It’s down to the NTT IndyCar Series points race that everyone has wanted to see all season – Josef Newgarden of Team Penske against Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport with just one race remaining.
Newgarden, the 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion at Team Penske, has a 41-point lead over Rossi, who moved back to second place in the standings with a third-place finish in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland. Team Penske driver Will Power won that race with Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing second.
“It’s great with two Americans still fighting for it,” Rossi said. “But Simon Pagenaud is only one point behind, and Scott Dixon is still mathematically alive, so there are still four guys in it, and you can’t discount the other two.”
Pagenaud, this year’s winner of the 103rdIndianapolis 500, is just one point behind Rossi, setting up a three-driver battle heading into the season’s final race at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca on September 22.
Newgarden started 13thand fought his way back to a fifth-place finish. It was the second time in the last three races Newgarden had finished fifth. He was seventh last week in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.
In spite of missing the podium for the fourth-straight race, Newgarden’s lead in the NTT IndyCar Series championship has remained firm as other drivers battling for the title have made mistakes.
“It’s disappointing because we were on the podium from seventh and Josef finishes fifth,” Rossi said. “It’s a credit to Team Penske but it’s hard when you start seventh, get on the podium and Josef finishes fifth.
“Now, we just have to win Laguna Seca. None of us have any preconceived notions about what it will be the team that can adapt the most through Thursday and Friday, honestly if you put it on pole, you can still win the championship because it’s so hard to pass there. Qualifying could be the deciding factor.
“I’m closer right now than that I was yesterday and that’s fine. With the double points, we saw what happened in 2015. You have to go in and win. If we do that; we might be all right.”
Rossi believes he still has a good shot at the championship, 41 points back, with double points paid for the final race of the season.
“Ultimately, it wasn’t an awesome day for us, but it was still genuinely good for us when you look at where we finished compared to the others,” Rossi said. “Regardless, it’s great to be on the podium from seventh. Ultimately, we didn’t have the pace of the front two, which was disappointing.”
Rossi was able to avoid a near-incident involving his Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay and Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey.
“There was never a time I was concerned,” Rossi said.