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Saturday, June 25, 2022

IndyCar star Newgarden chasing elusive Indianapolis 500 win

Indianapolis ( Associated Press) — Joseph Newgarden has been IndyCar’s most consistent winner of the past eight seasons.

His 22 trips to Victory Lane are a chain high. They have won two or more races in six consecutive years and are chasing their third league championship in six seasons.

But when the 31-year-old Tennesseean arrives in Indianapolis each May, those impressive feats take a backseat to another sore litany of questions about the most famous three words on her resume — the Indianapolis 500 champion.

“Of course I want to win here, everybody wants to win here, but Indianapolis is a tough place. It’s a tough place to fix on the day,” he said before qualifying in 14th place for Sunday’s race.

A 500 win would certainly solidify Newgarden’s claim as one of the greatest drivers of his generation. However, until that day comes, the one-time heartbreak of the series continues to drive away all the heartache they endure in the brickyard.

Despite consistently ranking among the fastest drivers of the monthWorking for the most successful team in series history and with Team Penske calling on a handful of 500 champion teammates, Newgarden continues to lack.

He has never won pole, never went into victory lane and has only one front-row start. Heck, his best May didn’t even come with Team Penske. In 2016, he had a career-best second start and a career-best third driving for Ed Carpenter.

Roger Penske hired Newgarden the following season, and he won 11 of this season’s 15 spots, with two notable ones being Nashville and his hometown of Indy. He has never started or finished above fourth for Penske.

“You look at this place and it chooses you and you have to be prepared for it,” said Team Penske president Tim Sindrick. “It’s the same question until you win. You see it in NASCAR too, with Kyle Busch or Tony Stewart at the Daytona 500.

Newgarden, like Bush, is lucky. He is still at the top of his career and still a feared competitor.

But everyone understands that IndyCar’s success is measured by wins at Indy.

Mario Andretti won 500 in 1969 but started 24 more without winning a second title. His son, Michael, and grandson, Marco, each scored 16 and 500 without victories. Michael Andretti’s 42 career wins is number 4 on the series’ career list.

In Newgarden’s 10 Indy 500s, the first with Sarah Fischer’s team, she had three top-10 finishes and five finishes of 12th or worse.

Other drivers certainly understand the pressure. Australia’s Will Power also had a stellar resume, but was 0 for 10 in Indy before finally winning in 2018.

“It was painful for me because I had won a lot of races, poles, I had won a championship,” Powers said. “I was really disappointed with my career coming into ’18 because I know you’re not considered a successful driver until you win this race.”

With victory, however, comes expectations. Just ask Scott Dixon.

Only AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti win IndyCar compared to Dixon (51). Foyt’s seven career series titles are one more than Dixon’s and when the New Zealander put Chip Ganassi Racing on pole for Sunday’s race, Dixon becomes second driver to win five Indy poles, Rick Mears won six.

Yet Dixon would surely drop some of those numbers to have a second Baby Borg in his trophy room.

“You always have unfinished business here,” said 2008 winner Dixon. “I love this place. It can be brutal at times, but I feel very fortunate to be here and to be with a team like this.”

A successful victory next weekend would change Newgarden’s life.

He would grab headlines, hit the interview circuit, perhaps even cementing his image as America’s top IndyCar driver. But most of all, Newgarden no longer has to answer all the questions about those three most elusive words.

“I don’t know what victory would mean, I’ve never experienced it,” Newgarden said. “But I see it. When you talk to 500 winners, you know what that means.”

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More Associated Press Auto Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing And https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

World Nation News Desk
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