Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is chasing history this weekend on the outskirts of St. Louis.
The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion could become the first driver in IndyCar’s 100-plus years of ex istence to win every oval race on the season-long calendar, which is made possible after claiming victories at Texas, the Indianapolis 500, and the doubleheader at Iowa.
With a win Sunday afternoon on the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway oval, Newgarden would take his fifth of 2023 and add something special to a career that’s already filled with major accomplishments, and there’s more to acquire in Madison, Illinois. A win or second-place finish at WWTR would also keep Newgarden atop another impressive statistic w here he presently leads the likes of Nigel Mansell and Scott Dixon on full-season average finishing position on ovals.
Thanks to the four wins to date, Newgarden’s average finish of 1.0 sits above Mansell’s 1.4 average from 1993 and Dixon’s 2008 run that generated an average oval finish of 2.0. In both cases, Mansell and Dixon went onto win championships those years, and while the odds are daunting, a win at WWTR would do wonders for Newgarden’s hopes of chasing down points leader Alex Palou and keeping the title fight alive entering the last two rounds. If he finishes third, he’ll be tied with Mansell at 1.4 and share the best oval average with the Formula 1 and CART IndyCar Series champion.
Looking deeper, thanks to statistician Scott Richards, if Newgarden is triumphant this weekend, it would mark his sixth consecutive oval win dating back to WWTR in 2022 and place him among another legendary group of drivers.
If he can accomplish this six-straight feat, he’d become the third driver in IndyCar his tory to do so, and the first in 59 years. By winning at WWTR, Newgarden would join Ralph DePalma, who earned six straight oval wins in 1918 starting at the Chicago Speedway Park board track through the Sheepshead Bay board track, and the leader in this category, A.J. Foyt, who captured seven straight oval victories from Phoenix through Springfield in 1964.
Finally, in another nod to Newgarden’s generational oval prowess, he’s won at least one oval race for the last eight seasons, which is second to Johnny Rutherford who won on ovals for nine straight years (1973-1981) and Bobby Unser, who matched Lone Star JR with nine as well (1968-1976).