Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden have a similar approach to the NTT Indycar Series finale at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg- keep things simple and win the race. Dixon, who leads Newgarden by 32 points, needs to finish ninth or better Sunday to put the title out of Newgarden’s reach.
Dixon stated his objective, “Obviously the goal is to go for a win. That makes it a lot easier, then you don’t have to worry about any of the scenarios. …we try to typically keep it pretty simple. I would say that was not the case for the last few races, which got us into a bit of a tailspin. Josef and Team Penske, him and his teammates, have been doing a fantastic job.”
Dixon admits his spin at Mid Ohio put him in this situation and made the championship more difficult to wrap up early.
For Newgarden, models showing that he has just a 1% chance of winning the title is fine with him.
“I love on the fact sheet, I saw this put out, it was like 20,000 scenarios, 1% of the scenarios means we can win the championship. You’re saying there’s a chance and that’s all we need.”
Dixon is not sure about the effect the aeroscreen will have as the series races what will be its only street cdpourse race of the season.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s the first time for it. It’s done a great job first season, the conditions we’ve had in different situations. We didn’t get the full rain situation, which I think a lot of us expected throughout the season at some point. Maybe the depth perception maybe a little altered depending on the walls, where there’s placed. Honestly, this year it’s been very good in every situation. Touch wood that there’s no issue there.”
Newgarden is excited that fans will be able to attend the race this weekend.
“It’s been a tough year. Showing up to the racetrack in the conditions that we’ve seen this year, it’s hard. I think just from an event standpoint, you don’t have the energy of the fans and the crowd. That’s really what makes INDYCAR racing what it is. I think it makes sport what it is.”
Dixon added, “Just to touch on what Josef said about the atmosphere, I think a lot of us thrive on that. To be able to go back full circle and have fans again at St. Pete I think is going to be really cool.
But, yeah, just the effort that’s gone in to make a season and have a season where a lot of people haven’t had that opportunity. A lot of categories in motor racing, but other sports have really struggled. A lot of people that have gone into it, partners, quite involved. We’re very fortunate and very lucky. Glad we’re able to carry on.”
Both drivers expressed appreciation to Indycar and Green Savoree for working out a date to have this race.
Dixon and Newgarden plan to change their approach this weekend like any other race weekend. Newgarden said changing your approach can get you into trouble.
On the prospect of racing with Australian VA Supercar champion Scott McLaughlin, both drivers expressed excitement.Newgarden, who will be McLaughlin’s teammate, acknowledged this will be a challenge for him this weekend, but added,
“It’s going to be really fascinating to see how he handles this challenge. This is going to be an enormous task for Scott. He’s really, really good. We already know that. You could see that a mile away. I think we all admire his strengths around the Super Car side. I think he’s a great racer overall, doesn’t matter what car you put him in.”
Dixon is excited to have a fellow countryman in the series.
“Yeah, he’s damn good. I’m super excited for him. I met him maybe four or five years ago. We had to do an appearance at some event in Auckland city, do autograph sessions. Had to sit around for a long time and chat. This is before he had gone to Team Penske.
Yeah, he’s been crushing it obviously down there with his pole record, championship situation. Then for him to have this opportunity, I know he loves America, always wanted to come to America. I think it’s really cool to have another Kiwi in the field, which didn’t really even seem to be on the radar for quite a few years.”
Dixon is disappointed about the lack of ovals on the 2021 schedule and hopes more will return in the future.
“I’m bummed there’s only three ovals. I started in this category in 2003. It was 16 ovals in the series. We definitely need to work hard and trying to get back to that. I was extremely bummed about Iowa. It’s not a place I’ve won at, but it’s a track that is complete chaos, very difficult to set the car up. It’s exhausting physically. It provides some of our best racing we have all season. Hopefully that can be rectified down the road.”
Dixon and Newgarden think the race will come down to the tires, which are an unknown factor going in. They tested the street tire at Sebring, which doesn’t give a true indication of its wear. Dixon thinks three stops might be needed during the race.