On Sunday, Simon Pagenaud won the Indycar Grand Prix Of Sonoma but it was Josef Newgarden who attracted all the attention as the 26 year-old American clinched the 2017 Verizon Indycar Championship after a cautious drive.
Newgarden, in his first year at Team Penske, finished in the podium places 9 times, set the fastest lap in 5 races, took pole once and won 4 races to make up for some very interesting statistics. He also outperformed his more experienced and successful teammates which in itself is an achievement.
But the stats tell only half of the story; his commendable drives cannot be measured in numbers. For instance, his amazing performance at Barber Motorsports Park back in April and his clinical showing in Toronto or his breathtaking overtake on fellow Penske driver Simon Pagenaud in St. Louis are some things that need to be seen to be believed.
Josef is a near-perfect driver; he can race hard and make really daring moves, he can defend extremely well and fend off some of the best drivers in the world, he can play it selfish when he needs to and can also be the ultimate team-player when the team requires him to be one.
Newgarden’s remarkable ability to conserve fuel can be compared to that of Scott Dixon’s but the former is arguably the best driver on the grid in the league of saving ‘Push To Pass’ or extra horsepower that can be used during the race. For example, in Sonoma, while other drivers quickly burned up their ‘P2P’, Newgarden used only 9 seconds out of 150 throughout the entire race and yet, he comfortably finished second in the race.
This simply shows how impressive Newgarden is and it doesn’t stop here, Newgarden becomes better and better as races go by; this is the sign of a true champion.
Now, by calling Josef the ‘Driver Of The Year’, I would spark up a huge controversy as statistically, many other drivers have performed better than him. But look at it from the other perspective; to be the Indycar champion, you need to be fast in road courses, you need to be fast in short speedways, you need to be fast in superspeedways, you need to be fast in long races such as the Indy 500 as well as being a tactical mastermind and in 2017, Josef Newgarden has proved that he can be fast everywhere and that makes him my ‘Driver Of The Year’.
After closely observing Newgarden’s performance throughout the season, I can say that I absolutely admire his driving style and I can’t help but imagine the possibility of the new Indycar Champion getting a race winning drive in Formula One.
Wherever Josef Newgarden may be in the future, exciting times lie ahead for him and for his growing fan base!