Race Weekend Central

2021 IndyCar Summer Break Update: Championship Contenders

After 10 of 16 races in the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season, let’s take a look at how the preseason drivers that were rated as championship contenders have done in 2021.

Scott Dixon has six IndyCar championships and had one of the most dominating wins of the season at the first race at Texas Motor Speedway. However, since that race, Dixon has not stepped on the podium, with three fourth place finishes. In fact, the 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner has only one finish outside the top 10 all season, that being a 17th place finish at the Indianapolis 500 after Dixon had a fueling issue on his first pit stop under yellow.

Dixon is currently third in points, 56 points behind teammate Alex Palou, who has led the points almost the entire season.

Josef Newgarden is fourth in IndyCar points, 13 points behind Dixon, but his season has been full of ups and downs. Coming through the first lap at Barber Motorsports Park, Newgarden spun in front of the field, collecting multiple cars in an incident. Newgarden would then finish second twice in the next three races but then had back-to-back races in Detroit and Road America where the Tennessee native would lead the most laps but would fail to win the race.

At Detroit, Newgarden’s red sidewall alternate tires were unable to keep him ahead of Pato O’Ward with less than a handful of laps to go. At Road America, Newgarden encountered a shifting issue that dropped him from the lead within the final two laps of the race. Victory would be Newgarden’s at Mid-Ohio after his crew performed an engine change the evening before the race.

Alexander Rossi’s 2021 IndyCar season has had more peaks and valleys than a mountain range. The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner has one top five finish this season with a fifth place finish at Mid-Ohio and has quite a few other top 10 finishes. However, Rossi is 12th in points with three finishes of 20th or worse.

2021 in many ways has been a continuation of 2020 for Rossi. The No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda was near the front much of last season but couldn’t break through into victory lane, and 2021 has been more of the same. However, there are six more races for Rossi to find his way to victory lane to try and get back into the top 10 in points.

Colton Herta is currently seventh in IndyCar points and his 2021 season has been feast or famine for the 21-year-old. Herta won the second race of the season at St. Petersburg but has either finished well or way down the order.

Herta was involved in the first lap melee at Barber and had a right rear mechanical failure at Texas Motor Speedway, giving him a pair of 22nd place finishes to go along with his win at St. Petersburg. After a fifth in the second Texas race, Herta finished 13th or worse in four of the next six races, the only bright spots being a fourth in the second Detroit race and a second at Road America. The California native is only 20 points behind Marcus Ericsson in fifth place in points, so Herta isn’t out of the title hunt yet.

Sitting just 17 points outside the top 10 in IndyCar points is Will Power. The 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner started his season off with a second place finish at Barber and an eighth at St. Petersburg after qualifying deep in the field. However, no finishes above 11th in the next five races dropped Power in the standings. However, after Power’s second podium of the season at Road America, he suffered an early DNF that has hurt his championship hopes big time.

Power was racing Dixon hard in the opening handful of laps at Mid-Ohio when contact between the two sent the 2014 IndyCar champion spinning. With nowhere to go, Ed Jones hit the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet, causing Power to finish 25th. With a strong second half of the season, Power could get back in the top 10 in points, and maybe a top five, but Power is 175 points behind Palou.

Simon Pagenaud’s pair of third place finishes has the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet sixth in points, but his 2021 season has been one of mainly waiting in the wings. The 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner has two podium finishes and four finishes between sixth and 10th. However, four finishes of 12th or lower have limited Pagenaud to sixth in points, nine points behind fifth place.

For a recap, here’s where the preseason championship contenders are in points:

Scott Dixon: 3rd

Josef Newgarden: 4th

Simon Pagenaud: 6th

Colton Herta: 7th

Will Power: 11th

Alexander Rossi: 12th

About the author

Christopher DeHarde has covered IndyCar racing and the Road to Indy for various outlets since 2014. In addition to open wheel racing, DeHarde has also covered IMSA and various short track racing events around Indiana. Originally from New Orleans, DeHarde moved to the Indianapolis area in 2017 to further pursue a career as a motorsports writer.

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