As MotorSportsTalk continues its run through of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series field, we look next at Josef Newgarden, who was a potentially unlucky P13 this year.
- Team: Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
- 2013: 14th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 5th, 1 Podium, 4 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 17.5 Avg. Start, 13.7 Avg. Finish
- 2014: 13th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 20 Laps Led, 10.7 Avg. Start, 13.7 Avg. Finish
Last year, I ranked Josef Newgarden as my “most improved driver” over Charlie Kimball, owing as much to potential as his outright improvement (the top-10s were up, his qualifying wasn’t). Yet looking back almost a year later, I should have awarded “CK” the 2013 merit. This was “Newgy’s” most complete season yet in IndyCar, as he, new engineer Jeremy Milless and the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team overachieved.
In 13th, he was the highest finishing driver on a single-car team. He was consistently the greatest thorn in the Penske/Ganassi/Andretti team sides. He probably had the worst luck in the series, having been punted in Long Beach, drilled in Indianapolis and Detroit 2, the mechanical in Houston 2 and then, the tragic comedy that was his final pit stop at Mid-Ohio. Iowa (second) was his best finish, but not his best race.
Was Newgarden without mistakes of his own? Nope, and three of them in each of the first three doubleheader races were unforced errors that a driver in his third year shouldn’t be making. But figure if Long Beach and/or Mid-Ohio ended on the podium, and at least one other race produced a result that matched his qualifying (which was way up, from 17.5 to 10.7), he would have easily lived up to his preseason prediction that a top-10 finish in the championship was possible. In this field, and with no teammate, Newgarden was without question one of stars of the year.