Race Weekend Central

Inside IndyCar: 5 Drivers Needing Wins to Keep Streaks Alive

The clock is ticking on the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season. Four races still need to be decided, and the championship is coming down to a two-man show between two rival teams: Alex Palou driving for Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.

However, even as those two hit the track for the last four events, there are drivers in the field clawing to get back in the winner’s column to prevent an 0-for-nothing conclusion to a lackluster season. 

Out of the field of 27 full-time teams, five drivers are facing uncertainty on repeating from the previous year by visiting victory lane, and considering the limited number of races left, it’s a guarantee at least one of them will be winless. Two of them have winning streaks that are in their second decade of existence.

Let’s dive into this list and examine which races will offer the best chance for these drivers to win.

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Scott Dixon and Will Power

These two mainstays of the IndyCar field are in the top five of total wins in the history of the sport. Scott Dixon and Will Power are also blazing a trail of consistency in their careers unlike anything seen before their time. 

Heading into this weekned’s Gallagher Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dixon and Power have streaks of 18 and 16 seasons with a win, respectively. That streak, scrolling through the list of all-time greats, appears to be the top two in IndyCar’s record books. Dixon last won at Nashville over a year ago and Power triumphed at the final race on the old Belle Isle Detroit layout. What’s more astounding about this situation for Power is that he entered the season as the defending champion, albeit off of that lone Detroit win a year ago, but still clearly capable.

He has nailed down four podiums, including two second-place results at Detroit and Iowa Race 2, but led only 176 laps which includes 149 during the Iowa doubleheader weekend. Withholding those laps, only 27 other laps saw him upfront, a peculiar circumstance considering how fast he has been in his career. The defending champion is currently seventh in points and will not be able to win back-to-back titles.

Dixon has been following his career story line perfectly, which is to get what he can out of his car, and bring home a good finish if the win isn’t there. This has enabled him to be as high as second in points for two races and prevent championship elimination. But the Kiwi has only been up front for 13 laps all year, and no race saw him leading for more than three.

Even at Indianapolis, the all-time lap leader who, up to this year’s race, led more than a third of the laps at the 500 with the aeroscreen since 2020, never paced the field. If he is to go winless, it would be the end of the longest streak in IndyCar history, as he has won in 18 straight seasons dating back to his last year with the under-powered Toyota engine in 2005. 

Pato O’Ward

This season is not what Arrow McLaren and Pato O’Ward were expecting when they hit the track at St. Petersburg. After a promising start was derailed by a mechanical issue, in which Marcus Ericsson got around O’Ward to win the first race with a few laps to go, there were still positive signs for the near future.

At Texas O’Ward was in contention and appeared to have the best of Newgarden, but was unable to mount a last lap pass due to a late caution. Two more podiums followed at Barber and the GMR Grand Prix. At the Indianapolis 500 he led the most laps but crashed with eight to go trying to get around Ericsson. He’s gotten back to being a consistent presence in the top 10, but hasn’t led since Detroit and last visited victory lane over a year ago at Iowa Race 2.

There’s no doubt he has speed, but he’s been unable to match Palou who has dominated on the tracks both of them share aptitude at – road and street courses. 

Colton Herta

The young California native Colton Herta entered the season as the senior driver at Andretti Autosport, an impressive feat for a 23-year-old. Last year he took one victory and it was at a rainy GMR Grand Prix. For most of the season he has been a top-10 contender but unable to advance further than that.

However his season is more inline with O’Ward than Dixon or Power, as he had several races where he was a factor but didn’t seal the deal. At the Sonsio Grand Prix of Road America he led the most laps from the pole, but a mistimed final pit stop forced him to conserve fuel on the stint to the finish. Whether a consequence of that result of not, Herta arrived at the next round at Mid-Ohio with a new strategist, but another near miss. He started from pole there and led 26 laps, but fell to 11th. 

If he were to finish the season winless, it would be a disappointment in an otherwise stellar start to his career, as he won in his rookie year in 2020, a similar feat accomplished by Dixon and the next driver on this list.

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Alexander Rossi

If the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi were to be unable to net a win this year, that shouldn’t be a bad omen for the future. The American jumped into a new team, taking his talents to the Arrow McLaren team after concluding his time with Andretti Autosport at the end of last year. Heading into this weekend, he is the defending winner of the Gallagher Grand Prix, which was his first win since the 2019 season. It’s been a bit of a learning curve for Rossi, but there are positive signs as a streak of three top fives early in the year showcases. Still, it’s early for him to fret, and considering how the rest of his team has run – Arrow McLaren is winless all year – he shouldn’t see 2023 as a disappointment if he takes no trophy home.

Best Chances To Win

Power will be fully capable of grabbing his first win at this weekend’s Gallagher Grand Prix. He’s won there five times, including back to back GMR Grands Prix in 2020 and 2021 as well having maintained a 6.7 average finish. That’s better than the rest of the drivers on this list. 

Look for Dixon to try to grab a win at Portland, as he’s averaged 6.8 in the series’ four races there since 2018 and racked up three top fives in that time. But, this is Scott Freaking Dixon, the guy can honestly have a chance at any of these races.

If there is any candidate to knock oval king Newgarden off his throne in the final oval race at World Wide Technology Raceway, it’s O’Ward. His four finishes at the track are impressive – third, second, second and fourth. He’s also paced for 141 laps. The track is considered a short track by IndyCar standards, and O’Ward ran well at Iowa, the other short track on the schedule, in the last two years so he’ll be itching to get his win there. 

There’s something about a Herta at Laguna Seca that can’t be overlooked. Whether it’s the current generation driver or the patriarch, Hertas have run well there and won. Herta has two wins at his hometown track, and when the series hits the newly paved road course to conclude the season, the Andretti Autosport No. 26 car will hope this is the track where he locks in a win. 

Rossi’s best track remaining on the schedule is Portland. He has racked up two podiums there and never finished worse than eighth. If a win is to align on his trajectory with his new team, that would be the best place for him. 

For these five drivers, any hope of locking a W in their victory column will start to be fleeting after this weekend. Not only do they have to contend with each other, but also with the likes of Palou on the road and street courses, and Newgarden at the Gateway oval which he has dominated. But that can’t hold them back, as time is ticking on their chances. 

About the author

Tom is an IndyCar writer at Frontstretch, joining in March 2023. He also works full-time for the Department of Veterans Affairs History Office and is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. A native Hoosier, he's followed IndyCar closely since 1991 and calls Fort Wayne home. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomBlackburn42.

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Jeremy

Rossi is not as big of a surprise (IMO) as the others. Herta is kind of surprising. I don’t think anyone would have thought at the beginning of the year that the other 3 wouldn’t have at least a win each by now. Based on what I’ve seen this year I think Dixon is in the most danger of having his streak end. I say that simply because (unless I’m forgetting something) he’s not been qualifying well at all. At least Power and O’Ward have been starting (and running) closer to the front and giving themselves a chance. Sure, qualifying isn’t everything, but it’s easier to pass/strategize your way past 5 cars than it is 15. Dixon has been consistent, but he seems to be lacking the speed O’Ward and Power have shown at times. Why, I don’t know. I’m sure it’s not for lack of effort to figure it out.

Jeremy

Well, so much for that predictiont! lol

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