Win makes up for 2021 Heartbreak for Newgarden

Win makes up for 2021 Heartbreak for Newgarden

It is Road America’s road to redemption this weekend for Josef Newgarden as he looks set to make up for a disappointing loss from last year with a strong result in the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR.

So far, he has been producing high speed in practice all weekend, giving him the #2 starting position for Sunday’s race (12:30 p.m. ET, live on NBC and Peacock Premium, noon on the INDYCAR Radio Network).

With a best lap of 1 minute 44.9371 seconds in the Firestone Fast Six, Newgarden nearly scored back-to-back NTT P1 Awards for pole and secured his third front row start of the season in No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet. Alexander Rossi scored pole with a best lap time of 1:44.8656 in the No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda.

“We just came up a little short,” Newgarden said. “I was quite happy with my lap. It wasn’t a bad round. It just wasn’t enough. I wish we were one place better, but we have all day now to work on that with PPG and Team Chevy.”

Newgarden took pole for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix last weekend presented by Lear at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park. The race was won by his Team Penske teammate Will Power, who was looking for redemption after a heartbreaking loss in Detroit in 2021 when his car failed to restart after a late red flag.

Now on picturesque Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, it’s Newgarden’s turn to erase the memories of what could have been—or even should have been.

Last year at this track, a Team Penske driver went off a warning during a late race for the second consecutive race weekend. Instead of Power, it was Newgarden who dominated last year’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Road America.

A late race warning for Ed Jones at Turn 12 set off a two-lap sprint to the finish. At the restart of lap 53 Newgarden was plagued with gearbox problems which prevented him from getting up to speed.

Instead of a win, Newgarden finished 21st and walked away with 13 points, while eventual 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Alex Palou won the race and took home 51 points. That difference – 38 points – is exactly how much he fell short in Palou’s championship battle at the end of the year.

It’s easy to pinpoint a moment and say that cost Newgarden a better shot at what would have been his third NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship. Rather than living in the past, Newgarden prefers to move on, and his focus here and now is on the 14-turn, 4,048-mile road.

All Newgarden thinks about is victory. It would be his third of the season and he already leads the series this year, with two in Texas and Long Beach. He is fifth in the championship standings, 47 points behind championship leader Power.

Newgarden said last year’s near miss doesn’t keep him up at night, and that he rarely thinks about it these days — a contrast to Power, who spent all weekend in Detroit on redemption before giving his first win of 2022.

“To be honest, I forget about that half the time,” Newgarden said. “I just hope it doesn’t happen again. That would be great if it doesn’t. But we still have a lot of racing to do before we get to that point, to the end.”

Newgarden has taken one win at Road America in 2018 from pole and feels good about his chances on Sunday. He said he likes the feel of his car on alternative (red) Firestone tires more than the primary (black) tires, but he knows that strategy comes into play, as with most NTT INDYCAR SERIES races.

While he doesn’t like to think about last year’s race, his performance this weekend reminds him of last year when he led 32 of the 55 laps.

“I feel just as good as last year when we started the race,” he said. “Of course not in the same starting position, but I think we have a good car to cover the distance. Hopefully two more rounds.

“We should be in shape. I honestly haven’t thought much about redemption.”

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