Continuing our driver review series of the top 20 drivers of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship, we are continuing our single-driver reviews until reaching Will Power, the 2022 IndyCar Series champion.
Here, we will focus on Josef Newgarden, the second placed driver in the championship points.
If the recent Spotify playlist trend could show a soundtrack to Josef Newgarden’s 2022 IndyCar campaign, Katy Perry’s Hot N Cold would be the first song.
Nobody won more IndyCar races in 2022 than Newgarden. However, for each of those five wins there was an equivalent finish of 13th or lower.
In the first six races of the 2022 season, the Hendersonville, Tennessee native had two wins and four of those 13th or lower results. After finishing 13th in the Indianapolis 500, Newgarden was 52 points behind championship leader Marcus Ericsson.
After finishing second in the final race of the season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Newgarden was 16 points behind champion Will Power.
That weekend at WeatherTech Raceway was a near-perfect microcosm of Newgarden’s 2022 season. Entering the final race weekend, the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet was 20 points behind Power.
Newgarden needed to qualify up front, lead every lap he could and let the chips fall where they may. Instead, a mistake heading to The Corkscrew in the first round of qualifying put the two-time IndyCar champion 25th on the grid out of 26 cars.
Championship contender Josef Newgarden will start the #INDYCAR season finale in LAST. 😳
Here’s an on-board look at what happened in qualifying. pic.twitter.com/1dQlvQJwpu
— INDYCAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) September 10, 2022
Power claimed a record-setting pole position and the crucial bonus point that came with it, making Newgarden’s job slightly more difficult. That job grew harder after Power led the opening lap, securing a bonus point that Newgarden desperately needed.
The 2011 Indy Lights (err, Indy NXT) champion went for broke with a four-stop strategy on a track known for high tire degradation. That strategy, plus some well-executed overtaking moves, put Newgarden in the lead for a few laps before finishing second to Alex Palou.
Palou led the most laps, securing two bonus points. But by leading, Newgarden did get a bonus point of his own.
Newgarden would not have won the title had he won the race. But to charge through the field in the last race and end the season finishing second in points for the third year in a row is a gut punch.
Bad luck befell Newgarden at the worst times, too. At the second race of the Iowa Speedway doubleheader, a broken shock took what could have been a win and threw Newgarden into the Turn 4 wall.
After dominating all day long, Josef Newgarden is OUT of the race.
Take a look at what happened to Saturday's race winner at Iowa. #INDYCAR
— INDYCAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) July 24, 2022
Instead of picking up 52 points from that race, Newgarden gained only nine. That margin is more than double the gap that Power had over Newgarden at season’s end.
That could’ve been title number three.
Since joining Team Penske in 2017, Newgarden has won two championships, finished second in points three times and was fifth in points in 2018. Newgarden and Scott Dixon are 1 and 1A on best IndyCar driver over the last few seasons, but it always seems to happen that despite having a great year by most accounts, just one other driver has a slightly better year.
Such is life until 2023 for Newgarden