The NTT INDYCAR SERIES heads to World Wide Technology Raceway this weekend for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline, the last oval race of the 2022 season and the first of three events in an effort to crown a series champion.
No surprise here: Given the competitiveness of the races to date, the roundtable panel is again split on which driver will go to victory lane. Check out the arguments on behalf of these drivers and their teams. Last year's podium is above.
Curt Cavin: My results in this friendly competition haven’t been great this season, which is why these are written purely for entertainment purposes. The easy pick is Josef Newgarden, who usually delivers at his best tracks. It’s also easy to go with a Penske driver given these three finished first, third and fourth in last year’s race. My radio partner made a solid case for Scott McLaughlin, and I like that line of thought a lot. But I’m thinking about the driver who was Newgarden’s match for most of last year’s race, leading 101 of the 260 laps until he broke a halfshaft during a late-race pit stop: That’s Colton Herta. I’d like to think the Andretti Autosport standout will continue to excel in late-season races – three of his seven career series wins have come deep in a season – and finally earn his first oval-track victory at this level.
Arni Sribhen: It’s the final oval race of the year, and there have been two stars when it comes to ovals in 2022: Pato O’Ward and Josef Newgarden. Two of Newgarden’s four wins this season have come on ovals and O’Ward has finished on the podium in three of the four races this season. When you couple that form with their history at World Wide Technology Raceway – O’Ward has three podiums in three starts and Newgarden has three wins in six races, including the last two – and they are the slam dunk picks for this week. And while picking either one of them could help extend my winning streak to five races, I’m going with a driver I think could beat both of them at WWTR. Newgarden’s teammate Will Power has been fast at WWTR scoring three pole positions and three podiums in his previous six starts at the track. He’s also in the midst of the title race and needs strong finishes if he wants to be a two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion. I think this is Power’s year and his weekend too. Bonus pick: Take a look at Takuma Sato as a Darkhorse. WWTR might be Sato’s best track historically. He has five top-10 finishes in six starts with an average finish of 7.67. Sato has won at WWTR before. He might just do it again.
Paul Kelly: It says a lot about the incredibly competitive nature of the race for the Astor Challenge Cup this season that Pato O’Ward is only 59 points behind leader Will Power but seventh in the standings. A driver earns a minimum of 51 points for a victory, so Pato is just a tick over one race worth of points from the lead with three races to go, and he’s seventh – sheesh! So, I feel like the race at the track formerly known as Gateway is Pato’s Last Stand in this year’s title hunt. He needs to go on a hell of a roll over these last three races, arguably sweeping or coming close to winning all three, to earn his first championship. O’Ward is more than capable of winning the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline, based on his recent performance at Iowa. Yes, World Wide Technology Raceway isn’t a bullring like Iowa, where O’Ward finished second and first, respectively, in a doubleheader last month. But the asymmetrical, 1.25-mile oval drives more like a short track than a superspeedway, so I think O’Ward will get it done this Saturday night and remain in title contention.