Team Penske President Tim Cindric has attributed Scott Dixon’s comments on lack of team orders at the Portland IndyCar race to “mental games”.
Penske boasts the top two positions in the drivers’ standings ahead of the final race of the season, this weekend at Laguna Seca, with Will Power holding a 20-point advantage over team-mate Josef Newgarden, who heads Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dixon on a countback.
Power finished second last time out at Portland to the other Penske entry of Scott McLaughlin, yet a switch of position between two would have resulted in the Queenslander enjoying a 30-point series lead.
The effect would have been that Power need only finish seventh this weekend to guarantee the title, whereas the threshold is now a third place, a more likely outcome than not based on his 2022 form but, needless to say, still a less straightforward task.
Dixon twice referred to the point in the post-race press conference at Portland, where he finished third at just fourth tenths of a second behind the # 12 Chevrolet.
Cindric thinks Dixon had an ulterior motive.
“I think there’s probably a little mental game going on between those two guys,” he said.
“I think if you focus on last week, you’re not focused on this week.
“I think from our standpoint, focusing on this week is really it.
“Yeah, it’s always a tough decision from a team standpoint when you’re leading points, not the one leading the race, whatever else. I think we’ve been pretty consistent on that front.
“Like I said, I think there’s more of a mental game happening there between those two trying to figure out how to worry about last week instead of worrying about this week.”
McLaughlin has, for weeks now, insisted that he is not out of the title fight, even when his chances seemed virtually done.
He also stated before qualifying on pole position and going on to effectively lead the Portland race all the way that he would be willing to play the team game, except at least for giving up a race win.
That is exactly what came to pass, and Cindric believes it would have been “difficult” to make a call to deny the New Zealander the victory.
“I think when you have a driver out there winning the race, it’s a much more difficult situation,” he reasoned.
“Had the driver or whatever thought that was the right thing to do, he would have probably figured out a way to do that himself.
“Certainly, different in terms of a win and having the ability to mathematically be part of that championship.
“I know that was important to Scott, as well.”
Aside from McLaughlin at 41 points back from Power, the other driver still in the hunt for the Astor Cup is Ganassi’s Marcus Ericsson, who is 39 points off the pace.
Practice at Laguna Seca starts this Friday (local time), with Practice 2, Qualifying, and the Race itself live and ad-free on Stan Sport.