The situation for Josef Newgarden heading to Sonoma isn’t that new to him. The last two Verizon IndyCar Series seasons, Newgarden has had a chance to win the season championship in the season finale at Sonoma. But, those two seasons he knew realistically, that his chances were actually pretty slim.
Now, in his first season with Team Penske, his chances of winning the championship this year are really good. In fact, they’re better than anyone elses. Currently, Newgarden leads the standings by three points over Scott Dixon. Really, this weekend is a winner take all among four drivers and Newgarden is one of them.
But, the guys currently in the top five of the standings chasing Newgarden are a four-time champion, another past champion, the defending series champion and a three-time Indy 500 champion.
As you can see, Newgarden has reason to be a little nervous heading to Sonoma. But, one person surrounding him is giving him the voice of reason and voice of confidence he’s needing. That’s Tim Cindric.
In the offseason, Newgarden joined Penske and the team moved Cindric from Will Power’s pit box to Newgarden’s. Cindric, came to the season finale with Power with a chance to win the championship every year. Now, his voice is in Newgarden’s head set this season.
“You know, Tim gives me confidence every weekend,” Newgarden told me on Tuesday about how much Cindric has helped him. “I feel like I’m always learning something with him around. You know, it’s made me up my game as a driver, probably just as a person in motorsports. He had so much experience, and he brings so much comfort to any group, I think, because you feel like he has his hand on the pulse, like he knows what to do, he’s been there before.
“He’s always thinking about how situations can evolve, how they can change, what answers you’re going to need to have before you actually get into certain situations. You know, he brings just enormous comfort and confidence, I think. Even at Watkins Glen when it went kind of sideways with me making my error on the pit exit, it’s just like, he’s so calm about it and he’s not bashing on me.”
Speaking of Watkins Glen, Newgarden gave up a ton of points with his 18th place finish. He said his mindset heading to Sonoma doesn’t change, but another factor does though.
“Well, I don’t think it will change our mindset or the way that we attack the season finale, but it does create less opportunity for error on the event,” Newgarden said. “I think with the cushion we had before, it did create more of an open opportunity for some error during the event, and now it’s less. 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.”