Newgarden confident Penske is ready to return to top form in Indy qualifying

Team Penske won the Indianapolis 500 in 2018 and 2019, but since the aeroscreen era began in 2020, the storied program has mostly been a non-factor at the NTT IndyCar Series’ biggest race.

From struggling badly in 2021 to being largely absent from the lead pack last year, the most successful team in Indy 500 history hopes to find its missing mojo and play a role in deciding how the May 29 race is settled. Two-time IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden believes the team’s improved pace so far in practice is a direct result of advances it made last May, but were unable to fully unleash on the field.

“I thought we were on a much better path last year,” said Newgarden. “I think unfortunately we didn’t get to show the full potential of the work that went into last year. I really think we should have had a couple more cars in the Fast 12. Generally, not just saying that for trying to paint the picture better, but we made a lot of progress last year, and I think this year is more of an evolution of what we did last year.”

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As the “100 Days To Indy” docuseries has portrayed, Newgarden’s reached the heights of IndyCar acclaim by capturing two titles in a span of three seasons, but victory at the most important race — where he finished third in 2016 with his former team — has gone backwards of late with consecutive runs to P12 and P13 since 2021. On his 12th participation in the month of May, Newgarden makes his need to qualify well and race well incredibly clear.


“We can go back and pick apart 2022 and we can make it look a lot better, I think, if things go differently, but we can’t,” he said. “We landed where we did. Just to reiterate, I think we made a big step, and we’re just evolving within that step again this year. We obviously need a little bit more than where we were last season, and we’re going to find out this weekend if we fully get there. I feel pretty confident at the moment that we’ve done a lot of good work to get there, and we’ve just got to execute now.”

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Story originally appeared on Racer