Josef Newgarden wins IndyCar's Grand Prix of St. Pete (again)

Matt Baker, Tampa Bay Times on

Published in Auto Racing

ST. PETERSBURG — At some point last year, Josef Newgarden’s dream job began to feel like work.

Maybe it was toward the end of the IndyCar Series season when he flamed out in three of the final four races. Or maybe it was the way he spread himself too thin across all his responsibilities.

Whatever the reason, it wasn’t fun — or anything like what the two-time series champion experienced Sunday during a dominant, season-opening victory at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“I feel really happy, I feel really motivated,” Newgarden said. “I’m kind of getting back to that point.”

It’s hard not to feel happy with results like the ones the 33-year-old Tennessee native posted in front of another vibrant, massive crowd spread across the downtown, 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course.

On Saturday, he won the pole in his No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet. It ended his 27-race drought of qualifying first.


On Sunday, he felt comfortable from the green flag and was barely challenged. He led 92 of the 100 laps and clocked the fastest lap in race history (60.6795 seconds).

He pulled ahead and away from Felix Rosenqvist at the start. Newgarden only lost the lead on pit cycles, including one from a caution at lap 27.

“As soon as we restarted, I’m like, ‘I’m going past these guys — I don’t care if I wreck it,’” Newgarden said. “‘I’m going to the front.’”

Two laps later, he was indeed back in front after navigating around Rosenqvist and Colton Herta. Newgarden then cruised to his 30th career IndyCar win, finishing 7.9 seconds ahead of runnerup Pato O’Ward. It was the third-largest victory in Grand Prix history (including the 2003 CART race).


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