IndyCar: Josef Newgarden finally clinches an elusive title

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

Josef Newgarden had never won an IndyCar oval championship with Team Penske. Now he has clinched his first with an oval race still remaining on the schedule.

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden did what pretty much everybody expected him to do this past weekend at Iowa Speedway: sweep the lone doubleheader of the 2023 IndyCar season.

His pair of victories around the four-turn, 0.894-mile (1.439-kilometer) Newton, Iowa oval make him four for four on oval tracks this year. He won the oval opener at Texas Motor Speedway in April, and he won the 107th running of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.

While there is still an oval race remaining on the 2023 schedule, Newgarden has mathematically clinched this year’s oval championship.

Josef Newgarden is a former IndyCar oval champion, but he had surprisingly never won this title with Team Penske.

Newgarden now owns a 69-point lead in the oval standings over Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou. With just 54 points on the table in each race, nobody can overcome this deficit at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway next month.

The 32-year-old Hendersonville, Tennessee native won the 2016 oval championship driving for Ed Carpenter Racing. While he has won two IndyCar championships — and two road/street course championships — since joining Roger Penske’s team in 2017, an oval title had surprisingly eluded him.

Newgarden is riding a five-race oval win streak, the first for any driver since 1970, going back to last year, and he would be on a record-tying seven-race oval win streak if not for a shock failure in the second race of last year’s doubleheader at Iowa Speedway.

He has won eight of the last 10 oval races going back to August 2021, and he would have won nine if not for that fluke mechanical issue.

Considering the fact that more than half of Newgarden’s 29 career victories have come on oval tracks and yet oval tracks make up only a small percentage of the schedule nowadays, it is quite hard to believe that it took him until his seventh season with Team Penske to secure this title.

However, some of this has to do with the fact that he did not win an Indy 500 before 2023, and the Indy 500 had been a double points race from 2014 to 2022.

In 2021, he finished the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 12th place. Oval champion Pato O’Ward finished in fourth. In 2022, he won three of five oval races, but he finished the Indy 500 in 13th, while eventual oval champion O’Ward finished in second. Additionally, O’Ward was the driver who won after Newgarden’s Iowa Speedway crash.

In 2016, when he won his first oval title, Newgarden finished the Indy 500 in third place. Until 2023, that was his best finish in the race.

Ironically, Newgarden secured his first Indy 500 win in the first Indy 500 after double points were removed from the event. But despite not scoring double points for earning that win, he has still managed to wrap up the oval title a race early.

There is still no reason to believe that Newgarden won’t be the betting favorite to win at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway next month as he tries to sweep the entire oval portion of the 2023 schedule. He is a four-time winner at the track in seven starts, and he has won each of the three most recent events there.

Of course, in the overall championship standings, Newgarden still trails Palou by 80 points, which is a deficit that cannot be overcome in a single race weekend.

Palou, like Newgarden, has won four races this season, and his consistency has allowed him to build up this gap. He has recorded 10 top five finishes and does not have any results lower than eighth place through 12 races this year. The fact that he owns such a huge lead over a driver who has matched him in race wins is particularly impressive.

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The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 is the fifth and final oval race on the 2023 IndyCar schedule, and it is scheduled to take place at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway on Sunday, August 27. There are two races between now and then, one street course race and one road course race. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss any of the final five races on this year’s calendar!