IndyCar 2016 driver review: Josef Newgarden

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MotorSportsTalk continues to run through the driver-by-driver breakdown in the Verizon IndyCar Series field for 2016. Next up on the heels of a career year, Josef Newgarden, who has recently signed for Team Penske for 2017.

Josef Newgarden, No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2015: 7th Place, 2 Wins, 1 Pole, 4 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 345 Laps Led, 8.4 Avg Start, 10.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2016: 4th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 2nd, 4 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 313 Laps Led, 9.4 Avg. Start, 9.9 Avg. Finish

I’d compare Josef Newgarden to the stock market at the moment. “Why do you make that comparison, TDZ?” you ask. Because his stock is the highest it’s ever been in the paddock and now everyone is buying, but his 2016 season was so volatile from a results standpoint that it was the IndyCar equivalent of going up 300 points on the New York Stock Exchange one day, then going down another 200 the next one.

Newgarden had four podium finishes in 2016 and also, four finishes of 21st or worse in a 22-car field. So balance those out and how he got to a career-best fourth in points lies in the remaining eight races this year, and those saw seven top-10 finishes.

That he did so without a regular full-time teammate – it rotated between team owner Ed Carpenter, rookie Spencer Pigot or testing fill-in and ECR third driver JR Hildebrand – spoke to how well Newgarden performed this season. Newgarden’s a humble soul who keeps his cards close to the vest, jokes he “just wants a seat” when he probably figures he is the hottest commodity in the series, and then extends thanks to Hildebrand for being as part of the effort as he was this year.

But Newgarden’s year was one that firmly delivered on the promise that those of us who’ve followed him since the start knew he was capable of. This is the driver who packs the rare combination of speed, humility, personality, great racecraft and, as we saw this year, determination.

That Texas crash with good friend and longtime competitor Conor Daly probably would have knocked most people out of action. But Newgarden was back in a car, 10 days later, collarbone and hand injury and all, at Road America, fighting his way to eighth place after a great battle with Juan Pablo Montoya. A couple weeks later, he delivered one of the greatest ass-kickings in IndyCar history in Iowa – leading 282 of 300 laps almost seemed like he’d missed out on a few.

And three months later, Newgarden has signed to replace Montoya at Team Penske.

All the while this year, he was consistent in the races where he didn’t have a cartoon anvil chasing him around. He’s proved that after five years, he’s ready for his jump up to a bigger team in 2017, with Team Penske. He helped make Ed Carpenter Racing better just as Carpenter made him better, but now he’s primed for that final step from top-five points finisher to championship contender.

SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals


In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.