SALINAS, Calif – The first group of knockout qualifying for the NTT IndyCar Series on Saturday was the “group of death.” All four championship contenders were in it. The problem is, eight other drivers joined them as just half of the 12 competitors would advance to the second round.
The odds of all four championship eligible drivers coming out of that round was iffy. Despite that, Josef Newgarden, Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon all advanced. It guaranteed them a top 12 starting spot.
Then, in the second round, all would make it to the Firestone Fast Six.
That’s great news for all of them. 13 of the 16 race winners this season have come from the Fast Six. 10 of the last 12 Indy Car races on natural road courses have seen the eventual race winner come from the top eight at that.
So, for Newgarden, he’s glad to just be starting near his three rivals for this year’s championship.
Newgarden, qualified his No. 2 Chevrolet fourth. He’ll start alongside of Rossi (3rd) and behind Dixon (2nd). He also starts in front of his teammate Pagenaud (6th) too.
“Yeah, I mean, in our situation it’s a good thing to be close to the competition, specifically the ones in the championship,” Newgarden said. “Yeah, we’ve got to have a good clean run tomorrow. You’d like to win every race and maybe we’ve got a race-winning car tomorrow. It certainly feels like we have the capability of it. But we need to have a good clean day, try and not get caught up in anything, and just run our race like we normally would. I think that’s what we’ll try and focus on.”
Newgarden, just has to finish where he starts or better. He can do that too.