Josef Newgarden heads into this weekend’s NTT IndyCar Series race at Portland with a 38 point advantage on his Team Penske teammate of Simon Pagenaud. That’s good news for him as just two times in the series’ history has a driver with a 30+ lead in the championship standings with only two races remaining in the season failed to win the title. Ryan Hunter-Reay, who trailed Will Power by 36 points with two races remaining in 2012 won that year, while Scott Dixon, who was 34 points behind Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015 also was crowned a champion.
Dario Franchitti overcame a 25-point deficit to Ryan Briscoe in 2009. That’s it.
No one is within 38 points of Newgarden right now, so if either Pagenaud, Alexander Rossi or Scott Dixon does catch him and win the title, it would make history.
For Newgarden, while that’s all comforting in the stat book, he’s not feeling all that comfortable right now.
“No, no, absolutely not,” Newgarden said on Friday if he was comfortable being in the position that he’s in right now. “Look, the double points scenario, it’s double points. It’s a lot of points in the finale. 38 points is not a lot.”
But, Newgarden has held onto the points lead for literally all but one race this year. He started the season off with a win at St. Pete and other than Pagenaud’s perfect Month of May where he took over the lead in the standings following the Indianapolis 500, Newgarden took it back a week later and has never given it back up again.
With being 38 points up and having held the points lead following 14 of the 15 races this season, would he consider this championship his to lose at this point?
“It’s probably fair to say that, yeah,” said Newgarden. “I would say it is because we’re in such a favorable position. I don’t think it’s a secure position, but it is the favorable one.
“If we lose it, it probably would sting a bit more. If you are 38, 48 points back, I think it stings less. It sucks either way. But if you lose it with a bigger advantage, then yeah, I think it just stings a bit more.”
The problem now is, Newgarden is fighting his teammate at the moment. It’s great for Penske as a whole, but it could be a bit awkward in terms of sharing data. It’s like you’re giving your competition insight on what you’re doing.
Despite that, Newgarden says he wouldn’t want it any other way as there could be a race either this weekend in Portland or in the season finale at Laguna that he’s off and needing help from Pagenaud.
“I think it’s actually a lot closer than NASCAR,” Newgarden said on sharing data. “The team interaction, in my opinion, you couldn’t be closer. We are one unit. We sit all next to each other. All the engineers are together. We don’t have separate trucks. We are one unit.
“Every debrief we all hear, talk about every debrief together. If I’m having a bad weekend, I ask questions more so. If they’re having a bad weekend, they ask more questions. It won’t change all the way through the finale.
“That’s how we operate at Team Penske. But I think a lot of teams in IndyCar and open-wheel operate that way. I don’t think you’ll find big differences.
“But we’re for sure team first. What’s good for one is good for all of us. Yeah, you don’t hide anything. I mean, you see it pretty crystal clear, what everyone is doing in the group.”