Newgarden wanted much bigger points gain on Palou in Iowa


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Despite his satisfaction in winning both of last weekend’s IndyCar races at Iowa Speedway, Josef Newgarden admitted he hoped to make much bigger gains on championship leader Alex Palou.

Newgarden’s 106-point haul brought the two-time IndyCar Series champion 37 points closer to Palou with five rounds left in the season.

“I don’t know about you, but that’s a positive result I think leaving the weekend,” said Newgarden after his win in the second race at Iowa on Sunday, his fourth of the 2023 season.

Newgarden is slightly optimistic about his chances of overturning his 80-point deficit but also said that there’s still work to be done as a team in order for him to catch or pass Palou in the points table.

“We have been a little bit too up-and-down across the board,” Newgarden commented on his form this season. “I don’t think we have the consistency that we want as a team. When you look at every track type, we’re probably bouncing up and down a little bit too much.”

“There’s no doubt that the ovals, particularly the race package, has been very strong for us. It’s hard to complain about our race cars on ovals these days. They’re very, very good.”

“It’s a complex schedule on the way out. We’ve got to do a street course, road course, oval, back to two road courses – it is a question mark. We definitely have to elevate our game on where we’ve been the first half of the year. There’s no doubt.”

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Newgarden’s home race on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee next week begins a run of five races in six weeks which will decide the championship. From there the teams return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for its second race on the road course, the last oval race takes place at Gateway Motorsports Park, then Portland and Laguna Seca conclude the season.

Newgarden and Palou have both won four races this year
The 2017 and 2019 champion knows Palou is in a strong position to join him as a two-times title winner. “Alex and his crew are in a really good spot,” said Newgarden. “They’ve had what appears to be a pretty consistent program. We’ve got to elevate to their level and just execute.

“You just never know what’s going to happen. I think if we can be excellent on the back half of the schedule, then anything is possible.”

In Iowa, Palou minimised the damage at a track where Newgarden was the hot pre-event favourite. The Ganassi driver equalled his worst finish of 2023 in eighth place on Saturday, but the next day he moved up from fifth to third in a three-lap sprint at the end.

Having arrived in Iowa 126 points behind Palou, Newgarden was assured to gain some ground by virtue of winning both races over the weekend – a feat that was last done at an IndyCar double-header when Graham Rahal swept both races in Detroit six years ago.

However after trimming Palou’s lead to 80 points Newgarden he admitted he aimed to make much greater inroads. “I would have liked it to reach 50 or 60,” he said. “That sounds better, but that’s not where we’re at, and I think we did a pretty good job given what was in our control this weekend.”

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Newgarden paid tribute to Palou’s success in getting the most he could from a weekend when Penske were the team to beat. “It’s hard not to give kudos to Alex, I think he just did a great job,” said Newgarden on Sunday evening.

“Clearly we seem to have the upper hand this weekend, and he had a great day today. He maximised what he could, and I think that speaks to what he brings to his program.

“He maximises his results. He minimised a loss today. You know, it could have be more, and he just made sure it wasn’t.

“He is a tremendous competitor. He did a great job. I wish we gained more, but I’m not going to be dissatisfied with where we brought it to.”

The Penske driver can draw some encouragement from the late-season surges he has made in the last three years – though none of those were enough to deliver his third title. In 2020, Newgarden was 117 points behind Scott Dixon with six races remaining. He won three of those final six races to finish just 16 points behind Dixon.

In 2021, Newgarden trailed Palou by 88 points going into the Mid-Ohio Indy 200. Newgarden picked up his first win of the season, then finished in the top ten in each of the remaining six races to finish 38 points behind Palou.

Last year, Newgarden made a blistering comeback in the season finale at Laguna Seca, where he climbed from 25th to second – but lost the championship by 16 points to team mate Will Power, despite winning five races over the year.

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RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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3 comments on “Newgarden wanted much bigger points gain on Palou in Iowa”

  1. It would have been if Palou would had some mechanical issues in one of the races. It could have tightened the championship up a bit. Newgarden needs to really perform the final races.

  2. Palou will score more points on street and race circuits with his form, there isn’t many ovals left for Newgarden to close the gap in the championship in my opinion.

  3. Newgarden needs to dish some great qualifying sessions. He is very consistent in great race performances, but those don’t provide as many points as needed as he usually starts far behing the pole sitter.

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