IndyCar: 5 takeaways from Laguna Seca

Team Penske's Will Power lifts the Astor Challenge Cup after clinching the IndyCar Series championship at Laguna Seca

When the green flag waved, there were five drivers in contention for the Astor Cup. But after 95 laps around Laguna Seca, Will Power became a two-time champion.

Will Power started off his post-race press conference by saying “I couldn’t really enjoy the pole yesterday because I was so focused on the race.”

But with the season coming to a close after the 17th race of the season at Laguna Seca, the now two-time series champion has no need to worry until February comes along with the 2023 season.

1. Consistency pays off for Power

While he may not have been able to enjoy his record-breaking pole on Saturday afternoon, there is no doubt that the Aussie fully enjoyed his second IndyCar Series championship Sunday night. Power’s season was one of pure consistency, with his revamped, calmer mindset seemingly doing wonders for his on-track performance.

With a win, four pole positions, nine podiums, and an average finish of 6.1, Power just about maximized his opportunity at every race this season. Perhaps most impressive was his showing back in June in Detroit, where he held off Alexander Rossi, putting the veteran’s race management skills on full display.

However, that was his only win of the season. Penske teammate and championship runner-up Josef Newgarden racked up five wins over the year, but couldn’t quite match the consistency that power showed with his 12 top-five finishes on the season.

2. Penske and Ganassi are clear

Going into Sunday’s race at Laguna Seca, the five drivers that were in contention for the championship were made up of three drivers from Team Penske and two from Chip Ganassi Racing, which demonstrated a very simple fact:

Penske and Ganassi are miles clear of the rest of the grid.

While the argument could be made that Arrow McLaren SP or even Andretti Autosport are up there with the aforementioned teams, their consistency, reliability, and overall results just can’t match up with those of Penske and Ganassi.

Going into 2023, it will be interesting to see if other teams can get themselves in the fight for the championship.

3. Palou finally grabs a win in ’22

After he was eliminated from championship contention after Portland, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou finally grabbed his first and only win of the 2022 season. It was in dominant fashion, as the Spaniard led 64 of the 95 laps after starting from 11th on the grid.

Speaking on his season as a whole, Palou said “…we had the ability and everything we needed for more, so I think we didn’t really maximize the year we had.” The 2021 series champion ended up fifth in the final championship order, despite his ongoing legal battle with Chip Ganassi Racing.

But the 25-year-old doesn’t seem to be too bothered by the buzz around his contract situation for next season. When asked about what he knew about next year, Palou simply said “I think everything is moving in the right direction.”

Whether that be for McLaren, Ganassi, or someone else, Palou doesn’t appear to be too phased.

4. Lundgaard tops rookie battle

With five full-time rookies in the field, there were plenty of opportunities for IndyCar’s young stars to shine in 2022. These include David Malukas and his mad dash to a podium at Gateway, or Callum Ilott with his impressive front-row qualifying effort on Saturday at Laguna Seca.

But the rookie of the year crown went to the young Dane Christian Lundgaard. In his first full season driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the two-time F2 race winner racked up a podium at the Indianapolis Road Course along with three appearances in the Fast Six in the final five races of the season.

When asked to compare himself to fellow European Alex Palou and his transition to IndyCar, Lundgaard said “I think everything is possible. I’m not racing to finish second, so I’ll give it my best shot.”

Lundgaard wasn’t lying when he said he wasn’t racing to finish second, as demonstrated with his rookie of the year title.

5. Looking forward to ’23

After what was arguably the craziest IndyCar season since reunification, there are a lot of question marks surrounding next season.

Firstly, the season calendar is still yet to be released, but multiple reports have stated that it will be almost identical to the 2022 calendar. However, one thing to look out for is the Detroit Grand Prix moving from Belle Isle to Downtown Detroit in 2023.

Let’s not forget about this season’s biggest storyline, that being the Palou-Ganassi-McLaren contract drama. The legal situation is still ongoing and the outlook is still blurry, but news emerged over the weekend that Felix Rosenqvist is likely to stay in IndyCar with Arrow McLaren SP, with Alex Palou potentially staying at Chip Ganassi Racing.

How about Alexander Rossi moving to Arrow McLaren SP? Will Jimmie Johnson run full time next year?

All in all, 2022 presented a historically competitive IndyCar Series season, and it will be difficult for 2023 to top it.

Featured Image Credit: James Black/Penske Entertainment