Win Will Make Amends for 2021 Heartbreak for Newgarden

  • Racing News
Josef Newgarden

It’s the Road America road to redemption this weekend for Josef Newgarden as he looks to make up for a disappointing loss last year with a strong result in the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR.

So far, he has produced strong speed in practice all weekend, landing him the No. 2 starting position for Sunday’s race (12:30 p.m. ET, live on NBC and Peacock Premium, noon on the INDYCAR Radio Network).

With a best lap of 1 minute, 44.9371 seconds in the Firestone Fast Six, Newgarden nearly scored back-to-back NTT P1 Awards for pole and secured his third front-row start of the season in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet. Alexander Rossi scored the pole with a best lap time of 1:44.8656 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda.

“We were just a little short,” Newgarden said. “I was pretty happy with my lap. It wasn’t a bad lap. It just wasn’t enough. I wish we were one spot better, but we have all day to work on that now with PPG and Team Chevy.”

Newgarden won the pole for last weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park. The race was won by his Team Penske teammate Will Power, who was looking for redemption after a heartbreaking Detroit loss in 2021 when his car wouldn’t refire after a late red flag.

Now at the picturesque Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, it’s Newgarden’s turn to erase the memories of what could have – or even should have – been.

At this track last year, another late-race caution snookered a Team Penske driver for the second consecutive race weekend. Instead of Power, it was Newgarden, who dominated last year’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Road America.

A late race caution for Ed Jones in Turn 12 bunched the field for a two-lap dash to the finish. On the Lap 53 restart, gearbox issues plagued Newgarden and prevented him from getting up to speed.

Instead of a win, Newgarden finished 21st and walked away with 13 points, while eventual 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou won the race and took home 51 points. That difference – 38 points – is exactly how many he fell short to Palou in the championship battle at the end of the year.

It’s easy to point to one moment and say that’s what cost Newgarden a better shot at what would have been his third NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship. Instead of living in the past, Newgarden prefers to move on, and his focus is the 14-turn, 4.048-mile road course here and now.

All that’s on Newgarden’s mind is a win. It would be his third of the season, and he’s already the series leader in wins this year, with two coming at Texas and Long Beach. He’s fifth in the championship, 47 points back of championship leader Power.

Newgarden said last year’s near-miss doesn’t keep him up at night, and he’s rarely even thinking about it these days – a contrast from Power, who had redemption on the top of his mind all last weekend at Detroit before scoring his first win of 2022.

“I forget about that half the time, to be honest,” Newgarden said. “I just hope it doesn't happen again. That would be great to not have that happen. But we've got a lot of racing to do before we get to that point, to the end.”

Newgarden has one win at Road America, in 2018 from the pole, and he feels good about his chances Sunday. He said he likes the feel of his car on Firestone alternate (red) tires more than the primary (black) tires, but he knows strategy is going to play a factor, as it does in most NTT INDYCAR SERIES races.

Though he doesn’t like to think about last year’s race, his performance this weekend reminds him of last year, when he led 32 of 55 laps.

“I feel just as good as we did last year going into the race,” he said. “Obviously not in the same starting position, but I think we've got a good car to go the distance. Hopefully two laps more the distance.

“We should be in good shape. I haven't really thought of redemption much, honestly.”