IndyCar: Josef Newgarden talks 2020 focus, where he needs to improve

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, IndyCar (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images)
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, IndyCar (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images) /

After winning his second career IndyCar championship, Josef Newgarden discussed where he is most focused on improving his performance in the 2020 season.

En route to winning his second career IndyCar championship, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden made it a habit of winning at tracks where he previously hadn’t had much success, much less won.

The 28-year-old Hendersonville, Tennessee native opened up the 17-race 2019 season by dominating the race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, a venue at which he had never placed in the top six in seven previous starts.

He earned his second victory of the season in the first of two races on the streets of Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan, a venue at which he had never won in 13 previous starts, and he followed that up the next week by winning at Texas Motor Speedway, the site of his horrifying crash in 2016 where he had recorded just one top 10 finish in seven starts.

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He went on to dominate at Iowa Speedway, where he also dominated in 2016.

Three of his four victories came at tracks where he hadn’t previously won, and this came following a season that resulted in him winning three races, including two at tracks where he hadn’t previously gotten to victory lane.

With several tracks on the 17-race 2020 schedule where the 14-time race winner hasn’t yet been able to take the checkered flag, Newgarden spoke to Beyond the Flag about where his focus is for next season as it pertains to continuing to improve at tracks where success has previously eluded him.

“I think Indianapolis is my highlight,” Newgarden stated. “I highlight it every year, but I’m going to probably highlight it three times over this time, just because I don’t think you can put too much emphasis on it, like you can overthink these things, but I’m going to be putting a lot of resource into figuring out how do we win the Indianapolis 500. That’s still a box we need to check.”

In eight starts in the Indy 500, Newgarden has recorded a top finish of third place, which he recorded driving for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2016. Since arriving at Team Penske, he has finished as high as fourth, which he recorded this year. But his average finish at the track is 15.75, his second worst among the 16 tracks on the 2020 schedule, although it is a solid 8.60 over his last five attempts.

“But you can’t force it,” he continued. “I don’t know — there’s a lot of great talented guys that have never won that race and they’ve led a lot of laps there. Michael Andretti is probably the most famous for it, for leading a ton of laps and probably should have won the race but he never has.”

Newgarden ranks 111th all-time and 13th among active drivers with 38 laps led in his eight starts at the Brickyard. He led 14 laps in 2016 en route to his third place finish, three laps in 2018 en route to his eighth place finish and 21 laps this year en route to his fourth place finish.

“That’s a place I really want to figure out. And then other than that, I think it’s kind of your standard thought process,” he said. “You want to win anywhere you haven’t, and you want to continue to win at places you have. We’re going to look to be successful all around everywhere.”

Of the 16 different venues on next year’s 17-race schedule, Newgarden has previously won at nine.

He has yet to win at the Long Beach street circuit in eight starts, Circuit of the Americas in one start, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in six starts, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval (Indy 500) in eight starts, Portland International Raceway in two starts and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in one start.

He has never competed at Richmond Raceway, which is set to return to the calendar next year for the first time since 2009.

“We took a big step on our street course program overall this year, and that was probably our biggest jump. I think we need a little bit more work on our road course game. We made big strides. The guys did an amazing job getting us forward, but I think we need to do a little bit more work, so I’m also keeping the road courses in mind that we’ve got to find a bit more there.”

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The streets of St. Petersburg, Florida are scheduled to open up the 2020 IndyCar season in under six months on Sunday, March 15. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is set to be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network.