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IndyCar's points system explained ahead of title-deciding finale at Long Beach

Jake Nichol September 20, 2021
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Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 IndyCar title is up for grabs this weekend at the season finale at the iconic Long Beach street circuit. There are three drivers still in the hunt for the crown, but how does the IndyCar points system work?

IndyCar points system differences to Formula One

IndyCar, and indeed NASCAR, have a totally different points scoring system to Formula One.

Drivers in the two American-based series will be awarded points no matter where they finish as long as they take the start.

Even if they retire from the race on the first lap, they will be credited with a finishing position and allocated points on a sliding scale.

In F1, only the top 10 finishers are awarded points.

Any driver who does not finish is not classified, with the record showing a DNF next to their name.

Photo by Lyle Setter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

IndyCar points system explained

A race winner is awarded 50 points.

Second place earns 40 and the third place finisher taking 35 and fourth 32.

A sliding scale down to 20 points for 10th place then follows.

From 11th place to 25th, the points on offer decrease one per position.

Taking 11th will earn you 19 points, down to five for a 25th place finish.

Five points is the minimum a driver can earn with this being the reward for 25th-33rd.

The driver who qualifies on pole position also earns an extra point, as does any driver who leads at least one lap in the race.

A further two points are allocated to the driver who leads the most laps.

This means the highest possible points haul a driver can achieve in a race is 54 points, outside of the double-points Indy 500.

2021 IndyCar title permutations

The three drivers still in contention are:

  • 1st – Alex Palou – #10 Chip Ganassi Racing – 517 points
  • 2nd – Pato O’Ward – #5 Arrow McLaren SP – 482 (-35)
  • 3rd – Josef Newgarden – #2 Team Penske – 469 (-48)

Palou, in just his second season of IndyCar, will clinch the title with an 11th place finish regardless of what O’Ward does.

Photo by Lyle Setter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Should Palou only score the minimum five points, O’Ward will need a top two finish to snatch the title.

Newgarden is an outside bet for a third IndyCar crown.

The #2 Penske must hope that both Palou and O’Ward drop out early, scoring just the minimum five points.

Newgarden must then win the race and claim all the bonus points on offer.

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.