IndyCar: Josef Newgarden abruptly ends 12-year drought

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports /

Not since 2010 has an Indy 500 winner gone on to win multiple races later in the IndyCar season. Josef Newgarden did it in a 24-hour period.

Speaking to Beyond the Flag after winning the 107th running of the Indy 500 back in May, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden indicated that his focus had shifted to making sure he did not fall victim to the “Indy 500 hangover” that had plagued other IndyCar drivers in the past.

“All I’m focused on right now is how do we not have the Indy 500 hangover that everybody sort of gets,” Newgarden explained. “I don’t want to fall into the trap where if you don’t win the championship, it’s kind of an okay year because you won the 500.

“People kind of rest on that, and I don’t want to get comfortable in that situation. I really want us to focus on how we get both done. So yeah, it would be amazing if it shapes up.”

From 2011 to 2022, just three Indy 500 winners went on to win another IndyCar race in the season during which they won the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. Ryan Hunter-Reay won one more race in 2014, Will Power won one more race in 2018, and Simon Pagenaud won one more race in 2019.

Josef Newgarden recorded just one podium finish in the next four IndyCar races, and he saw himself fall to 126 points behind championship leader Alex Palou.

The most recent season in which a driver won the Indy 500 and then won multiple races later in the year had been 2010, which is also the most recent season in which the Indy 500 winner went on to win the IndyCar championship. Dario Franchitti pulled off both that year.

But this past weekend at Iowa Speedway, Newgarden won twice in a 24-hour period.

Newgarden has always been the driver to beat at Iowa Speedway. He entered the doubleheader weekend as a four-time winner at the four-turn, 0.894-mile (1.439-kilometer) Newton, Iowa oval, and he would have been a five-time winner if not for a shock failure near the end of race two of last year’s doubleheader.

Despite not starting from the pole position in either race this past weekend, he led 129 laps of Saturday’s 250-lap race, and he led 212 laps of Sunday’s 250-lap race, adding two more instances of leading more than half of the laps at the track to his resume. He has done so eight times in the 10 most recent races there.

Additionally, the 32-year-old Hendersonville, Tennessee native has become the first driver to win two races in the same season after an Indy 500 win in 13 years.

If there was ever a true test of an Indy 500 “hangover”, this was it. If Newgarden performed poorly at Iowa Speedway, then maybe there is something to the “hangover”. But it was business as usual for the driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet, who is simply unbeatable in Corn Country.

Of course, winning a third championship this season and thus becoming the first driver to win both the Indy 500 and the title in the same year will still be difficult, and there will certainly be those who argue that this is what needs to happen to truly disprove the Indy 500 hangover.

Newgarden still finds himself 80 points behind Palou in the championship standings with five races remaining on the schedule, but that speaks to the strength of Palou’s season more than anything. He hasn’t finished lower than eighth place this year and has recorded 10 top five finishes in 12 races.

The 26-year-old Spaniard finds himself tied with Newgarden atop the wins list with four, and even though short ovals were considered his weakness, he managed to salvage his weekend with finishes of eighth and third place at Iowa Speedway, a classic case of damage control from a champion driver.

The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix is the 13th of 17 races on the 2023 IndyCar schedule, and it is Newgarden’s home race. Nashville Street Circuit is set to host the event for the third straight year, with NBC set to broadcast it live beginning at 12:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 6.

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How large will Palou’s points lead be after this race? Palou’s first two Nashville finishes were seventh and third place results, while Newgarden’s were 10th and sixth place efforts, respectively. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!