Last 3 Indy Car Points Leads With 3 Races Remaining Have Won Championship, Will Newgarden Make It 4-
Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon continue to gain on NTT IndyCar Series points leader Josef Newgarden. Alexander Rossi continues to slide. Meanwhile, Newgarden has just been a top five machine. Will Newgarden’s consistency and Rossi’s slide be enough for the Tennessee native to hold off his Andretti Autosport rival.
Will that consistency be enough to stave off an end of season push by Pagenaud and Dixon?
Since 2008, the driver leading the points standings at this point of the year has gone on to win the title six times. In fact, the last three years the points leader with three races remaining in the Indy Car season had won the title including four of the last five years too.
That’s great news for Newgarden who lucked out that despite finishing fifth in last Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 that he actually increased his points lead over Alexander Rossi.
“Although we didn’t win at Pocono, we were able to gain points and extend the gap between us and (Alexander) Rossi in the championship standings,” Newgarden said. “Now we focus on Gateway. It’s a track we feel really comfortable at and a place where I’ve had success in the PPG Chevy.”
For Rossi, he said that the move that Takuma Sato made on him on just the second corner of a 500 mile race could have cost him the championship. He went from 16 points down entering the weekend to 34 leaving it, as he had a chance to actually make up ground if not for that crash.
“After last weekend, I am really looking forward to forgetting about Pocono and moving on to (World Wide Technology Raceway),” Rossi said. “We didn’t come out of the last race with a tighter gap to the championship like we had hoped, so it is extremely important to go for the win at Gateway and grab all the points we can to keep fighting for the Astor Cup. We had a strong car at last year’s race at Gateway and ended up finishing second. The NAPA boys deserve another win this year and I’m hoping we’ll see them in victory lane Saturday night.”
See, Newgarden has scored five top five finishes in his last six starts on the season. He also has finished in the top five in all but three races run this season. That’s put a ton of pressure on Rossi to beat him.
Rossi, hasn’t won a race since June 23 as that’s the last time he’s paced the field out front of an Indy Car race too. Since Belle Isle 2, Rossi has led just 57 laps. His last three finishes have been sixth, fifth and 18th respectively. Heading to a track where he’s led just two career laps at, he could be in for a fight on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Pagenaud and Dixon have outpaced Newgarden and Rossi in three of the last four races. Pagenaud, went from a 60+ point deficit to now under 50. He’s led 146 combined laps over the last four races including three top four results.
Dixon, has four consecutive top two finishes in his No. 9 Honda and has led 72 laps over the last four races himself. Despite going from 99 points down to 52, Dixon still thinks that he has to win another race.
“I’ve been pretty happy with the past several races,” Dixon said. “The whole PNC Bank team has done a great job finishing either first or second. It’s what you have to do. But we still need more wins. This is the go time part of the NTT IndyCar Series season. This championship is just so tight – you cannot afford to make any mistakes from here on out, or you’ll be on the outside looking in – really fast. “
In Gateway, Dixon has finished on the podium in each of his last two tries. He also has finished in the top two in each of the last four starts on the season too. On the last two ovals, Dixon has two runner-up finishes. Odds are, a podium is coming for the Iceman on Saturday.
“We’ve been on the podium here the past two years but haven’t been able to get that top step on the podium,” Dixon continued. “This Saturday would be the perfect time to break through.”
For Pagenaud and Newgarden, one of them likely will win though. At Gateway, Penske is riding a four race win streak including both since the series’ return in 2017.
Newgarden, has finished first and seventh respectively in Gateway. Pagenaud, has finished third and fourth respectively. Power, has finished 20th and first respectively on the 1.25-mile St. Louis area oval.
On short ovals like this one, Penske has won three of the four under this current aero package with the new car and six of the last seven overall. They’re 4-for-4 on ovals in 2019.
Also, on ovals in general, Penske has won five straight and 13 of the last 18 overall.
That’s great news for Newgarden and Pagenaud. For Newgarden’s sake, how is he not the favorite? He’s been superb on short ovals in his career. He just led 245 of 300 laps at Iowa last month and has won three out of the last five races on short ovals.
Chevy has had the preferred engine on ovals, most notably short ovals, so Rossi and Dixon have to be thinking podium this weekend and hope for bad luck for Newgarden.
Also, 10 of the last 11 races of the season have been won by one of these four drivers. The only one that they didn’t win was last weekend when Will Power was victorious in Pocono.
Furthermore, Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport have won the last 11 Indy Car races on the season and 26 of the 31 races run with this new car. Plus, the top four in the oval standings so far? Penske-Penske-Andretti-Penske.
Furthermore, since the start of the 2015 season, this trio of teams have won 61 of the last 79 races run. That’s 78-percent.