Josef Newgarden leads Scott Dixon by 18 points in the IndyCar Series championship standings.
For a driver who had just added 11 points to his Verizon IndyCar Series championship lead, Josef Newgarden was still thinking like a racer.
He was more concerned with the 0.5268-of-a-second distance that separated himself from his race-winning teammate Will Power after the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.
“It was a good day for points but tough when you have an opportunity to potentially win a race at the end of it,” Newgarden said. “But I don’t think we had enough for Will to be honest with you. I did everything I could to try and get by him, and I just felt like he was a touch quicker than us. That was difficult for me to overcome.
“I’m happy for him. I’m happy for Team Penske. It’s a one-two at the end of the day, so keeping it in the family. When one car wins, we kind of all win. That’s the way we view it. I’m not disappointed at all. Whenever you’re extending the points lead and you’re keeping the car off the wall and the team is getting a victory, I think it’s a great day, so I’m happy about that.”
Team Penske has all four of its drivers in the top five in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings. Newgarden’s extending his lead entering the race from seven points over second-place Helio Castroneves to 18 points over the new driver in second place, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon.
Newgarden was successful in distancing himself from the field, albeit by a slim amount.
“Certainly, for the No. 2 team, it’s a points extension day, so we can’t be disappointed in it,” said the first-year Team Penske driver. “It’s a good effort, especially, from where we started (14th). We didn’t have a good start to the weekend. We tried to go off on our own mission and it didn’t really work, so we came back in qualifying and copied and pasted the other guys and took it from there.”
It was very hard, close and spectacular racing at the 2.5-mile, triangle-shaped Pocono Raceway. After a disappointing qualifying effort, Newgarden’s race car was fast and once he got his way toward the front, the 26-year-old driver from Hendersonville, Tennessee did the rest.
He dramatically chopped away at his Penske teammate’s lead over the final 10 laps and finished the race just behind Power’s rear wing.
“I was doing everything I could,” Newgarden said. “I just didn’t have enough for him, and I kind of knew that. I still gave him my best effort. I was going to try and beat him. I wasn’t going to just try and finish second. But I knew he was just better than me. He had more speed was the thing, so I couldn’t quite get a run where I was going to complete a pass.
“With his move to block, it was really impossible, I think, for me to try and outside pass because I didn’t have the speed to clear him on the outside, and it would have been just very risky. At the end, there I tried to do something to rattle him or at least move him or make him think about something or doing something or mess up, but he’s pretty strong, so he doesn’t make many mistakes, and it didn’t help me at the end of the day.”
Three races to go, with the last race of the season worth double-points. Of those three tracks, which will be Newgarden’s best in terms of the championship?
He would like to know that answer.
“It’s difficult to say,” he said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t really know. I would think Sonoma would be good for me because we’ve been strong at points there in the past. Gateway is an unknown, but I think we’re going to be strong there with team Chevy and Team Penske. Watkins Glen, we only had one race there and we weren’t particularly strong there last year, but we finished second.
“I’ve got to think Sonoma, but I have no idea. Maybe we’ll be stronger at Gateway or Watkins. It’s up in the air.”