Newgarden unfazed by shrinking points lead

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In just two races, Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden has seen his NTT IndyCar Series points lead redcuced from 25 points over Alexander Rossi to just four after the 2017 IndyCar Series champion finished fourth at Toronto.

But Newgarden isn’t about to panic.

The series heads to Iowa Speedway for Saturday night’s Iowa 300.

The .875-mile short oval is one of Newgarden’s best tracks, even before he joined Team Penske for the 2017 season.

Beginning with the 2014 season when he was with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, Newgarden mastered the Iowa short oval. That first year he started 21st and finished second. The next year driving for CFH Racing, Newgarden started seventh and finished second after leading 111 laps.

When Newgarden returned in 2016 with Ed Carpenter Racing, he was still healing from a broken collarbone and injured wrist suffered in a massive crash at Texas Motor Speedway one month earlier. What Newgarden did that day was incredible as he started second, led an IndyCar Series record for most laps in a single race with 282 and drove into victory lane.

In his two previous attempts at Team Penske, Newgarden finished sixth in 2017 and fourth in 2018 after leading a whopping 229 laps in last year’s race.

Newgarden realizes past success doesn’t guarantee the same results Saturday night, but it could go a long way in helping him fight off the hard-charging Rossi and Newgarden’s Team Penske teammate and Toronto race winner Simon Pagenaud.

“We have to be consistent, but other people have to be consistent, too,” Newgarden told NTT INDYCAR Mobile after his fourth-place finish at Toronto. “I hope we will be good at Iowa. I don’t know what the boost level will be in terms of a change in the car’s performance in handling. We didn’t test there so we don’t know. We were strong there last year and sort of just fell apart in the final stint after having the race weekend figured out. We just have to clean that up this year.

“There are times you have a strong result at a place like Barber Motorsports Park and think it’s a lock and sometimes it doesn’t work out. You never know. Things change every year. Tires change every year. Setups change. Where you have been good in the past doesn’t necessarily guarantee you are going to be very good there in the future.

“We have to be on our toes. I don’t think we can rest on the fact that we should be good at Iowa.”

In Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto, Newgarden once again had a brush with the Turn 11 wall, this time in the closing laps of the race when his rear wheels whacked the wall as he raced by. In the last two Toronto races, he has hit the Turn 11 three times, including twice this past weekend and once in the race.

“That last hit didn’t really do much,” Newgarden said. “I was pushing really hard in the race trying to get a little more. I sealed my fate not doing better in the Fast Six, but our season has been solid.”

Newgarden has been remarkably consistent with 11 races in the top-five this season. Those impressive statistics may help him win a second championship, but he has to fend off some incredibly talented and aggressive drivers.

“Even with this being a down weekend for us, fourth place at Toronto is still pretty good,” Newgarden said. “We have to keep doing that the rest of the year.

“With six races to go, it’s hard to count anybody out. Simon is still in this fight. Scott Dixon is still big-time in this fight, and I would still put Will Power in the fight. It’s a game of consistency and six races is still a long way to go.”

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