Why It's Revenge Time for Josef Newgarden at Barber Motorsports Park

2023 acura grand prix of long beach
It's Revenge Time for Newgarden at IndyCar BarberGreg Doherty - Getty Images
  • The NTT IndyCar Series returns to Barber for this Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Grand Prix.

  • Josef Newgarden heads to Barber following a disappointing ninth-place finish at Long Beach.

  • Had he won at Long Beach, Newgarden would have earned back-to-back victories, having won his first race of the season two weeks earlier at Texas Motor Speedway.

Josef Newgarden is a Tennessee native, but when he wants or needs a home away from home, Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama is the place he longs to be at.

It’s not surprising, as the two-time IndyCar champion has one of the best overall performance records of his career at the twisting, turning Barber layout, with three wins (within a four-year period), plus a third-place and fourth-place finish in 10 career starts there.


The NTT IndyCar Series returns to Barber for this Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Grand Prix, and Newgarden is looking forward to his return to the track, particularly after his somewhat disappointing ninth-place finish in the season’s last race, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, two weeks ago.

“Barber has always been a special place on the schedule for me,” Newgarden said. “Until the Music City Grand Prix in my hometown of Nashville, Barber was always the one I considered as my home track.

auto apr 02 ntt indycar series ppg 375
Josef Newgarden won at Texas on April 2.Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

“We’re fortunate to go to some amazing, beautiful road courses over the course of our season, but Barber just seems to be on another level. It is a first-class, well-groomed track that we all love going to for a race.”

While he’s looking forward to yet another strong run at Barber, Newgarden can’t help but still lament about Long Beach and over a finish that he thought should have been at least a top-5, if not a podium appearance—if not a win.

“I’m sad for my team, honestly,” Newgarden said. “We had a phenomenal race car, really great. We were chipping away all weekend. It’s been tough to put the laps together all the way up from qualifying and I felt like that was kind of our weakness, just getting everything together.

“We had good peak potential but just couldn’t realize it. In the race, we really had it together. That car was absolutely phenomenal. Team Chevy did great job for us. The whole No. 2 car with Team Hitachi did amazing. Fate didn’t really go our way in the beginning.

“For our strategy, the yellow did not help us one bit. If there wasn’t a yellow in the beginning, and would’ve gone green a little longer, we would’ve been really pretty. But even with the yellow, we were making the most of it and I still think we had a shot at winning that race, but something else did us in and made the end pretty brutal.”

Had he won at Long Beach, Newgarden would have earned back-to-back victories, having won his first race of the season two weeks earlier at Texas Motor Speedway (he finished a disappointing 17th in the season-opening race in March in St. Petersburg, Florida).

But an early caution in the 85-lap event at Long Beach threw off Newgarden’s pit strategy, and to an extent, his and his team’s timing. They tried to mount a comeback several times in the race, but never could quite get over the hump. Incidents with other drivers that brought out the yellow caution flag several times, didn’t help, either.

He took the lead on Lap 28, but the damage had been done and Newgarden was left to be in fuel-saving mode much of the remainder of the race. It’s one of the most disappointing things for a driver who knows he has a great car but is virtually helpless when other cars pass him so that he is assured he has enough fuel to make it to the end of the event and earn at least a decent finish, rather than gamble and throw the race away, essentially.

But Long Beach is now in Newgarden’s and IndyCar’s respective rearview mirrors. Now it’s back to Barber where, with the exception of being knocked out of the race in a crash on the opening lap of the 2021 event there, Newgarden has finished every lap in each of the other nine races he’s entered at the ‘Bama track.

It’s that strength that he hopes will lead him back to victory lane for a fourth time at Barber on Sunday (his previous wins were in 2015, 2017 and 2018, along with a third-place showing in 2016).

But since his last triumph at Barber, Newgarden has failed to return to victory lane, earning a fourth-place finish in 2019, wrecked out and finished a career-worst 23rd in 2021 (there was no race in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and bounced back to a finish that was still disappointing to him, 14th, in last year’s race there.

Now it’s time for revenge and reward on Sunday, Newgarden believes.

“The biggest thing about Barber is that it’s a high-commitment track that seems to suit me well,” he said. “Obviously, Team Penske had been very successful there before I joined the team, so a lot of my success there has to do with the hard work of the team in building a solid Barber platform.

“But it’s a place I love to go. So when you have the mindset that you can go there and run well it puts you on your front foot from the first practice. After Long Beach where we had a very fast No. 2 Chevrolet but had a fuel issue that we couldn’t overcome, Barber is a great spot for us to go and get back on track.

“We’ve had a good start to the season with another big win at Texas that has us fourth in the standings with two races before the Indianapolis 500. We just need to keep our focus and we’ll be in good shape.”

Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski