races of the season to have a thought about the title.
Pocono Raceway — If the chatter is true that Pocono will be replaced by Richmond, it will be the biggest loser of the IndyCar season. I wish I could be happy about this move, and I would be if Richmond was just an addition to the schedule. Hopefully in the end that will be the case. Otherwise, I don’t understand this move, just from a business standpoint. The people at Pocono have obviously worked hard to promote the race, as evidenced by double-digit increases in attendance. It’s unfortunate to see this race go away.
Pit Lane Parley
Host Mike, Jess and Matt had lots to talk about this week, including a rehash of the weekend at Gateway, the Ferrucci/Newgarden skirmish and a preview of this weekend’s events at Portland. You can catch it here on iTunes.
Photo credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media