Call it a bump in the road, a rough patch, or a deviation from the norm, and whatever expression you prefer, each one can be used to describe Josef Newgarden’s slide down the championship standings since the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
The defending Verizon IndyCar Series title winner took two wins from the four opening races and entered the month of May as the points leader. Since then, over the last five rounds, he’s yet to place higher than eighth and has fallen to fifth in the quest to retain his crown.
With a 68-point deficit to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon at the head of the championship chase, the Team Penske Chevy driver heads into Road America on a quest to get his title defense back on track.
“It’s fair to call it a rough patch because that’s what it’s been, but that’s motorsports,” Newgarden told RACER. “It’s in the ups and downs where you have to thrive. We’re currently in a downward phase, but we have to find a way to pull ourselves back up. We showed a lot of grit in Texas to pick ourselves up after Detroit, which was a tough event for all of us at Team Penske.”
Newgarden left Michigan with a 15th-place result, then went on to start from pole at Texas but suffered from extreme tire problems during the race and came home 13th. With his two worst finishes in mind, the plan for this weekend’s race in Wisconsin involves making zero changes to his approach.
“We rebounded with great speed and a great plan at Texas, but it didn’t pan out,” Newgarden continued. “But mentally, you have to keep pushing, and we’ll do that same thing again at Road America. You can’t panic when you have a couple of bad finishes. It’s the time, actually, where you need to trust in the process the most. We should have great cars, the best in the business working on our team, and we’re going to keep fighting to turn things around pretty quickly.”
Outside of the personal joy he takes from the annual visit to Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine valley, the 27-year-old Tennessean says the twin-turbo V6 engine provided by Chevy will factor in his performance around the 4.0-mile road course.
“I’m excited just because it’s Road America,” he added. “It’s one of my favorite events of the year, but I think it’s that way for all of us in IndyCar; it’s such a driver’s track. That place is built for our cars and accentuates the greatness of an Indy car.
“I think Chevy’s done a great job this year; it’s gone back and forth with Honda, which is fun for the fans, but overall, I think we’ve had a really fantastic package from Chevy and I think it will show itself favorably at Road America.”