Penske’s willpower in a tight title fight without team orders

Monterey, CA (AP) – What is the value of 10 points? That’s what Will Power hopes not to discover while trying to finish the closest IndyCar championship fight in nearly 20 years.

Power has a 20-point lead at the end of the season Sunday at Laguna Seca Raceway over six-time champion Scott Dixon, Joseph Newgarden, Power’s teammate Penske and two-time IndyCar champion. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericson remains in the running, as is Scott McLaughlin, who sits 41 points behind teammate Power.

In all, five drivers got a sporty shot, and two contenders, IndyCar champion Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward, were eliminated only last Sunday in the closest IndyCar title race since 2003 — when the Indy Racing League was dubbed “The IRL.” .

But there are plenty of Power fans – and possibly Power himself – who believe the Australian could have had some breathing in this title fight had Penske’s side done him any favors.

McLaughlin last week dominated the Portland Arena to win his third race of the season, and Power finished second to retain his spot on the points lead. Power certainly didn’t have a car as good as McLaughlin, but challenger Dixon was quickly closing in behind in both the race and the title fight.

If Penske’s team called for “team orders” and asked McLaughlin to concede the lead to Power, he would have an extra 10 points over Dixon and Newgarden. The call that Dixon considered a “no brainer” never came and now Bauer must finish by at least a third to win the title.

Those extra points could have taken some of the pressure off to be perfect on Sunday and helped him hold his ground in the championship three different times this season, including the last four races.