MONTEREY, California. Joseph Newgarden entered the media center for a final interview following the race of the 2022 IndyCar season as if he were in a trance.
To make matters worse, he arrived early while rival team owner Bobby Rahal and driver Christian Lundgaard were wrapping up a press conference for Lundgaard’s 2022 IndyCar Rooke of the Year title.
Newgarden looked exhausted. He gave everything he had behind the wheel from his No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet to Team Penske in a bid to win Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix at Monterey and possibly the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.
A mistake and a spin during Saturday’s qualifying put him in a deep hole. He started 25th but cars passed quickly as if they were standing still.
“I was just driving an old school car,” Newgarden said. “I was going back to my youthful days. What happens, happens. I’m just trying my best.”
On lap 46, he passed teammate and championship leader Will Power for second place. If Newgarden can win the race and Power finishes off the podium, Newgarden will have a shot at the championship.
But race winner Alex Palou was untouchable, pulling away from second-placed Newgarden.
Palow’s No. 10 Honda crossed the line at 30.382 seconds ahead of Newgarden’s Chevy. Power was third and won his second NTT IndyCar Series championship by 16 points.
Newgarden considers himself a perfectionist. He had a near-perfect race, but in his opinion he should never have made a qualifying mistake that forced him to start 25.th in a 26-car field at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
P25 ➡️ P2
We did our best on Sunday, rode with me to every overtake on my @youtube! Link below. Video will be out at 6:00 pm ET!https://t.co/XSQqo5WxE4@team_penske // @teamchevy // @Hitachi_US // @indycar // #INDICAR pic.twitter.com/VkllaVRRRW
— Joseph Newgarden (@josefnewgarden) September 13, 2022
When Newgarden took his seat next to Palou in the post-race interview, his eyes looked ahead like he was a million miles away as Palu discussed his only win of the 2022 season.
One could only guess what Newgarden was thinking. At one point, he lowered his head and rubbed his eyes.
That’s the pain that comes when you finish second in the IndyCar Series championship for the third year in a row. It’s also the pain of winning four more races than the series champion in 2022 – five wins to Power’s one.
But Power had nine podiums and Newgarden had six.
“We just needed to have a more consistent season,” Newgarden said. “There’s no doubt about it. I think the peak performance was there all year. We just didn’t have consistency. Ultimately, that’s what put us at a disadvantage when we got here.
“If we can fix it, I have no doubt that next year we will be able to fight for the championship again.”
Newgarden joined Team Penske in 2017 and was an immediate success, winning a championship in his first year with the team. Two years later, Newgarden had another championship in 2019.
Since that championship, Newgarden was the strongest closest in IndyCar, but he could take the championship from the leader. In 2020, Scott Dixon took the lead at the start of a pandemic-hit season with doubleheaders at most venues and three races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to complete the full season.
Late that year, Newgarden bounced back and won the season finale in St. Petersburg, Florida, but Dixon won the championship by 16 points.
Reaching the 2021 season finale at Long Beach, Newgarden finished third in points behind Palow and Pato O’Ward. Openly questioning why he was in the championship contender’s pre-race media event, Newgarden was racing to finish second when O’Ward crashed on lap 43. Palu finished fourth and won the championship by 38 points over Newgarden.
On Sunday at Laguna Seca, he finished 16 points behind Power in another strong final performance.
“Well, we definitely tried today,” Newgarden said. “We did our best, as always. Alex was hard to catch today. I think he was just incredible, especially in the last two stretches. He did a really amazing job. It won’t be easy to get there.
“We got to second place, we just need one more place, but Alex seemed a bit out of reach today. They have such a great job.
“I’m glad we were able to bounce back where we did. It was a tough day and we knew we had to fight. Ultimately, we failed in this championship. Next year we have to be in a different position and fight a lot harder to hopefully be in a much better position this weekend and I believe we can do it.
“It was a really tough year. In many ways he was good, but in many others he was also very negative. I’m looking forward to the reboot, happy to be back next year and I know we have the team to do the job.”
With pain comes pride. There was no reason why Newgarden couldn’t be proud of his efforts, but an eighth-place finish in Portland on September 4, followed by his rotation and failure to make it out of the first round of qualifying at Laguna Seca, cost him extraordinarily dearly in the pursuit of the championship. championship.
“I think it’s going to be a different day if you definitely start from pole,” Newgarden said. “It gives us a very different picture. We’re going to have another race and we’re going to run it without a deficit. We started last in this race, so we started with a big deficit.
“It’s hard to predict. If we didn’t have a deficit, I don’t know if we would have had enough today to beat this guy (Palou). He was a star and there is no doubt about it, so I don’t want to marginalize what he did.
“But it’s a completely different thing when you start first. We would not have such a deficit that would have to be compensated.
“I don’t know how it would turn out. I don’t know if that would change the (Power) program. Indeed, we will win pole position, we will win the day, all I need is for Power to finish fourth, and it seems quite doable.
“At the end of the day, rotation was almost the nail in the coffin this weekend. It just was. We didn’t need this to happen. It was also so stupid. It wasn’t some huge problem. There’s one curb that you don’t want to touch, and I accidentally hit it, and that created a big problem.
“Yeah, it’s hard to say how it would have turned out if we put this thing on a pole, but I would rather do it and see what happened than come in from the back today.”
Newgarden was proud of his team’s efforts. He congratulated the Power team because, as they say in Team Penske, “a victory for one car is a victory for all of us.”
“Obviously we are all competitive and we want to be winners personally, but when we win as a team it matters to everyone,” Newgarden said. “I am filled with pride.
“But I am also filled with a little relief. I’m really excited to start this off-season reboot, recharge, and then find a way to just hit everyone harder next year, and I know we can do it.
“The other positive thing, in my opinion, is that I know that we can do better than this year. I just know that we can. When we put it together, I’m just telling you, just be careful, because when we put it together, it will be big.”
In a way, Newgarden should be proud of his efforts. He gave everything he had, gave his best behind the wheel to the last ounce and pushed the race car as hard as he could, only to see the winning driver disappear into the distance and his hope of a championship vanish.
“That’s all I had today,” Newgarden said. “Ultimately, we missed Alex. We will have to reevaluate and figure out how we can improve things a bit with Alex in the last two stints. I already have some ideas and I think that if we were going to do this race again, I already know what we would try and if we start further, it will also change the game. I’m hoping for another shot.
“As far as what we put together today, that was all we had.”
The 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule will have the same number of races and tracks as this season, with minor date changes.
IndyCar will open the 2023 season on March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida and end on September 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place on May 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 17-race schedule will end with eight races in the last nine weeks.
“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impressive upward trajectory, moving forward at a pace that is in keeping with our exciting style of competition,” President and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. said in a press release. Mark Miles. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to build on this trend further by bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and attracting new consumers around the world.”
There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the seven finals) plus an Indy 500 qualifier on May 20-21. There are also three races on the USA Network and a race in Toronto exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and in the US will also be streamed live on Peacock.
In partnership with NBC Sports, The 2022 IndyCar season was the most popular in six years. and the most viewed on NBC Sports of all time. The 2022 season was also the most broadcast season on record.
“We are very excited about our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and will build on the major milestones from last season,” NBC Sports said in a statement.