The showdown for the 2017 IndyCar championship is likely between four drivers, with a fifth still having a shot, but the constant theme heading for Sonoma is take care of your own business because that’s all you control.
In one of the tightest fights in recent history, Josef Newgarden leads Scott Dixon by three points, Helio Castroneves by 22 and Simon Pagenaud by 34 with double points in play for the finale.
“I don’t see the points deficit being such an issue,” said Pagenaud, who clinched his first IndyCar title at Sonoma last year after Will Power tangled early with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya. “And my points deficit on Josef is less than Will’s deficit on me last year.
“I think the most important thing is to go into Sonoma very confident and just simply try to score maximum points. The rest you can’t control. I can’t control what Dixon is going to do, what my teammates are going to do. All I can control is me, and those situations are my favorite.”
With a season-high four wins and a 31-point advantage going into Watkins Glen, Newgarden threw away a bunch of points with an unforced error leaving the pits last Sunday. But his demeanor sounded as upbeat as always on Tuesday.
“I think the good thing about it is we can control our own destiny, and if we win the race, then that basically secures the championship. So it’s in our hands to make it happen, other than us having to go there and rely on other people finishing in a certain position.
“So that’s the most comforting thing to me is we can control our own destiny, so we’ll focus on going out, being fast, solving problems, and trying to win another IndyCar race.”
At 42, Castroneves is driving as well as ever in pursuit of that elusive title.
“Well, the good news is we do have a very good setup there (Sonoma) the past few years and we’ve been able to really show that kind of like performance,” said the three-time Indy 500 winner. “And obviously as we saw it in Watkins Glen, anything can happen. So things outside of our control, that’s something that concerns me sometimes. Some people might not be aware of what’s going on and have an opportunity to show something, and those are the things that sometimes you don’t have much control.
“But at this point there is not much we can do. We’ve just got to keep bringing what we’ve been doing the whole season. We’re not here at this position by luck. We’re here because we perform as a team, as a group. Everybody in a consistent way, in a competitive way most of the time, and that’s what we’re going to have to continue doing.”
It’s basically three Penske Chevys (Power still has an outside chance being 68 points behind) against one Ganassi Honda. Dixon is the best driver of his generation but says going for his fifth championship is somewhat surprising, considering his season.
“I think with the ups and downs and misfortunes we’ve had throughout the season, I’m somewhat surprised that we’re still within striking distance in the points race,” said the 37-year-old Kiwi, whose lone win in 2017 came at Road America (pictured above). “Texas, Indy, Long Beach and St. Pete, we could have had a ton of points through those four alone.
“It’s a better position than what we were in 2015, but that guarantees you pretty much nothing. It’s good to be in the hunt and have a tight gap right there, but we’re still going to have to do our best to beat four of them.”
With 100 points going to the winner, it’s fairly easy math.
“At the end of the day, if Helio wins the race, then he’s probably going to win the championship,” said Pagenaud, whose amazing consistency (average finish of fifth) hasn’t been enough yet. “If Newgarden wins the race, then he’s going to win the championship and so on. But it should be a helluva fight.”