IndyCar: New championship favorite emerges after just one race

After dominating the 2024 IndyCar season opener, Josef Newgarden is now the favorite to win his third series championship.

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, IndyCar
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, IndyCar / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Team Penske's Josef Newgarden opened up the 2024 IndyCar season with his first pole position since 2022, and he went on to dominate the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, winning the race by nearly eight seconds over Arrow McLaren's Pato O'Ward in second place.

It was a Formula 1-like display of domination for a driver and team who did not win a single race on a street circuit last season. In fact, all four of Newgarden's wins last season, a season which saw him win the Indy 500 but match his lowest championship finish in seven years with Roger Penske's team, came on ovals.

So the fact that Newgarden led a 1-3-4 finish for the Captain on a street track was a major statement to open up the season, especially since the next championship event isn't for another five-plus weeks.

Josef Newgarden now the IndyCar championship favorite

It was such a major statement that after just one race, Newgarden is now the IndyCar championship favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook, which is giving fans an instant $150 bonus just for placing any $5 bet.

Newgarden entered the year listed second behind Chip Ganassi Racing's Alex Palou. The two drivers are still listed at +300 and +450, but with Newgarden having the shorter odds through one of 17 points races on the schedule.

Palou, like Newgarden, is a two-time series champion. The reigning champion is aiming to become the first driver to win two titles in a row since Dario Franchitti won three in a row from 2009 to 2011.

The last time Newgarden opened up a season with a win was in 2019, when he went on to win his second championship. However, Palou's finishes at St. Petersburg in his two championship years were 17th and eighth place, respectively, and he finished in sixth on Sunday afternoon.

O'Ward (+600), Team Penske's Scott McLaughlin (+800), and Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon (+1100) round out the top five.

The next race on the IndyCar schedule is the $1 Million Challenge at The Thermal Club, though that race is not a championship race. It is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 24, and it is set to be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET.

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The next championship race on the schedule is the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 21. USA Network is set to provide live coverage from the streets of Long Beach, California beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss any of the upcoming action!