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Josef Newgarden Vies for Elusive Long Beach Victory

Josef Newgarden hopes for more celebratory moments this Sunday at Long Beach (Photo: Luis Torres | TPF).

Fresh off an exciting victory at Texas Motor Speedway, Josef Newgarden hopes to continue his momentum this weekend in the 47th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion has accomplished a lot in his decade-long career but has yet to win two of the sport’s marquee events, including the Indianapolis 500 and Long Beach. While pursuing that elusive street course win, Newgarden has stout runs in the 1.968-mile circuit.

Since joining Team Penske in 2017, he’s finished all but one race on the podium, including runner-up efforts in 2019 and 2021. Momentum is on Newgarden’s side as he hopes to keep Penske undefeated after Sunday’s 85-lap contest and bring the team its first Long Beach win since 2016.

“The mood is very good within the team. Not just the 2 car, but Team Penske in general. We’ve been really pleased with the start of our year,” said Newgarden during Wednesday’s video conference.

“As everyone does, they work pretty hard in the offseason to try and improve. This series is so tight now that you just can’t miss any little detail, and I feel like all the teams and drivers are pushing to the maximum these days. It’s no different for us at Team Penske,” Newgarden continued.

“To have the effort pay off so quickly into the season for us has been encouraging. The mood is really good. On the 2 car, we’re excited to get going again a little bit since St. Pete. I was pretty encouraged going into St. Pete, and we were fighting a couple of things and didn’t quite have the start we wanted on a street course, so I’m hoping we can rectify that a bit coming into Long Beach.”

Newgarden will have the familiar Hitachi colors at Long Beach, where he finished second last September (Photo: Luis Torres | TPF).

The Tennessean enters the third round of the championship trail fourth in points, trailing his teammate Scott McLaughlin by 32 points. Currently, all three Penske drivers are inside the top-four in points, a total contrast from last year when only two were in the top-10 standings.

While Newgarden appreciates having momentum on his side, deep inside, the pain of past efforts to win at Long Beach lingers. Namely, last September, when Newgarden started on the pole but came up short on a third championship to Alex Palou.

“Long Beach has been good to us. Two seconds the last two years hurts a bit. I would like to get a win there,” said Newgarden. “We’ve been close before so, we’ve just got to figure out how to close the deal. That’s as simple as that.

“If we have a weak place, we’re going to make it a strong place, and I feel like Long Beach has been getting there slowly for us. It’s definitely become a strength, and we just need a little bit more to close the deal and feel like we can do that this weekend.”

Jubilation from Newgarden after winning once again at Texas (Photo: Luis Torres | TPF).

No stranger to rallying up the leaderboard, Newgarden’s win at Texas was indeed a turnaround. Prior to making a last-lap outside move on McLaughlin, he had a rough outing at St. Petersburg where he finished 16th.

Newgarden reflected on the young season, emphasizing the turnover with his No. 2 Hitachi crew. More so, he doesn’t have long-time engineer Gavin Ward, who went to Arrow McLaren SP during the off-season. This season, it’s Eric Leichtle overseeing the engineering side of things for Newgarden.

As a result, the No. 2 team is trying to gel even after coming off a win at Texas. This weekend marks the third race in a span of eight weeks.

Newgarden wished the time between INDYCAR races were far shorter, a situation that won’t arise until the month of May when the season really gets going.

“Texas was good in a couple of different ways. You know, one being that St. Pete was not swimming for us. It did not go very well right off the bat, which was a huge disappointment in a lot of ways just because I felt so confident going into St. Pete,” Newgarden explained.

“I felt like we didn’t have a lot of preparation coming into the season, but the small amount of prep work that we did had gone so well that there was nothing for me to believe that St. Pete couldn’t get off to a great start.

“There’s a lot we could dive in on that specific weekend, but ultimately, it just wasn’t a great result, and when we rolled into Texas, we just tried to reset and see what we could produce at that specific race. We had great cars. It was a great effort from the whole team, and I think you saw the strength of that across the board with all three of us,” Newgarden continued.

Newgarden will enter Long Beach fourth in points (Photo: Luis Torres | TPF).

“To be able to capitalize that early is important in any season, and I think more so for this season specifically on the 2 car because of how much turnover we’ve had.

“We always have a great crew on the 2 car, but it’s very different this year. Probably 60%, 70% turnover on just the people that we’re working with, so we’re trying to gel and engage with each other so quickly in the season, and to get a win that early is very positive.

“Now, the counterpoint to that is it’s great to get that win, but it’s still very early in the year. I don’t think that necessarily projects what the entire season is going to look like, so we have to stay on the ground and make sure that we’re working just as hard this weekend as every weekend that we go into and stay level and hopefully we can keep it up,” Newgarden concluded.

Newgarden hopes to avoid a repeat of St. Pete by going for back-to-back poles in Southern California. Live race coverage of the sport’s most prestigious street course begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC. Colton Herta is the defending race winner.

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA. Content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going. I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content. With two National Motorsports Press Association photography awards, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to HAIM. Not only that, expect my social media filled with references nobody will understand, especially Licorice Pizza.

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