Midseason Inside Line: 2024 Champion?

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Scott Dixon

Note: The panel will take a look back at the first half of the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season in this four-part, special Midseason Inside Line from June 25-28.

Today’s question: Who will win the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship?

Curt Cavin: With the introduction of the hybrid technology next week at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and six oval races remaining, it’s fair to say there are a ton of variables still to impact this season. But how can the pick right now be anyone but Alex Palou? He’s smart, savvy and is the champion until proven otherwise. Heck, without the contract controversy upsetting his 2022 season, he could be working on a championship four-peat, something that’s only been done once in the sport’s history (by Sebastien Bourdais). Palou won’t wrap up the title early, as he did last year, but I think he again wins it comfortably.

Eric Smith: I’m going with Will Power. There’s not much Alex Palou has could do differently this season with a top-five finish in seven of eight starts, but remarkably, Power is only 23 points behind him in the standings. By comparison, Marcus Ericsson trailed Palou by 74 points at this stage last year. In 2022, Power was 27 points behind Ericsson for the points lead after eight races and wound up hoisting his second Astor Challenge Cup championship trophy. My reasoning picking against the heavy favorite in Palou is I can’t harp enough on this oval schedule ahead. Team Penske has 11 victories in the last 13 short oval races. Six of the last 11 victories for Power are on ovals. Palou is 0-for-21 with just six top-five finishes, one of which on a short oval. With six short oval races ahead, Power poses the biggest threat to Palou because he’s still close enough to be consistently around the top five to negate Palou’s top-five finish jabs that makes him so great. Nine of the 11 combined Iowa Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway starts for Palou have seen him finish seventh or worse. All Power needs is a couple knockout blows via victories, and the title will be his.

Paul Kelly: As I wrote Thursday, people are sleeping on Scott Dixon. Nobody in this series combines his winning pedigree on all types of tracks and his skill at saving half of his brain to manage his fuel and tires while trying to complete seemingly impossible strategy ploys to win. He has two victories in the first half of the season, and I think he’s more than capable of winning at least two more in the second half in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. I think the title will come down to Dixon and teammate Alex Palou at the season finale, the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix at Nashville Superspeedway. Dixon won in 2008 on the unique concrete oval; Palou has never raced there. If I have to choose between a guy who has many oval victories, including at Nashville, against a guy who has zero oval wins in his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career, I’m taking the experienced oval winner – Dixon. He will tie A.J. Foyt for the most INDYCAR SERIES titles this September with his seventh championship.