Josef Newgarden Dominates IndyCar Field in Opener

Jackson Wheeler
9 Min Read

The 2024 IndyCar Series is colored in all sorts of newness, with drivers and teams having made dizzying changes over the off-season. But the series opened Sunday with a bit of same old song.

Josef Newgarden, a Team Penske reliable, turned the first race of the season—the Firestone Grand Prix at St. Petersburg—into something resembling an extended visit to the dentist for the rest of the field. There was no battle by the bay. Newgarden was obnoxiously dominant, leading 92 of the day’s 100 laps and making a convincing argument that the Penske team’s issues on street and road courses last season have been left in the dust.

Christian Lundgaard and Colton Herta also led, but they were mere pretenders to the throne on a spectacular day for racing along the St. Petersburg waterfront. In winning for the third time at St. Pete, Newgarden overcame a minor pit bobble and showed strength on every part of the 1.8-mile street course.

And there was more good news for Team Penske. Scott McLaughlin took third and Will Power fourth. Pato O’Ward chased Newgarden over the closing miles before finishing second, almost eight seconds behind, giving Chevrolet power a sweep of the top four.

Newgarden said off-season advances led to Sunday’s runaway.

“I had a lot of fun today, a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s so deserving for the work that the team put in. I know intimately what’s been put into this program in the offseason.”

Last season, Newgarden, who won the Indianapolis 500, scored four oval-track wins but had only one podium finish on street and road courses.

pato o'ward indycar st pete

Penske Entertainment

Pato O’Ward started his season on a strong note with a runner-up finish.

Stay Away From Turn 10

The Turn 10 tire barrier was the day’s most popular spot for miscues.

Linus Lundqvist slammed into the barrier on lap 69 after contact from Roman Grosjean. Stewards penalized Grosjean for avoidable contact, hitting him with a drive-penalty.

Earlier in the day, Marcus Armstrong’s Dallara-Honda banged off the tire barrier in 10. He later parked and finished last, saying he locked the brakes in the mishap.

Late Fade for Rosenqvist

Meyer Shank Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist flirted with a podium finish before rolling home seventh.

Rosenqvist qualified second and was in the top five most of the day before fading to seventh.

“We started on the alternate tire, and I’m not sure that was the right strategy,” Rosenqvist said. “At that point you are not sure if they are going to hold on or not, so you can’t be super-aggressive the first stint. We had one little hiccup in the pits. That cost us a little bit. Considering all that, we had a pretty solid day, maybe a top five in it.”

Meyer Shank perhaps had the lead in rock star appeal Sunday as Jon Bon Jovi joined the team in the garage and pits.

Slow Start for the Champ

Defending series champion Alex Palou finished sixth after starting 13th, completing what he called an uphill weekend that produced a decent result.

“I’m happy with the race,” Palou said. “We finished two spots better than what we did last year. We started struggling at the beginning of the weekend, so it was an amazing recovery.”

CGR teammate Scott Dixon was ninth. He will move on to Daytona Beach, Florida Tuesday to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame, which is adjacent to Daytona International Speedway.

Pato’s Paycheck and More Notes

Because of a court filing (which is often the way such information makes its way into the open), details about Pato O’Ward’s paychecks reached the public, and he raced Sunday carrying around some big dollar numbers. Arrow McLaren extended O’Ward’s contract through 2027 for a total of $10.2 million. The details were part of a lawsuit McLaren Racing has filed against Alex Palou. … O’Ward said the Team Penske drivers were “a little too strong for us” Sunday. “I was happy with my race car. Just needed a little more to make Josef sweat.” … Now that IndyCar drivers have logged the first points of the season, they face a long wait to add to those totals. The next point race on the 17-event schedule is at Long Beach, California April 21. In the interim, there will be an exhibition event—the $1 Million Challenge—March 24 at the Thermal Club in Thermal, California.

pole sitter josef newgarden, driver of the 2 ppg team penske chevrolet indycar v6, celebrates his victory sunday, march 10, 2024, after winning the ntt indycar series opener the grand prix of st petersburg through the streets of st petersburg, florida photo by josh tonslat for chevy racing

Josh Tons/LAT for Chevy

Josef Newgarden kicked off the IndyCar season with a celebration in Florida on Sunday.


Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg NTT

Results Sunday of the IndyCar Series event on the 1.8-mile Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 100, Running
2. (3) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 100, Running
3. (9) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 100, Running
4. (8) Will Power, Chevrolet, 100, Running
5. (4) Colton Herta, Honda, 100, Running
6. (13) Alex Palou, Honda, 100, Running
7. (2) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 100, Running
8. (15) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 100, Running
9. (11) Scott Dixon, Honda, 100, Running
10. (7) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 100, Running
11. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 100, Running
12. (18) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 100, Running
13. (16) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 100, Running
14. (23) Kyffin Simpson, Honda, 100, Running
15. (26) Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 100, Running
16. (22) Graham Rahal, Honda, 100, Running
17. (17) Tom Blomqvist, Honda, 100, Running
18. (20) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 100, Running
19. (27) Jack Harvey, Honda, 100, Running
20. (12) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 100, Running
21. (21) Christian Rasmussen, Chevrolet, 99, Running
22. (25) Colin Braun, Honda, 99, Running
23. (19) Linus Lundqvist, Honda, 97, Running
24. (5) Romain Grosjean, Chevrolet, 82, Mechanical
25. (6) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 52, Mechanical
26. (24) Sting Ray Robb, Chevrolet, 33, Off course
27. (10) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 25, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 96.867 mph
Time of Race: 1:51:29.5954
Margin of victory: 7.9121 seconds
Cautions: 3 for 9 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 3 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Newgarden, Josef 1 – 28
Lundgaard, Christian 29 – 35
Newgarden, Josef 36 – 65
Herta, Colton 66
Newgarden, Josef 67 – 100

NTT IndyCar Series Point Standings:
Newgarden 54, O’Ward 40, McLaughlin 35, Power 32, Herta 31, Palou 28, Rosenqvist 26, Rossi 24, Dixon 22, VeeKay 20, Ferrucci 19, Kirkwood 18, Ilott 17, Simpson 16, Fittipaldi 15, Rahal 14, Blomqvist 13, Canapino 12, Lundgaard 11, Harvey 11, Rasmussen 9, Braun 8, Lundqvist 7, Grosjean 6, Ericsson 5, Armstrong 5, Robb 5


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, 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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