SALINAS, Calif – Josef Newgarden started off the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season on the right footing. He led 60 of the 110 laps in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete en route to his first victory in an Indy Car season opener. Little did he know then that the Tennessee native would hold onto the points lead following literally every race with the exception of one after.
Newgarden, started 2019 with four top four finishes in as many races, including three of which in the top two. But, the Month of May could have cost him the title though. Whenever doubt and mistakes would happen, Newgarden would always answer.
First off, it all starts with the INDYCAR Grand Prix. Newgarden got his way to the front somehow from the 13th place starting spot. The race was his to lose. That’s exactly what happened too.
Newgarden, hit pit lane and his team put slicks on again. That was a questionable move. With rain imminent, if he went with Firestone Wets, he would have likely won. Instead, they put on slicks, the rain fell right after and the rest was history. He’d finish 15th, giving up 25+ points at least in the process.
Then, while he finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500, his teammate Simon Pagenaud completed a dominating month with a win in the INDYCAR Grand Prix, a pole for the ‘500, the most laps led in the ‘500 itself and then a win.
That propelled him by Newgarden for the points lead heading into Belle Isle.
Newgarden answered and got lucky from a pit stop before a caution on the street course and retook the lead. Then, a crash the next day derailed all of that.
Another mistake came Sunday Belle Isle 2. Newgarden, was fighting too hard for the lead and got into a tangle with James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi on Lap 33 when all three were battling for the lead heading into the tight right hand corner in Turn 3. He’d finish 19th as a result.
He’d hang on though from there and answer again.
Newgarden, won six days later in Texas and it was all over. While Alexander Rossi made it interesting cutting the deficit from 30+ to four leaving Road America, Newgarden led 245 of 300 laps in Iowa and made a statement that he’s not going anywhere. Once again, he answered.
Newgarden, had a stretch from Texas through Pocono with five top five finishes in six tries. That allowed him to points race the rest of the way. He finished seventh in Gateway, fifth in Portland and now eighth in Laguna Seca en route to his second championship in three years.
This was Penske’s 16th Indy Car championship too.
When Will Power won the NTT IndyCar Series championship in 2014, it was Team Penske’s first in eight years. Their last came back in 2006 with Sam Hornish Jr. In fact, from 2002 through 2013, Penske had just one Indy Car title.
But, over the last six years, they’ve won four championships in the series.