Tonight at Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Newgarden had another late-race “event” happen to him or his car. Event was not his term, it was mine. But Josef understood exactly what I was asking when I made reference to the events that left points on the table at three of the past four races.
I asked: “Consider the events in Toronto, Mid Ohio, and the last lap spin at Gateway, You have tried to give other drivers opening and points, and yet you have increased your lead. Do you feel like you’re playing with house money as you head into the final two races of the championship?”
Josef answered like a true professional that has won the championship before.
Josef Newgarden – Team Penske
Well, I mean, I don’t think we can feel too confident or secure where we’re at. I really don’t. I think we’re in a good spot, without a doubt. It would be silly to not recognize it’s a good position.
It’s not something that you can just sit back and rest on. It’s going to be tough the last two rounds. I wish we could have gotten a little bit more here the last three races. For sure Mid-Ohio, you look at that and say it was what it was. If I would have done a better job, that would have helped. Pocono could have been a little better. Here definitely could have been a little better.
We’ve not had a smooth last three races. We’ve got to clean that up now for the final two. I think we’re in a good position, but we can’t do anything different than what we’ve been doing all year. We have to keep sort of attacking with some caution I think.
Attacking with some caution. Truly easier said than done.
I don’t anticipate seeing Newgarden, or Team Penske, changing their approach for the last two races.
Once they fell out of the lead after the first 50 laps, they settled into an intelligent, big-picture approach.
Nowhere what this more evident than when Team Penske President Tim Cindric called the #2 PPG car into the pits for a late fuel stop to ensure that Newgarden could make it to the end. At the time, I noted that this was a championship move, especially versus the no pit strategy of Alexander Rossi that came back to bite him.
Rossi was forced to pit under green with around 20 laps yet to go, costing him a lap in the race and ultimately a number of positions and points that he was unable to gain on Newgarden.
Even after the last lap spin of Newgarden, Rossi fell further behind.
It may not be House Money that Josef Newgarden has at this point in the season, but he truly has to feel like he is in a good spot. And he knows it.