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McLaughlin Leads the Trio from Down Under in Dominant Fashion at Portland

Three time’s a winner is Scott McLaughlin. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

PORTLAND, Ore. — It was total domination from Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin as he led all but six of the 110 laps possible to score his third career INDYCAR win in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland.

Not only was it a runaway in terms of the No. 3 Chevrolet leading the way, but the boys from “Down Under” also swept the podium. McLaughlin’s teammate and the championship leader Will Power and Scott Dixon rounded out the top three. This marks the first time such an occurrence has happened since Texas Race No. 2 in 2011 when Power, Dixon and Ryan Briscoe were the top-three finishers.

As for the championship trail, it is down to just five men that will duke it out at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca as the gap between Power and McLaughlin is 41 points. The last time five drivers entered the finale as title contenders for the Astor Cup was in 2003 when Dixon won it all for his first of six INDYCAR titles.

Although McLaughlin is a long shot and will require every card to fall in his favor, he is riding the momentum train to its absolute fullest, more so when he has felt that 2022 has been the best of his entire motorsports career. He is far more confident than his dominant tenure in Supercars when he won multiple championships for Dick Johnson Racing.

“For me it’s just controlling what I can control. I can’t do much more than that, and I think I’ve done that the last half year,” said McLaughlin. “I just go out there and just drive what I’ve got. I think Detroit for me was a big turnaround. I made a mistake I shouldn’t have made, and that was because I was trying to overdo everything and control everything. It was a big mindset change.”

“From then on we’ve been really strong. I think we did some graph out there the last eight or nine races. We were leading the championship by 29 points,” McLaughlin continued.

“I think what we’re doing right now is building for a massive year next year. I haven’t finished out of the top five or top four for the last six events or something. I’m feeling really strong. There’s no reason why this can’t be great momentum for next year, and yeah, I feel like I’m driving the best I ever have in my whole career right now.

“I feel really comfortable and comfortable with the team. That’s what you need to tackle championships, especially in the series.”

For the first time since 2011, the boys from “Down Under” swept the INDYCAR podium. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Unlike previous races at Portland since the series made its return in 2018, the dreaded opening lap crash in the chicane was avoided. This was thanks to the drivers voicing their opinion about starting the race at the entrance of Turn 12 in order for the 25-car field to spread out. With no incidents, everything was smooth sailing until Lap 84 when Rinus VeeKay made contact with Jimmie Johnson in Turn 1.

Johnson’s No. 48 Honda sustained rear damage and his day ended early. He was one of only two retirees of the race with the other being Conor Daly, whose day ended via mechanical.

When the race resumed, McLaughlin still fended off the competition as his fellow title contenders tried catching him but it did not pan out. Power’s runner-up finish extended his points lead over Josef Newgarden from three to 20 points.

Therefore, he controls his own destiny at Laguna Seca with a second INDYCAR title on the line. Upon hearing the gap he has on the competition, no complaints from Power but he’s been on both sides of title outcomes several times.

“It was a great day, obviously. Good finish. Could have been much worse,” said Power. “I think if (Christian) Lundgaard didn’t get us at the beginning there on the east tire. So spent the day kind of closing that gap to Scott that we got when we were stuck behind cars.

“Solid day. Still a very tough fight. We’ve got to come up to Laguna seriously ready. As you know, in this series it switches incredibly quickly. Got to be smart.”

Will Power will head to Laguna Seca with a 20-point lead in the hunt for a championship. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

As usual, Dixon is still in the mix when it matters most. A shot at a seventh championship is still at large and will also trail Power by 20 points.

The biggest pressure Dixon faced in the final 23 laps was Pato O’Ward when they made contact which resulted in the latter giving up third due to blocking. Such decision left O’Ward irate, pondering what he had done that led to him giving up the position.

Due to the contact, O’Ward’s No. 5 Chevrolet sustained left rear side pod damage while Dixon had little to say about this particular episode.

“It was pretty obvious,” said Dixon on the incident with O’Ward.

Feelings aside, Dixon’s approach in title battles are keeping things simple. That will not change entering the final round of the long and intense trail.

“Anything is possible. I think it can be as simple as somebody having a mechanical issue. That’s the tough part,” Dixon explained. “I think it’s pretty cool that we don’t need any resets or any chase championships or anything like that. It always comes down to the wire in the INDYCAR Series. It’s fun to be a part of.

“I think the one in ’15 with (Juan Pablo) Montoya, it was a very outside chance. Maybe because it was double points. It was 35 maybe or so around that points gap that we needed.

“It will be interesting. It will be a fun race hopefully, and we’ll be, as I’ve always said, trying as hard as possible until we can’t do anything more about it. We’ll hope for the best.”

Scott Dixon will indeed fight for a seventh champion next Sunday. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Defending race winner Alex Palou was not in the mix at all as he failed to lead a single lap and wound up 12th. Due to a poor result, Palou will not go back-to-back for the championship as he only has one more round to avoid going winless.

As for the Rookie of the Year battle, leader Christian Lundgaard had a strong afternoon but things went south late in the going. The Danish driver shot wide into Turn 1 and ran over a few signboards. He ended up finishing a costly 21st and the points gap he had on David Malukas went from 11 to five entering the finale.

Five drivers. 41 points. One race. One champion will be crowned in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Race coverage begins Sunday, September 11 at 3:00 p.m. on NBC. Colton Herta has won the last two races at Laguna Seca.

2022 Grand Prix of Portland Results

  1. 3 – Scott McLaughlin
  2. 12 – Will Power
  3. 9 – Scott Dixon
  4. 5 – Pato O’Ward
  5. 15 – Graham Rahal
  6. 26 – Colton Herta
  7. 27 – Alexander Rossi
  8. 2 – Josef Newgarden
  9. 77 – Callum Ilott (R)
  10. 7 – Felix Rosenqvist
  11. 8 – Marcus Ericsson
  12. 10 – Alex Palou
  13. 14 – Kyle Kirkwood (R)
  14. 18 – David Malukas (R)
  15. 45 – Jack Harvey
  16. 29 – Devlin DeFrancesco (R)
  17. 06 – Helio Castroneves
  18. 51 – Takuma Sato
  19. 28 – Romain Grosjean
  20. 21 – Rinus VeeKay
  21. 30 – Christian Lundgaard (R)
  22. 4 – Dalton Kellett
  23. 60 – Simon Pagenaud
  24. 48 – Jimmie Johnson (Contact)
  25. 20 – Conor Daly (Mechanical)

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA. Content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going. I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content. With two National Motorsports Press Association photography awards, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to HAIM. Not only that, expect my social media filled with references nobody will understand, especially Licorice Pizza.

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