Despite a dreadful evening in the Lone Star State for Josef Newgarden in the most recent Verizon IndyCar Series race, the defending champion could not be in better spirits heading into this weekend’s event at Road America.
While his prospects of a Texas rebound were looking steady following a less-than-stellar Detroit doubleheader, Newgarden’s Verizon P1 Award would be the lone piece of hardware to show for his team’s hard work.
Newgarden would lead the first 59 laps of the event before a penalty would eliminate him from any contention to pick up a top-10 finish. The Tennessee native would be classified 13th in the final results, four laps down from winner Scott Dixon. Safely ahead of 6th place points challenger Graham Rahal, Newgarden would retain 5th in the championship standings despite only a 19-point haul for his efforts.
Admittedly, it has been an up-and-down season for Newgarden since his triumph at Barber Motorsports Park in April. He started 6th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 12 and would finish 11th.
For the Indianapolis 500, a 4th place qualifying spot placed him as one of the favorites. After leading only 3 laps and finishing a quiet 8th, Newgarden would lose the points lead to his Team Penske comrade in Will Power.
After five consecutive rounds without a top-five finish, Newgarden is in the same place he was entering Road America’s IndyCar date in 2017. Despite the challenges and his fair share of bad luck, it would still be foolish to count the 27-year-old out of the running.
The Verizon Team Penske driver has not been bashful about his love for the Wisconsin road course, and with its similar characteristics to Barber Motorsports Park you would imagine that his No. 1 Chevrolet will be a handful for his competitors to contain this Sunday.
“I’m not shy on saying that Road America is probably my favorite track,” said Newgarden. “I really love racing there. It’s a fun road course with a lot of great INDYCAR fans, so what’s not to love? These cars with the new aero kit have been super exciting on road courses and this weekend will be no different.”
Finishing an identical 13th place at Texas Motor Speedway the last two seasons, Newgarden used a string of finishes following the TMS race to bolster his summer run to the 2017 championship: 2nd at Road America, 6th at Iowa, back-to-back wins at Toronto and Mid-Ohio, 2nd at Pocono, and a win in IndyCar’s return to Gateway Motorsports Park.
If it wasn’t for his 18th-place finish at Watkins Glen in between Gateway and the season finale at Sonoma, Newgarden would have registered a red-hot average finish of 2.14 down the stretch.
It certainly has not been the consistency that Newgarden would have asked for this first half of 2018, but all of the pieces are still in place for the American to take a shot at Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay ahead of him in the standings.
“The entire No. 1 Verizon Chevy team and I are pumped to get on track (at Road America),” Newgarden exclaimed. “I thought we were strong at Texas after not living up to our standards at Detroit, but we just ran out of luck. Myself and the entire team are ready to really come back strong to gain more points to continue our hunt for another championship.”
There is a lot left to be settled in the Verizon IndyCar Series before a new champion is crowned, but one thing is certain: Josef Newgarden will have his say on the 2018 championship before all is said and done.
Image courtesy of Christopher Owens/INDYCAR Media.