IndyCar 2022 season finale: Alex Palou wins Firestone Grand Prix; Will Power takes the title
Power has won the IndyCar Series championship for the second time
There were two winners on Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Chip Ganassi Racing's Alex Palou, the 2021 IndyCar Series champion, broke through for his first win of the season in the final race of the season. But the big winner was Will Power, who did just enough by finishing third to take the series championship for the second time in his career. Power overcame the challenge of Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, who charged from the 25th spot on the grid to finish second as well as second in the points table to Power.
"Man, what a relief," Power said later to IndyCar.com. "What a relief to get that done."
Out of the running early on Sunday were Palou's CGR teammates Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson, and the third Team Penske car of Scott McLaughlin, who just couldn't find the right mix of speed, strategy and luck to stay in the fight, with McLaughlin finishing sixth, Ericsson ninth and Dixon 12th, respectively.
Starting from pole, Power didn't have to do as much as his challengers as Newgarden, Dixon, Ericsson and McLaughlin all started deeper in the field. That's not to say he was just out for a Sunday drive, but needing to only finish third or better at the start meant he could manage his race far differently than those behind him, who needed to finish ahead of him — if not win.
Newgarden's path was particularly tough as a mistake in qualifying saw him start 25th. Using a different strategy put him in position but the best strategy of all is having a fast car, and Newgarden clearly had that. His passes in the famous "Corkscrew" gave him hope that he was going to be the one to pop the champagne in the Winner's Circle, but instead he ended up sharing the spoils as Power's teammate at the finish.
"Even yesterday, with the heartache there, we came back, we fought and we nearly got there," Newgarden told IndyCar.com. "I'm proud of the effort. We're going to come back stronger next year.
"But I'm proud of this team. Huge congrats to Will and the entire team."
Although Palou and his team are suing each other over Palou's contract situation, the mood in Victory Lane was happy. And in that regard Palou was a double-winner, this difficult season coming to an end on a high as he works out how to extract himself from CGR and move on to Arrow McLaren SP. He danced around a question as to whether he would be driving for CGR next season with a "we'll see ... let's enjoy this moment."
"I don't know what happened today, but everything clicked," Palou told IndyCar.com. "Today was awesome. Strategy was on point. It's good to finish a season with a win."
Official race results
- Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing
- Josef Newgarden, Team Penske
- Will Power, Team Penske
- Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP
- Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
- Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske
- Romain Grosjean, Andretti Autosport
- Pato O'Ward, Arrow McLaren SP
- Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing
- Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport
- Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport
- Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing
- David Malukas, Dale Coyne Racing
- Rinus Veekay, Ed Carpenter Racing
- Devlin DeFrancesco, Andretti Autosport
- Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing
- Simon Pagenaud, Meyer Shank Racing
- Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
- Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank Racing
- Jack Harvey, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
- Kyle Kirkwood, A.J. Foyt Enterprises
- Simona De Silvestro, Paretta Racing
- Takuma Sato, Dale Coyne Racing
- Conor Daly, Ed Carpenter Racing
- Dalton Kellett, A.J. Foyt Enterprises
- Callum Ilott, Juncos Hollinger
What we learned
If this is the last we see of Palou in an IndyCar, that is honestly a shame. He is a superb driver, and while he will likely be a contender in any series other than Formula 1 (where equipment means so much), he certainly has a home in IndyCar.
Losing Palou, and possibly Colton Herta, will hurt, but IndyCar still has some great young drivers. Newgarden is amazing, McLaughlin not far behind, and rookies Christian Lundgaard and David Malukas have shown incredible poise and race craft. Callum Ilott came on late in the season, and his team (Juncos Hollinger Racing) will expand to a two-car team in 2023.
As for the old lions, Power and Dixon have shown there is still some life left in them. Even Graham Rahal looked rejuvenated.
So, driver wise, IndyCar looks fine on that front. Now it needs a bit more help from its broadcast partner and an aggressive marketing push by its sponsors to help give it a push. Formula 1 has made great inroads this season in the U.S. market, and IndyCar needs to find some magic to get more eyes on the racing.
With 14 laps to Palou has checked out from the field at the front, 26 seconds ahead of Newgarden, who holds a 1.5-plus second lead over Power.
As it runs now, Power will claim his second IndyCar Series title.
Newgarden makes his final stop at Lap 74 and returns in second and on sticker "blacks."
The top six are Palou, Newgarden, Power, Grosjean, Rosenqvist and O'Ward.
No doubt about it: Newgarden needs help.
Even if he wins the race, he would need Power to finish sixth or worse.
With the way the bonus points have played out, Power need only finish in the top five now to claim his second IndyCar title.
Lap 70 of 95 and Newgarden leads after Palou's stop, who returns in second, and Power.
it could be that Newgarden has simply run out of cars to pass and push Power down the grid farther.