IndyCar: Top 5 championship contenders before the halfway point

Pato O'Ward, Arrow McLaren, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, IndyCar (Photo Credit: Detroit Free Press)
Pato O'Ward, Arrow McLaren, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, IndyCar (Photo Credit: Detroit Free Press) /

There are still nine races remaining on the 2023 IndyCar schedule, but a clear championship favorite has emerged in recent weeks.

Eight of the 17 races on the 2023 IndyCar schedule are in the books following the race at Road America two Sundays ago. This coming Sunday afternoon’s race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course marks the halfway point of the season.

Sportsbooks have made major improvements across the board this season when it comes to their commitment to IndyCar odds.

DraftKings Sportsbook, which is now offering $150 to those who sign up and place a single $5 bet, updated the championship odds almost immediately after Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou won at Road America for the second time in three years.

The IndyCar championship favorite is not all that surprising, but the battle is far from over.

Here are the top five championship contenders.

  • Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing: -300
  • Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing: +550
  • Josef Newgarden, Team Penske: +550
  • Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren: +1000
  • Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing: +1200

It is rare for a driver to be this heavy of a favorite in IndyCar, which is the most competitive racing series in the world, at this point in the season, but Palou’s dominance has made him worthy of holding that title.

He has won three of the four most recent races, including the two that have been contested since the Indy 500, and his 74-point lead over Ericsson in the championship standings is basically a win and a half. No driver has clinched the championship before the season finale since 2005, but Palou has a legitimate chance to end that streak.

There could be good value on Newgarden, however. He moved closer to second place in the standings with a runner-up finish at Road America, yet his odds moved to +400 to +550, moving him into a tie with Ericsson instead of holding the second spot all on his own.

Newgarden trails Palou by 81 points, but with three short oval races at Iowa Speedway (doubleheader) and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway included on the remaining schedule, the Indy 500 champion need not panic. He owns six short oval wins since 2019, with three at each of those two tracks.

Palou has just two top 10 finishes in eight career short oval starts, and Chip Ganassi Racing as a whole have been a step behind Team Penske at such tracks.

Newgarden also has experience reducing big gaps, having reduced a 117-point deficit to Dixon down to 16 points in 2020 by beating him in each of the season’s final six races. What’s better? Only one of those six races was a short oval race, and Newgarden reduced that gap despite Dixon never finishing lower than 10th place during that span.

Aside from the five drivers listed above, nobody else is within 100 points of Palou, making it extremely unlikely that there will be any more serious title contenders.

Next. All-time IndyCar wins list. dark

The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the all new 2023 Civic Type R, which Newgarden won in 2017 and 2021, is scheduled to take place at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, July 2. It is set to be broadcast live on USA Network beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET. Take advantage of FuboTV’s free trial offer now and don’t miss it!