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TWO TO GO – Breaking Down the Verizon IndyCar Championship Picture

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With only two races to go in the Verizon IndyCar Series season, it’s no secret the focus is primarily on the battle for the championship, and reasonably so as the title race has continued to heat up with Alexander Rossi closing the gap to Scott Dixon.

So as we get set for the Portland Grand Prix this weekend, here’s everything you need to know moving forward….

A race winner earns 50 points, but recall Sonoma Raceway is a double points event. That means if a driver wins both events, they would score 150 points. But wait – there’s also a bonus point if you win the pole, a bonus point for leading a lap, and two bonus points if you pace the most laps. So technically, a driver could earn 158 points if they are perfect the next two races.

On the flip side, if a driver was to mess up and finish last in both events – say if there’s 22 starters, and didn’t lead a lap or win the pole, they’d only score a whopping 24 points (eight at Portland, 16 at Sonoma). It’s highly unlikely considering the talent we’re dealing with, but you never know as sometimes you have to expect the unexpected.

The different from the most you can achieve to the last is 134 points. That means entering the final two races, the following drivers have a mathematical chance – Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi (-29), Josef Newgarden (-66), Will Power (-81), and Ryan Hunter-Reay (-119). Obviously, the further back you are in points and standings position, the less your chances become because you need more things to happen in your favor.

The interesting factor in all of this is the fact that this will be the first ever IndyCar race at Portland International Raceway so there’s no way to know which of those five will be fastest, and who will struggle to find the right handle. Perhaps expecting the unexpected is still a good motto because you never know.

Dixon knows what it’s like to be here as he has won the championship four times, and come close with loss more than that. He’s been the man of consistency lately, scoring four straight top-fives highlighted by the victory in Toronto. Don’t expect that to change at Sonoma, either, as he has two wins and three top-fives in the last four races.

Despite Dixon’s consistency, Rossi has been closing the gap a little bit more each week, pacing 250 laps in the last three races with two wins and a runner-up. Being hot at the right time may pay off, but he needs to overcome his poor showings at Sonoma as he finished fifth and 21st  in his pair of starts in California.

Josef Newgarden has been on a mission to go back-to-back this year, scoring six straight top-nine finishes since his win at Road America. But if he is going to DefendThe1 as he says, his finishes are going to need to match his qualifying performances as he has started in the top-four in the last seven races. Fortunately, he scored a runner-up last year at Sonoma en route to his crowning moment.

Will Power’s season has been up and down, but finding the right path to success with three straight podiums including the win at Gateway may lead him to success if fellow title mates find a bit of trouble. He knows how to win at Sonoma, scoring three wins and five podiums in nine starts.

Although everybody seems to have momentum in this title chase, Ryan Hunter-Reay is at the other end of the spectrum with back-to-back finishes outside of the top-15. It’s going to take back-to-back wins, and a whole lot of luck if he wants to close the gap as his title chances fade away slowly. If there’s any hope to be had, he has finished in the top-eight in his last five appearances at Sonoma with a pair of runner-ups.

If you want to go with veteran stamina, then the odds appear to be in Scott Dixon’s favor. Though if you’re going with momentum, you may shift your championship choice over to Alexander Rossi.

No matter who wins the title, though, there’s one thing for certain – the fans are set to be in for a treat.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenWheel.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Ashley McCubbin is currently studying journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber while writing for multiple websites. She also serves on the managing staff for a select few. Born in North York, Ontario, McCubbin currently lives in Bradford, Ontario and spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area where she enjoys taking photos and working on websites.

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