Josef Newgarden is thinking about another second place in the championship

Josef Newgarden IndyCar 2022

Josef Newgarden IndyCar 2022

MONTEREY, Calif. – Josef Newgarden entered the media center in a trance for the final post-race interview of the 2022 IndyCar season.

To make matters worse, he arrived early while rival team owner Bobby Rahal and driver Christian Lundgaard wrapped up a press conference on Lundgaard’s 2022 IndyCar Rooke of the Year title.

Newgarden looked exhausted. He gave everything he had behind the wheel his No. 2 Dallara Chevrolet with Team Penske to win Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey and possibly the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series Championship.

A mistake and a twist in the corkscrew during qualifying on Saturday put him in a deep hole. It started on the 25thth but quickly past cars as if they were sitting still.

“I was just an old-school driver,” Newgarden said. “I went back to the junior days. What happens happens. I just go as hard as I can.”

On lap 46 he passed his teammate and championship leader Will Power for second place. If Newgarden could win the race and Teamamte Power finished off the podium, Newgarden could have a shot at the championship.

But race winner Alex Palou was untouchable, opening an impassable gap to second-placed Newgarden.

Palou’s No. 10 Honda crossed the line 30.382 seconds clear from Newgarden’s Chevy. power was third and clinched his second championship in the NTT IndyCar Series by 16 points.

Newgarden considers himself a perfectionist. He drove an almost perfect race, but in his opinion he should never have made the mistake in qualifying that forced him to start 25thth in the field of 26 cars at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

As Newgarden took a seat next to Palou in the post-race interview, his eyes gazed ahead as if he were a million miles away as Palou discussed his lone win of the 2022 season.

One could only guess what Newgarden was thinking. Once he bowed his head and rubbed his eyes.

That’s the pain that comes with finishing second in the IndyCar Series Championship for the third straight year. It’s also the pain that comes with winning four more races than the series champion in 2022 – five wins over Power’s one.

But Power had nine podiums and Newgarden six.

“We just needed to have a more consistent season,” Newgarden lamented. “There’s no doubt. I think the peak performance has been there all year. We just haven’t had the consistency. That ultimately put us in an unfavorable position when we came here.

“If we can clean that up, we can undoubtedly fight for the championship again next year.”

Newgarden joined Team Penske in 2017 and was an instant hit, winning the championship in his first year with the team. Two years later, Newgarden had another championship in 2019.

Since that championship, Newgarden has been the strongest closer in IndyCar, but he was able to snatch the championship from the leader. In 2020, Scott Dixon built a big lead at the start of a pandemic-hit season when the schedule called for doubleheads at most venues and three races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway street course to have a full season.

Newgarden charged hard late in the year and won the season finale in St. Petersburg, Fla., but Dixon won the championship by 16 points.

At the 2021 season finale in Long Beach, Newgarden placed third behind Palou and Pato O’Ward. After openly questioning why he was part of a media event prior to a championship contender’s race, Newgarden was hurtling into second place when O’Ward crashed on lap 43. Palou finished fourth and won the championship by 38 points over Newgarden.

On Sunday at Laguna Seca he finished 16 points behind Power with another strong finish.

“Well, we certainly tried today,” Newgarden said. “As always, we did our best. Alex was difficult to catch today. I think he was just incredible, especially in the last two stints. He did a really great job. It would be difficult to get to him.

<em>For the second year in a row, Josef Newgarden finished second in the IndyCar season finale and in the championship standings (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images).</em>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/ev1ADNmJ8wVr9pv6s2kgEQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/ bCjtihM9wf3q_1AzYPlSIQ–~B/aD0yOTE3O3c9NDM3NDthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/nbcsports.com/45172585bc23c795a84c82a828c56455″/><noscript><img alt=For the second year in a row, Josef Newgarden finished second in the IndyCar season finale and in the championship standings (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images).” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/ev1ADNmJ8wVr9pv6s2kgEQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/bCjtihM9wf3q_1AzYPlSIQ- -~B/aD0yOTE3O3c9NDM3NDthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/nbcsports.com/45172585bc23c795a84c82a828c56455″ class=”caas-img”/>

For the second year in a row, Josef Newgarden finished second in the IndyCar season finale and in the championship standings (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“We got down to second place, we only need one more place, but Alex seemed a bit out of reach today. Such great work from you.

“I’m glad we were able to fight our way back to where we did. It was a tough day and we knew we had to fight. Ultimately, we fell short in this championship. We need to be in a different position next year and fight a lot harder so hopefully this weekend we can be in a much more favorable position and I think we can do that.

“It’s been a really tough year. It was good in a lot of ways, but it was really negative in a lot of other ways too. I look forward to a reset, look forward to coming back next year and know we have the team to get the job done.”

With pain comes pride. There was no reason Newgarden couldn’t help but be proud of his accomplishment, but an eighth-place finish at Portland on Sept. 4 followed by his spin and failure to get out of the first round of qualifying at Laguna Seca was on the Finding Extremely Expensive A Championship.

“I think it’s a different day when you start safely from pole,” said Newgarden. “That gives us a completely different picture. We’re going to run a different race and we’re going to run it without a deficit. We started this race last, so we started with a big deficit.

“It’s hard to predict. If we hadn’t been behind, I don’t know if we would have had enough to beat that guy (Palou) today. He was outstanding and there’s no doubt about that, so I don’t want to marginalize what he did.

“But it’s a different day when you start first. We shouldn’t have had to make up that deficit.

“I don’t know how that would have turned out. I don’t know if it would have changed (Power’s) program. Really we’re winning poles, we’re winning the day, all I need is for Power to be fourth and that seems pretty doable.

“Ultimately, the spin this weekend was almost the nail in the coffin. It was easy. We didn’t need that. It was also so stupid that this happened. It wasn’t a huge problem. There’s a curb you don’t want to touch and I accidentally touched it and it caused a big problem.

“Yeah, it’s hard to say how it would have turned out if we’d put that thing on pole, but I’d rather have done that and seen what happened than had to come from behind today.”

Newgarden was proud of his team’s performance. He congratulated Power’s championship team because, as they say at Team Penske, “a win for one car is a win for us all.”

“Obviously we’re all competitive and want to be the winners personally, but when we win as a team it’s great for everyone,” said Newgarden. “I’m very proud.

“But I’m also a bit relieved. I’m kinda excited to get into this offseason reset, charge up and then find a way to just hit everyone harder next year and I know we can do that.

“The other overwhelming positive I think is knowing we can do better than this year. I just know we can. When we put it together, all I’m telling you is, just pay attention, because when we put it together, it’s going to be big.”

In a way, Newgarden must be proud of his efforts. Giving everything he had, he packed every power he could behind the wheel and pushed the race car as hard as he could only to watch the winning driver fade into the distance and his championship hopes dwindle.

“That’s all I had today,” Newgarden said. “We ended up just ahead of Alex. We need to reassess and figure out how to close the gap we’ve had on Alex over the last couple of stints a little bit. I already have some ideas and I think if we did this race again I already know what we would try and if we keep going it changes the game too. I hope for another shot.

“What we put together today was all we had.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500

Pride, passion and pain: Josef Newgarden is thinking about another runner-up title originally appeared on NBCSports.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.