Josef Newgarden

Note: The Penske Entertainment editorial staff is looking back at the 10 biggest moments of 2023 in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in this year-end series, with one installment appearing on the site per day in countdown fashion from Dec. 22-31.

Most people strive for perfection, and Roger Penske is no different. He has built a successful transportation and racing empire with the “Penske Perfect” mentality.

That mentality has been absorbed by Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, a meticulous driver who came oh, so close to pulling off a sweep of all five oval events on the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule.

Newgarden started the season with oval wins at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and both races of the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend at Iowa Speedway. He also won the last oval race of the 2022 season, at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Two-time INDYCAR SERIES champion Newgarden entered the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline in late August at WWTR with a chance to become just the second driver in series history to sweep the oval portion of a season schedule. But there was a catch that made Newgarden’s potential feat even more impressive: Sebastien Bourdais was the only driver to achieve the feat by winning in 2006 at the Milwaukee Mile, the only oval on the Champ Car schedule that season.

Newgarden’s date with history ended just 49 laps before the finish when he drifted high in Turn 2 on Lap 211 after his final pit stop and hit the SAFER Barrier. He finished 25th in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet.

Still, Newgarden is the unquestioned short oval king among current INDYCAR SERIES drivers. He has won six races at Iowa, is 4-for-7 at WWTR and won in 2018 at Phoenix. Eleven of his 29 career victories (37.9 percent) have come on short ovals.

In fact, each of Newgarden’s last six race wins have come on ovals, as have eight of his last 10 wins overall. Fourteen of his 29 wins (48.2 percent) have come on circle tracks.

“I don’t really feel differently about it than any other track, to be honest,” Newgarden said. “My goal is to be strong everywhere. It doesn’t matter the discipline or the track type. I want to be good everywhere we show up. If there’s a place we’re not good, it’s number one on my list to figure out. Why aren’t we good here? Why can’t we win this race?

“Anything is possible for us and our team, and we need to approach it that way.”