Scott McLaughlin wins Portland; Will Power second, increases points lead entering finale
PORTLAND, Oregon -- Scott McLaughlin led a Team Penske rout Sunday at Portland International Raceway, scoring his third victory of the season in a 1-2 finish that moved Will Power one race closer to the NTT IndyCar Series championship.
McLaughlin led 104 of the 110 laps in his third career victory. He trails only Penske teammate Josef Newgarden (five) in most series wins, but an inconsistent season has the New Zealander clinging to a title chance.
McLaughlin goes to the Sunday, Sept. 11 season finale at WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway in California ranked fifth in the standings, 41 points behind Power but still mathematically in the hunt.
RESULTS: Where everyone finished at Portland
FULL STATS PACKAGE: Points standings, lap charts, sector times
“We did exactly what we needed to do this weekend, which was win and get maximum points,” McLaughlin told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “We need to keep ourselves in it, and we’re a long shot, but we’ve got a shot.”
Power, meanwhile, had a relatively easy drive but never enough to challenge McLaughlin for the win.
In settling for second, he takes a 20-point lead into the finale over both Newgarden and six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon.
“We’re in the best position, we’ve got the best shot, we’ll do the best we can,” said Power, who can clinch the championship by finishing third or better at Laguna Seca.
ONE RACE TO GO.— INDYCAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) September 4, 2022
Five drivers remain in contention for the NTT @INDYCAR SERIES championship. @12WillPower would win the title if he records a top-three finish, regardless of where his competitors finish next weekend at @WeatherTechRcwy Laguna Seca. pic.twitter.com/FiMna3gXGJ
Dixon finished third but gained no ground in the title fight; Newgarden dropped from fourth on the restart with 22 laps remaining to finish eighth and lose 17 points to Power in the Penske championship battle.
“We’ve got to stop getting these ‘most improved’ through races,” Dixon, who started 16th, told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch. “Man, we had to drive through the field today. Still in the fight. Anything is possible. We’ve won on tiebreakers. We’re in it and won’t give up as a team until it’s over.”
The three Penske entries were the class of the field in Portland, where the team used its final test of the season to prepare for Sunday. The trio was fast in every session and had a clear advantage over Chip Ganassi Racing, which chose to use its final test at Laguna Seca in anticipation of the finale.
Ganassi had Dixon, Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou in the title hunt, but only Palou had a decent qualifying effort. Dixon and Ericsson failed to advance out of the first qualifying group, and Ericsson rallied only to 11th. The Swede is 39 points behind Power, fourth in the standings.
Although Palou finished 12th, and Pato O’Ward was fourth, both were eliminated from title contention.
“We had one chance today; we had to come out with the win to truly have a decent shot at it in Laguna,” O’Ward said. “I didn’t have enough for the Penske boys, man. All weekend, they dominated everybody. Not just us.”