IndyCar St. Pete Winner Josef Newgarden Knows ‘It’s Not Going to Be Perfect’

Jackson Wheeler
5 Min Read


  • Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden was easily the class of the 27-car field at St. Petersburg, Fla., on Sunday.
  • He won by nine seconds over second-place Pato O’Ward and led 92 of the race’s 100 laps.
  • Newgarden said he intends to make the season one he can enjoy, not simply a job to be completed.

A stubborn streak of perfectionism runs through most successful race car drivers. Nothing short of winning is acceptable. Second place is the first loser.

Josef Newgarden has dealt with such realities.

“I’ve had to let go of that mentality,” Newgarden said Sunday in the bright glow of victory after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the IndyCar season opener. “There’s not sustainability in my perfection. I’m definitely a perfectionist. I’m an introvert, but I get hyper-fixated on just trying to maximize everything.

“I think my mentality was, in a lot of ways, win-or-nothing all the way throughout my career. Even today it was creeping in. … But, from a bigger-picture standpoint, I just don’t think that’s sustainable. I’m not going away from my passion and my desire, but I’m trying to re-center my enjoyment in what I do.”

st petersburg, fl during the 2024 firestone grand prix of st petersburg on the streets of st petersburg photo by joe skibinski ims photo

Penske Entertainment/Joe Skibinski

Two-time IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden plans to do a lot of smiling in 2024.

And, oh, by the way, Sunday was very enjoyable for Newgarden.

The Team Penske driver was easily the class of the 27-car field as he won by nine seconds over second-place Pato O’Ward and led 92 of the race’s 100 laps. Fuel-saving was a strategy throughout the field, and there were very few attempts at surging passes in the front part of the pack. Even those who might have thought of challenging Newgarden didn’t have the car to do so.

Although it’s typically dangerous to draw many hard conclusions from one race, Sunday’s win puts Newgarden on a pedestal of sorts for a few weeks, largely because the next IndyCar points race won’t be contested until April 21.

Newgarden said he intends to make the season one he can enjoy, not simply a job to be completed. That, he said, had become too much a part of his approach.

“I don’t want to dive into it too aggressively, but, yeah, It did start becoming a job,” he said. “This is how I make a living, and it’s how I provide for my family, and I’m showing up. It’s not a grueling job. Anyone would be lucky to be in the position that I’m in. But, if you’re fortunate enough to be here and do this, you should enjoy it. … You’re either winning or you don’t have your seat. That’s literally how it works. It’s kind of hard to find that enjoyment factor.

“Sometimes I’ve just got to pare it back and say, ‘Look, you just can’t do everything.’ I’m not saying that I was doing a great job at everything, but I think I was trying to, and I’ve had to tell myself, ‘It’s all right. It’s not going to be perfect.’ You’ve got to remove that expectation.”

Sunday, though, was about as close to perfect as an IndyCar winner can get. Newgarden’s competition will be looking to close that gap over the coming weeks.

Lettermark

Mike Hembree has covered auto racing for numerous media outlets, including USA Today, NASCAR Scene, NBC Sports, The Greenville News and the SPEED Channel. He has been roaming garage areas and pit roads for decades (although the persistent rumor that he covered the first Indianapolis 500 is not true). Winner of numerous motorsports and other media awards, he also has covered virtually every other major sport. He lives near Gaffney, South Carolina and can be convinced to attend Bruce Springsteen concerts if you have tickets. 

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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