At Road America, Newgarden delivered his third win from the opening eight races of the season, and moved up to third in the championship, 32 points away from leader Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda. No other driver has scored more than one victory.
But the 2017 and ’19 title winner warned that to nail a third championship will require a less uneven campaign over the season’s second half. Aside from his three wins and a fourth place, Newgarden’s other four finishes have seen him outside the top 10, with a particularly disastrous 25th following a crash in which he was largely blameless at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
“It’s been a little bit too up and down for us,” he said, “kind of feast or famine. I think we genuinely had the potential for four or five wins up to this point. So we’ve done three of the potential five, let’s say. The other ones that we weren’t winning, we were finishing too far back.
“We’ve got to up our consistency. It’s a little abnormal for us. I feel like we’re a fairly consistent group, so I’m not going to lose sleep on why that was happening. Sometimes you get in these little micro trends where we don’t have the consistency we needed.
“We need to win a couple more races before the year is out because of the way the first part of the season went…But definitely more than wins, consistency is going to rule the day this year, for sure.
He later added: “We just need to keep on a good track here till the finish. I feel very positive about our group. We don’t have anything negative going on – honestly, there’s nothing that I could be complaining about. We’ve got a really strong team, everything is in a good place, great partnerships with Team Chevy and everyone else.”
Nonetheless, Newgarden observed that scoring three wins in a series as tight as IndyCar in this era, was also a good achievement, and a credit to his team and Chevrolet.
“It’s hard to win a pole, hard to win a race,” he said. “The landscape is not constant these days. I think 10 years ago you used to have sort of consistent trends.
“When a team would find a performance edge, they would typically carry that edge across the entire year. Whereas now I think people find these little edges on each other like every weekend. It’s going up and down all the time. You see a McLaren strong at one track, Andretti strong at another, Ganassi pops up, ECR pops up, we’re in the mix, then a Shank pops up. It’s neverending.
“We say every year it’s the closest competition we ever had, and somehow it keeps getting tighter! It must be the development of this car has really hit a fine point. You’re just constantly tuning little things now, millimeters of changes. The driving style is getting tighter, with simulators, all this stuff you can analyze. It’s impossible to hide something from the competition.
“Yeah, it is very difficult to win these races consistently. To be able to put multiple on the board, it’s a job well done to everybody in the #2 group.”
Winner Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet, podium, celebration, victory lane
Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images