Chris Owens/IndyCar

Rossi: winning more races still necessary to win championship

1 Comment

With four races remaining in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, only four drivers still have a legitimate shot to win the championship. This year’s championship contenders are a “who’s who” of Indy car racing, with seven championships and 81 race victories (including three Indianapolis 500 victories) between the four of them.

For current series points leader Josef Newgarden, along with third-place Simon Pagenaud and fourth-place Scott Dixon, hoisting the Astor Cup at Laguna Seca would be a perfect way to cap-off an impressive 2019 campaign.

But it wouldn’t be the first time for any of them. Pagenaud won his first championship in 2016, while Newgarden won his first the following year. Scott Dixon is a five-time champion, having won the title in 2003, 2008, 2013, 2015 and last year.

The man Dixon defeated to win his most recent championship is Alexander Rossi, who is the only one of the four championship contenders to have not yet won a title. Rossi, who ended the 2018 season 57 points behind Dixon, enters the final four races with quite possibly the best opportunity he’s ever had to win the title in his relatively young IndyCar career.

The 27-year-old Rossi currently sits second in the points standings, 16 points behind the 28-year-old Newgarden, and has an excellent chance to win at least one more race this season, something he believes will be necessary to win the title.

“We’re going into three more in a row and they’re very important races so we’re at a point where you can’t make any mistakes and every position counts for something,” Rossi told NBC Sports. “We can’t just look at it from a championship perspective, we need to win races.

“It’s getting down to the point where the difference between first and second is going to be pretty minuscule at the end.”

Chris Jones/IndyCar

If the past is any indication of the future, Rossi should be a contender in each of the next three consecutive races. He enters this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway as the defending race champion. He also started and finished second in last year’s race at Gateway and led 32 laps en route to an eighth-place finish in IndyCar’s return to Portland last Labor Day weekend.

However, Rossi is quick to point out that he cannot simply rely on previous success if he wants to win the title.

“I think you have a little confidence internally, but we still had Mid-Ohio where we won there last year from the pole and didn’t have quite the same level of performance this year,” Rossi said. “Things change year-to-year.

The tires change constantly and teams get better. You have to make sure that despite the fact that you were good there the previous year, you’re still evolving forward and getting better.”

Indeed, any IndyCar competitor who wants to be in championship contention towards the end of the season needs to be on their A-game week in and week out, thus it shouldn’t be a surprise that the four drivers in the championship hunt are considered the best of the best. Rossi knows that he and his entire Andretti Autosport crew need to remain picture perfect and capitalize on any mistakes their Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing counterparts make.

“The pressure is on I think all of the top four guys in the championship,” Rossi said. “It’s amazing that every year this championship comes down to the final race, and it’s going to be no different this year.

“We just need to make sure we’re in a good position to come out on top.”

The NTT IndyCar Series returns to action on August 18, with the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Live race coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter

 

Australia SuperCar Champion gets IndyCar Test at Team Penske

GETTY IMAGES
GETTY Images
Leave a comment

Scott McLaughlin’s latest reward for winning the 2019 Virgin Australia SuperCar championship is an INDYCAR test at Team Penske.

“Scott has been incredibly successful for DJR Team Penske over the last three seasons and he has become a true champion of our sport,” said team owner Roger Penske, who will become the owner of INDYCAR, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 in early January. “He certainly embraces new challenges and we think this is a great opportunity to utilize the IndyCar Series rookie testing program so Scott can experience what it is like to get behind the wheel of one of our Indy cars.”

McLaughlin, who has scored back-to-back Virgin Australia Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP), will participate in an INDYCAR Rookie Evaluation test at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla. on Monday, January 13.

“I am always open to new challenges and I’m thankful to Team Penske for providing this opportunity to test an Indy car,” said McLaughlin, who established a new Supercars single season record with 18 victories this past season. “We had an amazing year in 2019 and I’m looking forward to defending our Supercars championship next season. I’m also excited to grow as a driver and being with Team Penske creates cool opportunities to try something new. Although I have spent a few hours in a simulator earlier this year, it’s going to be a blast to see what one really feels like at a place like Sebring.”

McLaughlin joined DJR Team Penske in 2017 as one of the brightest stars in Supercars. He has produced 35 victories and 44 pole positions over the last three seasons while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019, the driver’s title each of the last two seasons and the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in October, along with co-driver Alex Premat.

McLaughlin will defend his Supercars title for DJRTP in 2020 in the No. 17 Shell V-Power Ford Mustang.  He will build on his already successful racing career by driving a full-sized open-wheel car for the first time.

Team Penske enjoyed another successful IndyCar Series season in 2019. The team earned its record 18th Indianapolis 500 victory as Simon Pagenaud captured the checkered flag in May, while Josef Newgarden won his second series title in three years and the team’s 16th INDYCAR Championship. Team Penske will once again compete with three full-season entries in 2020, featuring series champion drivers Newgarden, Pagenaud and Will Power.

Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 540 major race wins, over 620 pole positions and 37 Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. Over the course of its 53-year history, the team has also earned 18 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win, overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring along with a win in Australia’s legendary Bathurst 1000 race. Team Penske currently competes in the IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The team also races in the Virgin Australia SuperCars Championship, in a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing, as DJR Team Penske.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500