INDIANAPOLIS – Josef Newgarden is coming off of his second NTT IndyCar Series championship in three years. There’s no doubt about it now, Newgarden is on a legendary pace in this series. There’s no reason that he should slow down anytime soon.
But, now that he’s won the title again and has appeared to turn any weakness on some not so good track around, what’s next?
That is a simple question and answer for Newgarden – the Indianapolis 500.
“I think Indianapolis is my highlight,” Newgarden said. “I highlight it every year, but I’m going to probably highlight it three times over this time, just because I don’t think you can put too much emphasis on it, like you can overthink these things, but I’m going to be putting a lot of resource into figuring out how do we win the Indianapolis 500.
“That’s still a box we need to check. But you can’t force it.
“I don’t know — there’s a lot of great talented guys that have never won that race and they’ve led a lot of laps there. Michael Andretti is probably the most famous for it, for leading a ton of laps and probably should have won the race but he never has. That’s a place I really want to figure out.
“And then other than that, I think it’s kind of your standard thought process. You want to win anywhere you haven’t, and you want to continue to win at places you have. We’re going to look to be successful all around everywhere.
“We took a big step on our street course program overall this year, and that was probably our biggest jump. I think we need a little bit more work on our road course game. We made big strides. The guys did an amazing job getting us forward, but I think we need to do a little bit more work, so I’m also keeping the road courses in mind that we’ve got to find a bit more there.”
Newgarden, 27, came into 2019 struggling on some tracks on the schedule. St. Pete was one of them. The street course was never a good track for him. In fact, he had never scored a top five finish in his first seven starts there. He wound up in victory lane this past March.
Same for Belle Isle and Texas. He won on both track in a span of a week back in June. Now that he’s got those tracks turned into his favor, Indy is the lone exception left.
Out of the 15 tracks on next year’s schedule, one of them is new (Richmond), two are in their second year (COTA/Laguna Seca) and another in its third year (Portland). You can’t say that Newgarden hasn’t had a string of bad success at any of them. They’re too new.
In the remaining 11, he’s won at eight of them. The three that he hasn’t won at, two of them he’s been good on. The one missing – Indy.
He’s made eight career Indy 500 starts with a best finish of third in 2016. He brought his No. 2 Chevrolet home fourth this past year to give him four top 10 finishes in his last five tries. He also has four finishes of 19th or worse too.
Indy, has never really been a strong track for him as he noted that he’s the only driver with Team Penske on the IndyCar side to have never won there. Will Power won on both the road course and oval. Same for Simon Pagenaud. Helio Castroneves is a four time ‘500 champion. Juan Montoya won for them in 2015. Newgarden, has a goose egg.
He’d like to change that next May.