Who will be the 2018 IndyCar champ boils down to a matter of numbers

Jerry Bonkowski
NBC Sports

Numbers are the lifeblood of motorsports. Whether it’s speed, elapsed time, margin of victory, number of laps led or more, numbers are at the heart of what makes any form of motorsport tick.

That being said, numbers will obviously determine how the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship plays out.

But in this case, it will be points that make this year’s champion. Sure, speed and elapsed time will play a part, but it’s overall points that will be on the minds of the four remaining championship contenders heading into this weekend’s Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma (California) Raceway.

The most important aspect for Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Will Power and Josef Newgarden is Sunday will be one of two double-points races this season, the other being the Indianapolis 500 back in May.

A maximum total of 104 points are available to be earned by any single driver in Sunday’s race:

* 100 points for the race win, double the usual amount of 50 points awarded in 15 of the other 17 races this year.

Up to four potential bonus points are available, too, which have the potential to be the difference between winning or losing the championship. According to IndyCar, a driver can earn:

* One point for winning the pole.

* One point for leading at least one lap in the race.

* Two points for leading the most laps in a race.

Let’s break down how the numbers play out for the four drivers battling it out for the title:

Scott Dixon: Since winning at Texas in early June – his second of three wins thus far this season (also won at Belle Isle 1 and Toronto) Dixon has been the series points leader. That means the New Zealand native and four-time IndyCar champ has been at the head of the pack for the entire second half the season.

Dixon holds a 29-point lead over Rossi heading to Sonoma. If Dixon wins the race or finishes second, he’s the champion for a fifth time. The key is Dixon can’t lose more than 28 points to Rossi in Sunday’s race to clinch the title. Granted, Dixon needs to win the championship by just one point, but how he gets it and how Rossi fares presents a number of potential scenarios.

“The best would be going in with about a 106-point lead,” Dixon deadpanned after last Sunday’s race at Portland.

If some other driver wins the race, Rossi finishes second and Dixon finishes third through sixth, Dixon would still win the title provided he remains at least one point ahead of Rossi in the overall season standings when all is said and done.

In fact, if Rossi finishes as low as fourth, Dixon can mathematically finish as low as 10th and still win the championship.

Alexander Rossi: If Rossi wins Sunday’s race and leads a lap (1 point) and the most laps (2 points), he will earn 103 points (104 if he also gets the pole), which would give him the championship if Dixon fails to finish at least second.

However, there’s a caveat to Rossi’s title bid: Dixon could finish third (70 points) in Sunday’s race and still win the championship if Rossi wins the race (100 points) and leads at least one lap (1 point), but fails to earn the pole or lead the most laps. But Dixon has to also earn the pole (1 point), lead at least one lap in the race (1 point) and lead the most laps in the race (2 points) to beat Rossi by one or two points, depending on how many bonus points he earns.

Another scenario: if Rossi finishes second and Dixon finishes third, Dixon wins the title.

And then there’s the potential for a tie-breaker: Rossi and Dixon would tie for the championship on points. If Rossi wins the race, he wins the first tiebreaker (total wins, as he would have 4 wins in 2018 to 3 for Dixon). Or if both drivers finish back in the pack with an equal amount of points after the race, the likely tie-breaker would be podium finishes (although both drivers each have eight heading into Sonoma).

Will Power and Josef Newgarden:

The Team Penske teammates head to Sonoma both being a distant 87 points behind Dixon and 58 points each behind Rossi. While Power and Newgarden are still considered mathematically in contention, the odds are very long for either driver.

However, there is one championship possibility for either driver:

* Let’s say Dixon and Rossi both suffer early mechanical failure or are involved in an early crash and each finishes 25th or worse (5 points each). Power or defending season champ Newgarden could still manage to pull off one of the biggest championship-winning upsets in IndyCar history if one of them wins the race outright.

There are a few other variations possible, but these are the most likely scenarios and the ones you should be watching for the most in Sunday’s race.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

What to Read Next