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IndyCar Power Rankings: Alex Palou continues reign at No. 1

Nate Ryan takes a look at the upcoming Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America, where two past IndyCar series champions got key wins in the past two years.

The top-ranked NTT IndyCar Series driver in the NBC Sports Power Rankings lately spends most of his time at the top, both starting and finishing.

In the past three races, Alex Palou has two victories (GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix) and two pole positions (the Indianapolis 500 and Detroit), making the points leader an easy choice for first in our power rankings.

With the Chip Ganassi Racing star holding down No. 1 after the third consecutive race, the rest of the top five also has remained largely static.

Josef Newgarden and Marcus Ericsson have swapped second and third, and Alexander Rossi remained fourth. Scott Dixon improved a spot to fifth with his best finish (fourth at Detroit) since the season opener.

INDYCAR AT ROAD AMERICA: How to watch, weekend schedule, entry lists

The back half of the top 10 featured movements galore as Pato O’Ward dropped five spots, and Santino Ferrucci, Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay dropped out of the rankings.

Heading into the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through seven of 17 races this year (with previous ranking in parenthesis):

  1. Alex Palou (1): A year removed from the most tumultuous season of his career, the world is his oyster. After winning from the pole on the streets of downtown Detroit (which wasn’t his favorite street course), the Spaniard slipped away to Europe for a McLaren F1 test at the Hungaroring last week.
  2. Josef Newgarden (3): Starting an impressive fifth at Detroit, he quietly finished 10th – exactly the solid result the Team Penske star wanted after an exhaustive Indy 500 victory tour left him talked out. With an off-week to recharge, the defending Road America winner is sure to renew his title push now.
  3. Marcus Ericsson (2): He lost ground in the championship race, but Detroit was another typically consistent weekend for the Swede. With his next contract still awaiting signatures, Ericsson’s laudable focus will be tested if the uncertainty about the future lingers much into the summer.
  4. Alexander Rossi (4): If this team can solve its qualifying stumbles, the No. 7 is ready for a tear. Rossi dominated at Road America four years ago, and he loves the lightning speeds that are expected on its new coat of asphalt this weekend. Making the Fast Six for the first time this season could go a long way.
  5. Scott Dixon (6): He might have turned the corner at Detroit, where he believed his car was the fastest but couldn’t overcome a track position deficit. The six-time IndyCar champion still is seeking a clean weekend this season, and if he gets one, the odds are good for ending a 10-month victory drought.
  6. Will Power (NR): Even if the highlight was hanging with Flavor Flav, Detroit also yielded a second that was his best drive of the season. His deft racecraft and swift pace overcame starting seventh on a track where passing was difficult – proving again Power is one of the best ever on road and street courses.
  7. Scott McLaughlin (9): He salvaged a decent finish after a scrap with Romain Grosjean while also rebounding from a disappointing Indy 500 in which he was off his game (and fully took responsibility). McLaughlin turned 30 last week, and a Road America repave seems right for starting a new decade.
  8. Felix Rosenqvist (NR): Put up a fight with a teammate that paid off in a podium while sending a message to the paddock. Even if there’s no seat for him at Arrow McLaren, Rosenqvist keeps proving he’s worthy of keeping an IndyCar ride. A victory would cement the point – and he’s won at Road America.
  9. Kyle Kirkwood (NR): Despite some highlight-reel crashes, the redoubtable Andretti Autosport driver just keeps rebounding. Lost the shot at the pole because of a quirky wall angle, then literally got driven over on Lap 1. No matter to Kirkwood, who clawed his way to the second-best finish of his IndyCar career.
  10. Pato O’Ward (5): He desperately needs to stem a slide of consecutive finishes outside the top 20 after four top fives (including three seconds) in five races. The team hurt him with a fumbled pit stop at Detroit after O’Ward probably pressed too much at Indy. Execution must improve at Road America.

Falling out: Santino Ferrucci (7), Colton Herta (8), Rinus VeeKay (10)


PRESEASON: Josef Newgarden is a favorite to win third championship

RACE 1: Pato O’Ward to first; Newgarden drops out after St. Pete

RACE 2: O’Ward stays firmly on top of standings after Texas

RACE 3: Marcus Ericsson leads powerhouses at the top

RACE 4: Grosjean, Palou flex in bids for first victory

RACE 5: Alex Palou carrying all the momentum into Indy 500

RACE 6: Alex Palou stays on top amid Indy 500 surges