ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Josef Newgarden may not win this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship but if the 25-year-old driver pulls it off for Ed Carpenter Racing, he can look back to both his and his team’s performance at Road America as reason for it happening.
Newgarden’s abnormal Road America weekend, where he fought through both a right clavicle and right hand injury sustained two weeks ago to the day at Texas Motor Speedway, saw him entered on Tuesday, cleared to drive on Thursday, cleared for the remainder of the weekend on Friday, spin in qualifying on Saturday and then rebound from 20th on the grid to finish eighth on Sunday.
All the while, it keeps him in the top-five in points. With 283 markers, Newgarden is 92 points back of Simon Pagenaud with seven races remaining, and with a sub-20th place finish looming at Texas as he won’t be able to restart that race.
His hand, he said, doesn’t feel much better than it did at the start of the weekend, but it didn’t regress.
“It hurts a lot. I don’t think it’s worse, but it’s not gotten better,” Newgarden told NBC Sports post-race. “I have to focus on getting it better before Iowa.”
For IndyCar’s upcoming test at Iowa Speedway this week, JR Hildebrand will be back behind the wheel of the team’s No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet while Newgarden rests and recovers. Newgarden is still expected to race the Iowa Corn 300 on July 10.
Newgarden, beyond driving, had a lot of abnormal demands placed on his time this weekend.
His children’s book – “Josef, The IndyCar Driver” authored and illustrated by Chris Workman – premiered this weekend and so that meant a lot of extra signing autographs and meeting fans for that at the Road America Paddock Shop.
More relevant to his day job, he had a lot more medical commitments to tend to beyond his usual team commitments, debriefing and working with the ECR crew.
“It was tough managing time this weekend. I wanted more time to myself, but it is hard to get that on these type weekends,” he explained. “You want to be fair to everyone else here that needs your time.
“I had a lot more personal stuff to do. Whether it’s, you might need to take shots, or take any medicine, or try to do some physical therapy on my hand, that’s all stuff you don’t normally account for.
“A lot of people cut me some slack. I have such a good working relationship with everyone that I didn’t need to check in that much.”
Newgarden recovered from his qualifying spin on Saturday to drive through the field, noting his car was better on long runs and that he didn’t mind the first 39 laps of the race running caution-free before the first yellow.
“Eighth is not bad from where we started,” he said. “But I think we had a better car than that. It’s down to me not getting it right in qualifying and putting us in a bad spot. We maximized what we could and tried to recover.
“It would have been nice to start up front. We could have had a podium car this weekend. We have a great team, great car to challenge at the front.
“I felt we were good on our long pace. That’s how we made up our time. The deeper we got on tire runs, the more it helped us today.”
Team owner and teammate Carpenter hailed Newgarden’s weekend performance.
“In a lot of ways it’s really nice, really proud of the effort that Josef put in,” Carpenter told NBC Sports.
“He battled through and could have easily scored zero points this weekend, and he has a top 10.”