Josef Newgarden focuses on what could be, not what could have been in IndyCar title race


After Scott Dixon most recently won Aug. 29 at World Wide Technology Raceway, Josef Newgarden found it “slightly demoralizing” to look at the 117-point gap to the IndyCar title leader.

In the five races since, Newgarden has sliced the deficit to 32 points entering the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida – giving the Team Penske driver a shot at defending his championship and winning a third NTT IndyCar Series title.

But the way the 2020 season unfolded still is slightly demoralizing for Newgarden, who opened the season with finishes of third, seventh and 14th while Dixon won three consecutive to lead the points after every race.

“I knew it was a monumental mountain,” Newgarden told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in a Thursday interview (watch the video above). “Now to see how much we’ve chipped away over the last five events from that point with one to go, it’s almost more disappointing with how close we are now and knowing where I think we could have been if things had gone differently throughout the season.

“So in one way, I’m really happy we have an opportunity, and that’s what we need to focus on now is that we have a chance to win the championship. But looking on the other side and seeing where we could have been, it’s tough to not look at that and be disappointed, too. But it’s not the focus we can have at the moment. I don’t want to get in the mindset of what could have been. … You just reverse a couple of those early races and have a very different picture coming into the finale.”

Since his July 18 victory (his first of three this season) from the pole position at Iowa Speedway, Newgarden has four podiums in eight races and only one finish outside the top 10.

He will enter St. Petersburg knowing that even if he wins, Dixon still can clinch the title with an eighth or better. But Newgarden also is the most recent winner at St. Pete, a track where Penske has been very strong, and Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing team has yet to conquer.

St. Pete, which normally is the season opener but was rescheduled because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, will mark the first time the IndyCar Series has concluded its season on a street course (the last time it happened in Champ Car was 2007 at Surfers Paradise, Australia).

Josef Newgarden celebrated after winning the Oct. 2 race of the Harvest Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Joe Skibinski/IndyCar).

Last year, the finale was held on the WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca road course. Prior to that, the season ended on the Sonoma Raceway road course and a handful of ovals – all of which tend to be more predictable than a tight and tough street course such as St. Pete.

“The good news for me is it can be a chaotic event,” Newgarden said of the 14-turn, 1.8-mile street course that includes an airport runway. “From my position, you want that. From Scott’s standpoint, I think he would have enjoyed a more straightforward race weekend. The fun of a street course at St. Pete is you don’t know what’s going to happen. It can cause chaos, which is not a bad thing. It spices up the race. It elevates your adrenaline to be aware what’s going on around you at the start.

(Chris Jones/IndyCar)

“For me, it definitely says opportunity is going to be present. If we can focus on being the quickest car there, putting it on pole and trying to run away and win the race, things we need to happen in the back of the pack are more likely at St. Pete than Laguna or GP of Indy. There’s more opportunity for things to fall into place like we need in the season finale.”

While Newgarden will get to enjoy a quiet weekend at home in Tennessee, Dixon will be racing Saturday in the Petit Le Mans for Wayne Taylor Racing’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship IMSA entry – which leads to a few more pangs of regret

“I wish I was racing,” Newgarden said with a laugh. “I see all the photos and wish I was at Petit, too. The cards haven’t worked out for me yet to go experience the sports car side, but believe me when I say that’s something I want to do. I’ve been working on it for years now, just not worked out unfortunately. I’m home, I am relaxed, I can focus on next weekend. But if I had my pick, I’d rather be in a race car this weekend.”

Click here or below to watch Newgarden’s interview with Diffey.

Winner Josef Newgarden earns $3.666 million from a record Indy 500 purse of $17 million


INDIANAPOLIS — The first Indy 500 victory for Josef Newgarden also was the richest in race history from a record 2023 purse of just more than $17 million.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, who continued his celebration Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned $3.666 million for winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The purse and winner’s share both are the largest in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Indy 500 purse set a record after the 2022 Indy 500 became the first to crack the $16 million mark (nearly doubling the 2021 purse that offered a purse of $8,854,565 after a crowd limited to 135,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The average payout for IndyCar drivers was $500,600 (exceeding last year’s average of $485,000).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, whose team also fields Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, had made raising purses a priority since buying the track in 2020. But Penske but was unable to post big money purses until the race returned to full capacity grandstands last year.

The largest Indy 500 purse before this year was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500 won by Scott Dixon (whose share was $2,988,065). Ericsson’s haul made him the second Indy 500 winner to top $3 million (2009 winner Helio Castroneves won $3,048,005.

Runner-up Marcus Ericsson won $1.043 million after falling short by 0.0974 seconds in the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.

The 107th Indy 500 drew a crowd of at least 330,000 that was the largest since the sellout for the 100th running in 2016, and the second-largest in more than two decades, according to track officials.

“This is the greatest race in the world, and it was an especially monumental Month of May featuring packed grandstands and intense on-track action,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “Now, we have the best end card possible for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500: a record-breaking purse for the history books.”

Benjamin Pedersen was named the Indy 500 rookie of the year, earning a $50,000 bonus.

The race’s purse is determined through contingency and special awards from IMS and IndyCar. The awards were presented Monday night in the annual Indy 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

The payouts for the 107th Indy 500:

1. Josef Newgarden, $3,666,000
2. Marcus Ericsson, $1,043,000
3. Santino Ferrucci, $481,800
4. Alex Palou, $801,500
5. Alexander Rossi, $574,000
6. Scott Dixon, $582,000
7. Takuma Sato, $217,300
8. Conor Daly, $512,000
9. Colton Herta, $506,500
10. Rinus VeeKay, $556,500
11. Ryan Hunter‐Reay, $145,500
12. Callum Ilott, $495,500
13. Devlin DeFrancesco, $482,000
14. Scott McLaughlin, $485,000
15. Helio Castroneves, $481,500
16. Tony Kanaan, $105,000
17. Marco Andretti, $102,000
18. Jack Harvey, $472,000
19. Christian Lundgaard, $467,500
20. Ed Carpenter, $102,000
21. Benjamin Pedersen (R), $215,300
22. Graham Rahal, $565,500*
23. Will Power, $488,000
24. Pato O’Ward, $516,500
25. Simon Pagenaud, $465,500
26. Agustín Canapino (R), $156,300
27. Felix Rosenqvist, $278,300
28. Kyle Kirkwood, $465,500
29. David Malukas, $462,000
30. Romain Grosjean, $462,000
31. Sting Ray Robb (R), $463,000
32. RC Enerson (R), $103,000
33.  Katherine Legge, $102,000

*–Broken down between two teams, $460,000 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, $105,500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports