Josef Newgarden is glad he is leading the points going into next week’s final race of the NTT Indycar Series by a larger margin than he had before the 2016 finale, but he cautions that the points chase is “far from over with the double points situation.” In a teleconference this afternoon, Newgarden said he feels he controls his own destiny but that Weather Tech Raceway at Laguna Seca is “a wild card event with lots of unknowns.” Although his lead is bigger than it was two years, Newgarden feels the same pressure.
In contrast to Alexander Rossi, who yesterday said qualifying up front will be very crucial for a good result, Newgarden doesn’t know how important qualifying will be because no one knows how the track will race. He thinks the test day on the Thursday before the race will be telling. Most drivers have not raced at this track.
I asked Newgarden if having a teammate also going for the championship would cause him to change the way he approaches next weekend. he said, “It would be a mistake to change the way we approach it.” Newga5rden said he and Simon Pagenaud have tried to be fair with each other on the track.
Reflecting on his spin out at Mid-Ohio, Newgarden said, ” I can’t help myself sometimes. My nature is always to go for the higher position.”
While it would be nice for an American to win the title, it is not something Newgarden puts emphasis on. “I’ve always like the great mix of talent from around the world,” he said. He is happy to see young American drivers like Colton Herta enter the series.
The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey is Sunday, September 22 on NBC.
For the second year in a row Alexander Rossi enters the NTT Indycar Series finale in second place. The September 22 Firestone Grand Prix at Weather Tech raceway Laguna Seca will decide the season championship. Rossi trails Josef Newgarden by 41 points. In a teleconference this afternoon, the driver of the number 27 NAPA Auto Parts car talked about his season thus far, and how 2019 compares to last year.
Rossi described his season so far as “Generally good. We made a lot of improvements on areas where we struggled. Some things have been out of our control.” He went on to say that “the 2 car has been better. Josef has had a sensational year.”
The venue for the final race has a lot of unknowns, Rossi said. Andretti Autosport tested there in February. Rossi declared the test inconclusive due to the weather and some other factors. He thinks everyone is entering the weekend on an equal footing. Rossi began going to races at Laguna Seca when he was three years old. It is where he fell in love with racing.
“Laguna Seca is where I cut my teeth in racing,” Rossi said.
The race could be decided in qualifying. “the driver who makes no mistakes in qualifying and wins the pole, if he is one of the championship contenders, his job will be that much easier.,” Rossi said. He described the track as having a low grip surface with the braking zone in turn 2 likely being the best passing area.
While Rossi is disappointed to not be closer to the top of the standings, he feels that it actually puts less pressure on him. he knows this year he needs to win the race. “When you’re closer you start worrying about positions and finishing ahead of the other guy. being this far back, I just need to win.”
Rossi felt in 2018 the team left too many points on the table with silly mistakes. This season he believes the team has improved although ‘We maybe cost ourselves by being too conservative. We had some bad luck in the second half of the season. ”
The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey is September 22 on NBC. The green flag is at 12:15.