The NTT IndyCar Series crowns its 2020 champion on Sunday (Oct. 25) — and it’s going to be a familiar face. Five-time champion Scott Dixon and two-time champion Josef Newgarden are the last men standing going into the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and both are prepared for a fight.
Dixon and Newgarden joined Frontstretch ahead of the 2020 IndyCar season finale to discuss their respective points of view going into the last race (and first street course race!) of the year. Both men also look back on what’s been an up-and-down season in so many respects.
Tune into the 2020 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg today at 11:30 a.m. PT/2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
Brittany Frederick, Frontstretch: Scott, you’ll be accomplishing something very special if you win your sixth title at St. Petersburg. What’s your mindset going into Sunday, especially given how the last few races have not gone the way you’d have liked them to?
Scott Dixon: I think it’s only fair that Josef let us lead the whole season. (laughs) We try to typically keep it pretty simple. I would say that was not the case for the last few races, which got us into a bit of a tailspin. Josef and Team Penske have been doing a fantastic job.
For us, [our mindset is] just to have a pretty simple weekend, try to keep it clean. Obviously the goal is to go for a win. That makes it a lot easier; then you don’t have to worry about any of the [championship] scenarios. I think we’re still lucky to be in the situation that we are, the points lead that we do have.
As we all know, that doesn’t guarantee you anything. The NTT IndyCar Series is renowned for throwing some curves in situations like this. It’s always exciting. We tried to stop it going down to the last race…but we came up short. Just looking forward to the weekend; can’t wait to get to St. Pete. Looking forward to getting on a street course, we haven’t done one all year. Hopefully, it goes well.
FS: Josef, what about you? This would be back-to-back titles for you, which is also an impressive thing to add to the resume.
Josef Newgarden: Similar to Scott, we’re excited to get back to a street course. We haven’t been able to do that yet this year. That’s going to be a change-up for the entire field with the new aeroscreen.
I feel like we’re definitely prepped and ready to rock for the weekend. [I’m] just going there to try to win the race. That’s really all I can do. I love on the fact sheet, it was like 20,000 scenarios [and] one percent of the scenarios means we can win the championship. You’re saying there’s a chance and that’s all we need.
It’s going to be an exciting weekend; we’ll see how it shakes out. We’re just going to go and do our thing, see where everything lands at the end of it.
FS: Both of you have had interesting campaigns in the 2020 IndyCar season, with the pandemic changing the schedule like this, but also just the way it’s shaken out for each of you. How do both of you look back on the season now that it’s coming to an end—in the place it was supposed to start back in March?
Dixon: I think, honestly, we’ve had a pretty good season. We’ve had some missteps here and there, which I think most teams do during the year. I made a pretty big mistake at Mid-Ohio which, had I not spun, I think it would have been a different scenario going into the last race.
These adversities, the ups and downs throughout the season, is what makes IndyCar racing. You see these [championship] runaways, then you see them get caught. The situations always come down to the wire, which is great to see for the sport and for the fans, for everybody involved.
I think how all of us started the season loading into St. Pete, getting ready to go, then waking up on Friday saying you probably need to book a flight to go home, [it’s] nice to end it in full circle and go back to St. Pete this year. Massive thanks to everybody in St. Petersburg—the mayor, Kim Green, [Kevin] Savoree — to get this back on. Obviously Florida for allowing us to have fans at the race.
We’re in a great situation with the series. A big thanks to Roger [Penske] and everybody in the NTT IndyCar Series, because we weren’t sure we were going to be able to continue. Cool to end it the way we are, with the championship going down to St. Pete.
I think everybody at Ganassi feels steadily confident and ready to go racing. I’ve always wanted to win at St. Pete, so hopefully, maybe, this is the year. We’ll see.
Newgarden: I’m excited, just like Scott. It’s kind of fitting that we come full circle with this. It was odd to be there at the beginning of the year when everything fell apart, not just in IndyCar but the world, really. To be able to finally come back and run the race is great.
To have some fans there is fantastic…It’s obviously different having the fans. The way they’re able to be [at] the track—social distancing, masks, all that—it’s going to be a different energy, but to have energy back is really pleasing to see.
Like Scott mentioned, a lot of people worked to put this together the whole year without knowing we were going to have that. Just thankful we’re able to go back there and race this season. I think it’s going to be a really fun time in October. It’s a different ending for us than we’ve seen in IndyCar.
We’re all pumped. Team is ready. [We] feel good. We’ll go to try to have a great weekend.
The 2020 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg takes place Sunday, Oct. 25 on the Streets of St. Petersburg. The race airs at 2:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. PT on NBC.