FORT WORTH, TX — Josef Newgarden got his mulligan out of the way already. That occurred in the opening race of the season at the Barber Motorsports Park in a rare mistake made on the opening lap of the year. He’d finish 23rd, for his worst finish since 2016. But, he’s since stormed back.
Newgarden, brought his No. 2 Chevrolet home runner-up on Sunday to score his third straight top six result on the season, two of which being runner-ups. He’s now fourth in points heading to Indy, which is a big improvement to where he was at the start.
But, due to Scott Dixon having four top five finishes in as many tries this season, Newgarden still sits 37 points back.
“I think there’s plenty of positives,” Newgarden said of the start to his season so far. “St. Pete was a strong weekend. I think I would say this weekend was fairly strong. We’ve not been world beaters on either of them, but we’re thoroughly in the fight, in the mix.
“We’ve been in position to win races the last two weekends. I said this earlier, but that’s step one. You put yourself in position, you keep doing that. You do that enough times, it all starts falling into place. That’s the theory at least.
“I feel positive about where we’re at. I know there’s been a tremendous amount of work from our team to try and up our game at all places. I think we’re feeling some of those effects now.
“Indy, we obviously want to have the biggest effect from those efforts. I think we’re all pretty hopeful, excited to get stuck into the month of May and make the most of it.”
Still, Newgarden combined with teammates Will Power and Scott McLaughlin have scored a runner-up in all four races run this season. While they’re 0-for-4 in terms of race wins, they’re 4-for-4 for being the bridesmaid. Are they to a point to where it’s getting frustrating on being so close?
“Not frustrating yet,” he told me after the race. “I mean, we’re there. We’re definitely in the mix, which is the first step. So I think we stay in the mix, we’re going to get some wins knocked off. We just got to stay focused on that. Feeling good about things so far.”
Newgarden, said what he was frustrated with was that he just didn’t have the pace to compete for the win in the end with Pato O’Ward.
“Obviously we were in the catbird seat there at the end,” he said. Felt like it was going to be possible to get a win today. The only thing I was worried about, just seemed like we were lacking some speed for whatever reason. Pato’s Chevy seemed to be performing a little bit better than my Chevy. Regardless, with Chevy in Victory Lane, it’s a good day.
“We had great fuel mileage, great reliability, which are always qualities we get from Chevrolet. Pretty proud about that. Strategy was sound. We were saving more fuel than anybody today, just going that little bit longer which enabled us to do what we were doing. We were kind of working towards the back end of this race all day, kind of the boring way to hit it, but it’s effective.
“I just didn’t have pace at the end. I had positioning. I for whatever reason didn’t have the pace. I don’t know. I was pretty flat out, but just didn’t have the pace.
“Yeah, I was really positive on the approach. I always am. I feel confident in what we’re doing. I always feel big confidence in Tim and the boys on pit lane. They crush it pretty much every time. There’s no lacking of confidence there. We just didn’t have quite enough at the end.
“A lot of good positives, but just short at the end of the day.”
The Tennessee native started his Texas career 0-for-7 in terms of top 10’s. He’s since had four straight top sixes including three of which being podiums.