IndyCar: Josef Newgarden's points plummet continues at Barber

There are 16 drivers with whom Josef Newgarden is tied or trails in the IndyCar championship standings after a tumultuous race weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, IndyCar
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, IndyCar / Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of fans might have been under the impression that Josef Newgarden topping the opening practice session at Barber Motorsports Park, a track where he is a three-time winner, could pave the way for him to complete a total rebound after the most tumultuous week of his IndyCar career.

Instead, the Team Penske driver who led the championship standings at this point last week continued to plummet down the order, dropping from 11th into a three-way tie for 15th place in points following a 16th place finish at the track where he had qualified eighth.

The two-time series champion lost his points lead, which he had earned with a win on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida and a fourth place finish on the streets of Long Beach, California to start the season, mid-week last week when IndyCar disqualified him from the St. Petersburg race due to an illegal manipulation of the push-to-pass system.

So 45 days after the checkered flag flew, Arrow McLaren's Pato O'Ward was declared the official race winner. Team Penske's Scott McLaughlin was also disqualified from third place for the same reason.

That said, it's probably not time for Newgarden to panic quite yet. Though he is a three-time winner at the 17-turn, 2.38-mile (3.83-kilometer) natural terrain road course in Birmingham, Alabama, his race went almost exactly how it went in 2023, when he started in seventh place and finished in 15th.

He went on to win the Indy 500 last year.

And despite the disqualification, the big hit in points, and Sunday's result, he is still listed as the championship favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook, which is now giving fans an instant $200 just for betting $5 on any driver, win or lose.

Full championship odds can be found here. Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

However, it was abundantly clear on Sunday that nobody is going to give him an inch on the race track.

He had to fight for every ounce of real estate against rookie Tom Blomqvist of Meyer Shank Racing, and a tussle with Chip Ganassi Racing's Marcus Armstrong resulted in the No. 2 Chevrolet going for a ride through the grass.

Newgarden admitted that, though he maintains that he and the No. 2 team were unaware of any rules breach at the time and they didn't leave St. Petersburg thinking that they had pulled one over on anyone, he has yet to speak to any of his competitors after the scandal came to light.

Many of his rivals have issued strong responses when pressed about the matter, and it is clear that the majority are unwilling to forgive thus far and that more will need to be done for him to earn back their respect and trust -- even if he was indeed an honest mistake.

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