With 23 career race wins and two championships in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Josef Newgarden’s racing prowess is familiar to motorsports fans.
The success of Newgarden's career has been punctuated by the fact that he is consistently a championship contender, is the most-recent race winner of the series – June 12 at Road America – and is the defending champion of this weekend’s race, The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by The All-New 2023 Civic Type R (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network).
The driver of the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet sits third in the standings, just 32 points behind the leader, Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge champion Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing.
Newgarden also is the driver reigning series champion Alex Palou recently labeled the driver to beat for this year’s title, in part because Newgarden has career wins at five of the eight remaining tracks on the schedule -- two at Mid-Ohio, two in Toronto, one on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and six combined at the two remaining oval tracks, Iowa Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway.
With such a reputation and so much continued success expected, one might think that Newgarden would have been able to ease up on his approach. However, this is not the case.
With a sport as unpredictable as this one, Newgarden has had to ensure that his level of approach stays the same, win or lose. That will be tested Sunday when he starts 14th after getting caught in traffic in qualifying, which left him steamed but undeterred.
"We're not search for answers, it's just traffic, that's all," he said on NBC's Peacock Premium broadcast. "(The) car's fine. Just traffic, dude.
"It's a tight track. I go out first and catch the slowpokes. I know (the slow cars) are trying hard, but (sigh)."
Before the qualifying session, Newgarden said he has never thought of his string of strong performances "as streaks."
"We have good days, we have bad days," he said. "I think generally we’re pretty even across the board, like on an even keel. I find that’s been a strength of ours.”
So, while some athletes in his position might have given into the lull of complacency, Newgarden has remained eager to improve regardless of his performance.
Maintaining a consistent outlook and a consistent level of performance is what is most important to Newgarden, especially in an unpredictable sport.
Even when good results don't materialize, his consistency-focused outlook has assisted him and his team in success.
“We’ve had our bad days, but we’ve never let a bad day fall into a full rut where we’re sitting way behind for a long time,” he said.
And, even when the opposite occurs, and there is a series of good days.
“I never get too excited about, hey, we’re in a good place, we just won a race or two, and we’ve got to capitalize on that momentum,” he said. “It never feels like that to me. It feels like we’re doing our jobs at the moment.”
Even while maintaining a consistent outlook, Newgarden also knows that there is still a degree of unpredictability that remains. For instance, about the Mid-Ohio track, he noted that “this is its own place.”
“You can be stellar at Mid-Ohio and then go to Toronto in a couple weeks and be nowhere – that’s just how this series works nowadays,” he said. “I don’t think there are givens. I don’t think there’s any gimmies anymore.”
Yet, he likes his position as the season reaches its halfway point in Sunday’s race.
“Yeah, I just feel like overall we’re in a positive spot, (and) we’ve been in a positive spot for multiple years,” he said. “I don’t remember a point where I’ve felt bad about what we’re doing. I don’t think in those terms.
“I just feel like we’re in a good place right now, and we just need to keep doing what we’re always doing.”