Both Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden entered IndyCar’s final weekend 20 points behind in the points standings, and needed a lot of help to overcome Will Power’s advantage.
Those ambitions took a hit on Saturday, however, as both drivers failed to advance out of the first round of qualifying. Newgarden even lost control during his run, and finds himself right at the back of the field.
To make matter worse, both drivers watched on as the driver they are chasing in the championship went on to earn the top spot by claiming pole.
Power earned an extra bonus point for his record-setting pole, meaning that he now has a 21-point lead heading into Sunday’s finale.
“It’ll definitely be interesting,” said Dixon after qualifying. “I think with my red [tire] run, kind of just the #14 [Kyle Kirkwood] never really went. I didn’t manage the gap that well, and when I started the lap, the fronts were just not ready to go, so that was definitely frustrating.
“I think had we had another lap or timed it a bit better, I think we would have been totally fine. It is what it is. We’re starting kind of in the middle there. Strategy I think will be key tomorrow.
“I think it’s definitely going to be a different race than what we saw last year. As Josef said, it’s never over until it’s over. We’ve seen that many a times this year, and we’ll do what we can. If we can have a bit of luck go our way, it’ll be pretty helpful.”
Dixon’s qualifying was almost much worse, as he was down near the bottom of the order when the red flag came out for Newgarden’s spin.
Race control gave the competitors a chance to set one final timed lap before the expiration of the opening round, however, which gave the six-time champion a chance to improve his time to earn the 13th place position.
Both Dixon and Newgarden will have their work cut out for them in order to win the championship on Sunday, as Power is showing no signs of giving up his advantage at the head of the field.