NTT INDYCAR Series championship-leader Josef Newgarden has put the summer break since July’s Honda 200 to good use. Following a hero-to-zero performance at Mid-Ohio last time out, the Team Penske driver used the time to regroup and recharge ahead of the final four races of the 2019 season.
“It was good to have a couple of weeks off”, said Newgarden. “I took some time to reset and refocus as we head into the final stretch of the season.”
A race to forget for Newgarden
Mid-Ohio was a race to forget for the 28-year-old. With a top 5 finish and an increased championship lead all but secured, Newgarden found himself beached on the last lap after an ill-timed, and ill-advised, attempt to pass Ryan Hunter-Reay.
“It was my fault trying to force the issue”, he admitted. “I wish I could’ve kept the engine running. That was the big thing.”
Newgarden limped home to an eventual 14th-place finish. A result that cut his championship lead over Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi to a slender 16 points.
Newgarden relishes and respects the challenge of the Tricky Triangle
Despite that costly mistake, Newgarden heads to Pocono and the ABC Supply 500 confident of closing out the season strong. A two-time podium finisher at the Tricky Triangle, Newgarden has never finished outside the top 10.
His recent form there is even more impressive with the former champion finishing inside the top 5 every year since 2014.
Newgarden is, however, wary of the challenge presented by the legendary tri-oval: “Pocono is a difficult track, and it takes the right pit and fuel strategy to do well with any 500-mile race”, he said.
“We have a pretty good plan in place for the Hitachi Chevy, so we’re ready to put it into action.”
With one eye on the ultimate prize – the Astor Cup – Newgarden and his Penske crew head to Pocono with championship history on their side. Though momentum swung back in favor of the chasing pack at Mid-Ohio, the record books give great cause for optimism regarding the 2017 champion’s chances of a second title.
INDYCAR history books favor the championship leader
With four races to go in his maiden INDYCAR championship season, Newgarden led the point standings with four to go. Indeed, leading the pack with four to go has tended to put drivers in the catbird seat for the championship.
Since 2008, another five titles have been secured by the driver at the top of the standings with four races to run. Scott Dixon (2008 and 2018), Dario Franchitti (2011), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2012) and Simon Pagenaud (2016) all won titles after holding the lead with four to go.
Having led the championship since the opening race of the year – a post-Indy 500 blip aside – Newgarden is not planning on playing the percentage game in the final few races. ” My crew has been really giving it their all every race and we’re all ready to keep fighting for more wins to keep gaining points and continue to make a run at the championship”, he said.
Considering his track record at Pocono and the INDYCAR history books, do not be surprised if Josef Newgarden rattles off a few more wins before the 2019 NTT INDYCAR season is done.
Practice for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway starts 9.30am (local) Saturday, August 17 with live coverage on NBC Sports Gold followed by qualifying for the NTT P1 Award from 12.30pm (local).
The green flag drops on the field at 2.45pm on Sunday, August 18 for 200 laps.