The 2022 edition of the Portland Grand Prix will be remembered for a strong start, a late restart, an all-New Zealand and Australian podium and a great performance from the main championship contenders.
Poleman Scott McLaughlin and points leader Will Power spent most of the afternoon running away from other title hopefuls after starting 1-2 and finishing 1-2 for The Captain while Scott Dixon made a another Portland miracle to complete the podium. Starting from 16th, Dixon was the only member of the Chip Ganassi Racing team to make serious progress forward by the end of the 110-lap race.
Ridding 13 cars at the checkered flag, Dixon went from being nearly knocked out of the championship mid-race to leveling with Newgarden, not far behind Power, entering Monterey.
With the Lap 89 restart for Rinus VeeKay nerfing Jimmie Johnson in the Turn 1 wall, McLaughlin continued his mastery, taking a manageable lead over Power. With Dixon on a charge, dropping from P6 to P3 – where the top three remained – McLaughlin led his Australian team-mate home by 1.17 seconds and his countryman by 1.6 seconds.
“We did exactly what we had to do this weekend, which was to win and get as many points as possible to keep us in the fight for the championship,” said the three-time race winner, who led 104 laps and is 41 points behind Power. “Yeah, we’re a long shot. I don’t care because we have a chance so I can’t wait to be there.
McLaughlin’s composure throughout the event was remarkable as he outplayed his teammates and the rest of the field with relative ease.
“It’s two guys you don’t really like [want] breathe in the neck,” he said of Power and Dixon. “I’m really proud of the restart. I’ve worked really hard the last two years to learn the tire and get it ready for those restarts. Fortunately, we held on. It was quite risky behind me. I saw in the mirrors that Will almost got eliminated. It was pretty wild, but that’s why we love IndyCar racing, right? »
Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward held third place on the restart, but IndyCar deemed he had blocked Dixon and was ordered to drop the position. He had finished P4, 13.8 seconds behind, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal moving six to take P5, 14.8 seconds down, and in P6 Colton Herta put in a strong drive for Andretti Autosport.
Penske’s Josef Newgarden looked set to finish third or fourth, but a strategic call to close out the race on the slower Firestone primary tires backfired and he was passed several times at the over the last 16 laps. Falling to P8, he and Dixon are now 20 Power points away.
Besides a harmless spin from Jimmie Johnson (and later a crash from driver #48 which triggered the late warning), a long trip through the grass from Romain Grosjean, Christian Lundgaard rushing into a streamer advertising in Turn 1 and pitting at the end of the lap to have it retired, and Conor Daly’s day ending after a fire in the back of his car and a cooked clutch conspired against his muleless self, the penultimate race was largely free of drama. The most significant result was a narrowing of the list of true title contenders from seven to three.
It’s Power, Newgarden and Dixon, and on Friday the process of crowning a new champion will begin in Monterey.