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What Josef Newgarden is taking away from a dominating weekend in St. Pete

What Josef Newgarden is taking away from a dominating weekend in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WISH) — Defending Indy 500 champion Josef Newgarden kicked off his 2024 NTT IndyCar Series campaign in dominating fashion this weekend.

The Team Penske driver won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday afternoon on the streets of St. Pete.

“It’s a great weekend,” Newgarden said. “It was a great race day, which is the most important. Today’s (race day) where everything really matters. Of course qualifying yesterday was great, but I didn’t want to get too excited until we got through the race itself.”

Newgarden started the race on the pole and stayed out front most of the day. He led 92 of the race’s 100 laps and finished 7.9121 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Pato O’Ward.

“It’s never easy, but today felt easier than normal,” Newgarden said. “And what I mean by that is the car was easy to make speed. It was easy to push it and make it go fast. And it’s not always like that.”

Newgarden was not the only Team Penske driver who found success on Sunday. His teammates also finished in the top five. Scott McLaughlin finished in third, while Will Power came in fourth.

“I think we got good strength on the team is what it says,” Newgarden said.

Newgarden told News 8 Sports’ Andrew Chernoff that when the team performs like it did in the opener, it’s going to make it nice for each driver and team member to lean on each other.

“The stronger all three cars are, the stronger we are as a team, the stronger chance I have to succeed at each weekend,” Newgarden said. “So, it gives me a lot of encouragement for what’s coming up.”

Sunday’s victory was Newgarden’s first win on a road or street course in the series since winning at Road America in June of 2022. He told Chernoff prior to the season that improving on road and street courses was a big emphasis for him this offseason.

“It was a big discussion point,” Newgarden said. “We tried to leave no stone unturned. We can’t be perfect, but I think we made a lot of good steps.”

Those good steps were on full display this weekend.

“It’s round one, got a long way to go, but this is a good start for us,” Newgarden said. “I feel really confident in 2024.”

The NTT IndyCar Series’ next event will be a non-points race — The $1 Million Challenge — at The Thermal Club on March 24.

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