There’s just a 16 percent chance that the points lead (and championship) will shift to Power in the last race of the year. Pagenaud has looked strong all season leading wire to wire and sits with a 43 point lead heading to Sonoma. That’s the fourth biggest lead a driver has held heading into the last race in the past eleven years. Of the drivers who had a larger points lead, only one ended up losing the title: Montoya in 2015.
I went back and looked at the results of the past eleven championships, noting who was leading the points heading into the final race and who ended up winning. The seasons highlighted in yellow are ones in which the driver who led the points before the last race didn’t win the title.
In all seven “yellow” seasons bar 2015, the gap before the last race was under 20 points. Montoya’s loss in 2015 was a fluke, not the norm — at least not yet. Double points in the final race is still a fairly new concept and it’s yet to be seen if it will change this theme. That’s bad news for Power who needs to come back from a deficit closely resembling Dixon’s last year. He’ll be looking for Pagenaud to either (i) get into some sort of crash and drop back or (ii) have a DNF. While both of these are seemingly long-shot scenarios to happen, they’re more likely than Pagenaud simply having a bad race on his own.
A lead of 20 or more points has been safe four times out of five. Even when you look at the 2015 incident, Montoya didn’t lose the championship outright. It took a tiebreaker to declare Dixon the winner. If the championship ended in a tie this year, here’s what would happen:
- If Power or Pagenaud won the race, that driver would have the most first place finishes and win the championship.
- If neither driver wins the race and Power doesn’t come in second, Pagenaud wins.
- If neither driver wins the race and Pagenaud comes in second, he wins.
- If neither driver wins the race and Power comes in second, Pagenaud and Power will be tied in second place finishes, and Power will win based on third place finishes, so long as Pagenaud doesn’t come in third.
- If one of those scenarios doesn’t happen, well, we’ll figure that out when the time comes.
Luckily (unluckily?) we probably won’t have to deal with a tie in the championship. There’s just a 0.56% chance of the championship being tied after Sonoma.