IndyCar: 3 drivers who might challenge Alex Palou — and 2 who won’t

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar
Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

IndyCar drivers who won’t challenge: No. 1 – Marcus Ericsson

Point standings: 2nd – 250 (-74)
DraftKings championship odds: +550

Marcus Ericsson is currently the driver sitting closest to Alex Palou in the championship standings, trailing by 74 points after the season’s first eight races. But there is little reason to believe that he can emerge as a true championship contender during the second half of the year.

Ericsson trails Palou by this wide margin despite the fact that he has already won a race this season and hasn’t finished outside the top 10.

We have seen in the past that consistency has been paramount in championship runs. Palou would have won the championship in 2021 even if all of his wins had been second place finishes, and Will Power became the first one-win champion since Tony Stewart in 1996-97 last season. He too would have won the title had his win been a runner-up finish.

But consistency only goes so far when you are consistently finishing behind the driver you need to beat. Ericsson’s most recent two results are ninth and sixth place efforts, yet Palou has outscored him by 54 points during that span. That kind of consistency won’t cut it.

At some point, Ericsson is going to need to win, probably multiple times, to get back in the fight, and he finished no higher than fifth place in any of the remaining races on the schedule last year.

He was the points leader at this time in 2022, yet he dropped to sixth place in the standings by the end of the year. Believe it or not, he has actually had a better start to 2023. If you remove double points from last year’s Indy 500 like the series did this year, he would have had 243 points through eight races last year compared to the 250 he has this year.

Yet he is still 74 points behind, making a title charge that much more unlikely.