Today’s question: What is your biggest takeaway from the stretch of five races in four weeks recently completed by the NTT INDYCAR SERIES?
Curt Cavin: Doesn’t it have to be Scott Dixon surging from sixth to second in the standings? He won the Honda Indy Toronto and the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix while posting a pair of top-five finishes in the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Weekend at Iowa Speedway and finishing eighth in the Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. That’s an average finish of 3.8 during that stretch, a championship-level performance by any definition. Oh, sure, there have been many notable performances, like Will Power taking the points lead from Marcus Ericsson and then holding it, and the emergence of rookie Christian Lundgaard has been impressive. Take note of Alexander Rossi ending his three-year victory drought, as well. But these four weeks have featured two street races, two short oval races and a permanent road course event, and it should surprise no one that the best driver of his generation was the best of the bunch. Dixon’s sights are on a record-tying seventh series title, and I wouldn’t bet against him getting it.
Paul Kelly: Scott Dixon’s ascent through this summer stretch is a fine choice by Curt. But I’ll go beyond the headlines and say I’ve been very impressed by the resurgence of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing during this stretch. Full candor: I thought this season would be a total write-off for one of INDYCAR’s longest-running and marquee teams. After all, drivers Graham Rahal, Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey combined to produce just six top-10 finishes in the first nine races. In the last five races, they’ve piled up eight top-10s, with four by Lundgaard, three by Rahal and Harvey’s first top 10 in a steady run last Sunday at Nashville. None of those drivers nor this team will contend for a title this season, but they are setting the table nicely for a far more competitive 2023 season. Qualifying remains this team’s Kryptonite, as only Lundgaard qualified in the first three rows of a race during the five-race summer stretch. If RLL can solve that problem, it will bother the power teams at Penske, Ganassi, AMSP and Andretti and could contend for a victory in the last three races of the season. RLL is putting it together nicely after a very rugged first half of the season.