By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the NTT IndyCar Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into the 2019 season opener at St. Petersburg on March 10.
Team: Team Penske
Years in IndyCar: Seven
Career Wins: 10
Career Podiums: 22
After winning the title in 2017 in his first year with Team Penske, Josef Newgarden entered last season looking to make it back-to-back championship wins and while it was a successful season, the Hendersonville, Tenn. native ultimately fell short of the goal.
Newgarden kicked the season off with a top-10 at St. Petersburg, followed up by a win at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
A sweep of the pole and the win came two weeks later in a rain-delayed race at Barber Motorsports Park, marking his third win in his last four starts at the 2.38-mile, 17 turn road course outside of Birmingham, Alabama.
While the Barber win vaulted him into the points lead, the Month of May in Indianapolis started a backslide for Newgarden and his team that would last through the June 9 race at Texas. In the five races during that stretch, his best finish came with an eighth-place finish in the Indianapolis 500, with other finishes of 11th, ninth, 15th, and 13th.
Heading into Road America, Newgarden turned things around with another weekend sweep of the pole and the race, but the 10th race of the season would mark the last time he would score a win or a podium finish for the remainder of the year, eventually finishing fifth in the final points standings.
“We just weren’t consistent enough last year and particularly, Scott (Dixon) was very consistent,” Newgarden said. “I want to say he was the strongest across the board, but for consistency, no doubt he was on another level. You can have wins and you can have really streaky moments where you’ve been really quick, but if you don’t have that consistency throughout the year then you’re not going to probably challenge for the championship. So that’s what we need to be better at.
“I don’t think I’m that different from a couple of years ago. I think I approach things very similarly. You’re always learning, you’re always get better and you feel like every year you get a bit more prepared. And I think last year we probably weren’t as comfortable with the new body kits as we wanted to be. We still have a lot of areas we can improve on from last year. So it’s ever evolving. Not just us, but also our knowledge of the tire and the car as it changes, every year you’re chasing that. You hope to be on the front end of it, but some years you’re just not.”
Now that Newgarden and Team Penske have a year of experience with the current aero package, the group should be right in the thick of the battle this season. All three drivers in Roger Penske’s stable had their own flashes of brilliance at points during the last season and with the information shared between them, the group should be able to bounce back with a much more consistent 2019 season.
Newgarden has wins at six of the tracks on the current schedule, but one race still eludes him – the Indianapolis 500. His legendary team owner has claimed victory in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing 17 times and the youngest member of his team is hoping he can add No. 18 to the trophy case this season.
“It’s important,” Newgarden said of winning at Indianapolis. “I mean to go there and be good and be successful. Hopefully, this is the year we get a shot at maybe winning the 500. I think that’s what you got to do is you’ve got to put yourself in a position every year and then hopefully one of the years pays off.”