SALINAS, Calif – We’re down to the final race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season. One race, four drivers, one champion.
Alexander Rossi feels like he has to win Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monetery (2:30 p.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network) in order to win the championship. The mathematical possibilities say otherwise, but Rossi doesn’t feel like a title can be won in this series based off of two wins. He feels like he needs a third.
With him being the closest out of anyone to Newgarden in trailing him by 41 points and in the mindset that he has to win, it has to bode well for Newgarden’s psyche right?
“The positive thing is I do feel like we control our own destiny,” Newgarden said on his championship hopes. “That for sure is the case, which is why it’s the favorable position. If you’d asked me if I’d rather be 41 points up or 41 points down, you’re always going to choose being 41 points up. It’s just a much better place to be.
“I think we’re in the favorable position, for sure. With double points, I’ve tried to make everyone aware all the way along that it’s far from being over, that it’s always going to be a difficult race in Laguna with a double-point situation. That’s where we find ourselves. We’re in the better position. We definitely have a little bit of a comfort, but nothing that you can feel too comfortable about.
“We still have to perform really well. Finishing fourth or higher in an IndyCar race, to guarantee the championship, is not really an easy task. I mean, it’s difficult to run in the top five in the IndyCar Series week in and week out.”
Newgarden, has been a top four machine this season though. It’s ironic that a top four is all that he needs on Sunday. See, out of 16 races run, the Team Penske driver has 10 top four finishes. But, over the last four races though, Newgarden’s best finish is fifth (twice).
He was second in final practice on Saturday and qualified…fourth.
Throw in double points Sunday and Newgarden really isn’t in as good as a position as some think.
“Having said that, with the double-point situation it still has to go extremely well because of the way it changes the nature of the finishing positions and the points payouts,” Newgarden continued. “To come to kind of a wild card event out at Laguna Seca where we don’t have a lot of knowledge, we specifically, I don’t have a lot of knowledge with the track. I think a lot of guys going in that have never raced there, they don’t either. It’s going to create a lot of unknowns. I think it’s still a difficult task for us to make sure we hit everything right and have a solid weekend.
“I have a lot of confidence in Team Penske, as always. You always feel prepared when you come to a new track or a venue you’ve never been at before.
“Certainly I think with Team Chevy, they’ve given us all the confidence in the world. Every race this year we go to we feel we get what we need from them. The communication has been excellent. I feel like we have the right people in our corner. We just need to make sure that we go and execute now.”
Newgarden’s main rival may very well be Rossi, but his teammate Simon Pagenaud is hungry and 42 points out himself.
Over the last four races, Pagenaud has finished ahead of Newgarden three times. If you go back to Toronto, Pagenaud has outplaced Newgarden and Rossi four of the six races.
If Newgarden can stave off Rossi and Pagenaud, he’d give Penske their third championship in the last four years while also earning his second in the last three himself.
So far this weekend, he’s looking the part. He was get this, fourth fastest in the test on Thursday too.