Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden needed the single point offered for earning pole position to assist in his quest to overcome Scott Dixon’s lead in the championship, and the Chip Ganassi Racing driver was hoping to put some distance between himself and the reigning NTT IndyCar Series title winner.Both came up short in their efforts, though, left perplexed and frustrated as Newgarden qualified eighth and a bemused Dixon 11th.
“It was a bit frustrating,” Dixon said. “It felt like our car was really good in Round 1 and we nursed it a little bit. There, I just couldn’t build tire temp. It felt like each corner I made, the tires were coming in, but I ran out of time.
“It is what it is. We can still have a great race from (11th).”
With Newgarden’s simple mission for the race — to win and earn the maximum points available — in mind, he knows the task will be tougher by rolling off in the fourth row.
“We took a swing at it there for Q2, and it wasn’t the right direction,” he said. “I didn’t get the most out of it. I think just putting a clean lap together would have been enough to transfer, and we just didn’t do the job. It makes our program harder for tomorrow, but we still have to go for the win. Yeah, we can win from there. We just made it harder on ourselves.”
Provided Dixon stays close to Newgarden throughout the 100-lap race, a win, as the championship scenarios reveal, still might not be enough to land his third title.