There are seven drivers still mathematically in position to claim the 2022 IndyCar Series title. Sunday's race, however, will go a long way in narrowing that down.
Portland International Raceway will be a welcome site to defending series champion Alex Palou. Sitting fifth, the Spaniard jumpstarted his championship push by winning here in 2021, and he will likely need to win again to keep himself in the conversation at Laguna Seca. Likewise Scott McLaughin and Pato O'Ward, who are sitting sixth and seventh, respectively.
But the real race will be between the top four, which are separated by only 17 points. And it's a top four full of experience save for one driver, who does have one big bonafide. Will Power leads the field into the weekend, and the 2014 series champion is just three points ahead of his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, a two-time champion (2017, 2019). Third sits six-time series champion Scott Dixon, and just behind him is his Chip Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson, who is in search of his first series title but does have the 2022 Indianapolis 500 crown to his credit.
If you are keeping track of these sort of things, that's three Penske drivers (Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin) and three CGR drivers (Dixon, Ericsson and Palou) in the chase, with O'Ward of Arrow McLaren SP the outlier. It's also four Chevrolet-powered cars to three Hondas.
Strategy at the start will be simple for all seven: Survive the Turn 1-2-3 chicane.
It will be interesting to see who will be able to temper their desire with their discretion.
How to watch the IndyCar Portland Grand Prix
- Date: Sunday, Sept. 4
- Location: 1.964-mile (3.166-kilometer) oval, Portland International Raceway, Portland, Ore.
- Time: 3 p.m. ET
- TV: NBC
- Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
What to expect
The 12-turn road course is noted for its difficult Turn 1-2-3 chicane complex at the end of a long front straight, where too many cars typically try to fit into a space that can't accommodate all of them, leading cars to go every which way -- including over each other. The 2021 edition saw such a convergence, with Felix Rosenqvist giving a little tap to then-teammate Scott Dixon, causing the pole-sitter to get a bit loose and sending cars left, right and pretty much everywhere except for the actual turn surface.
For a road course, PIR is also relatively flat. Aside from that opening chicane complex, PIR is noted for Turn 7, one of the better passing opportunities on the track due to its high-braking zone that challenges drivers to perhaps brake just a little later to get the better angle to execute the pass. The final three turns on the course (10-11-12) are not as severe or as complex as the opening three, but negotiating it right gives the driver a great opportunity to position the car for a great launch back down the front straight.