Race Weekend Central

Josef Newgarden Dominates St. Petersburg to Start 2024 Season

Josef Newgarden won the 2024 NTT IndyCar Season season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday (March 10), taking his 30th career win. It was absolute domination, as he led from pole and paced the field for 92 laps, giving no quarter to the rest of the field. 

After an off-season in which he refocused his mental approach for race weekends, he’s off to a good start in chasing his third championship.

“I had a lot of fun today,” Newgarden said after the race. “You know Roger [Penske] was telling me, he said ‘you have a big lead, you better hold onto it, not throw it in the wall.”

Even after a first pit stop sequence cycled him from first to third behind outside pole starter Felix Rosenqvist and Colton Herta, there was little they could do to prevent the No. 2 Team Penske PPG Chevrolet from storming back up front. After a lap 31 restart, it only took two circuits for Newgarden to dispatch his two foes and position himself to resume the lead after an off-cycle car pitted. 

“I mean its so deserving of the work (Team Penkse) put in, you know, I know intimately what’s been put in into this program this offseason, its Team Chevy, everything they brought this weekend and our team specifically,” Newgarden said. “We’ve worked really hard to close the gap. We didn’t have the speed we needed last year and I think we just, at least on a consistency basis and today we brought that speed.”

While Newgarden dominated the race, the battle was on for who would finish second to the Team Penske driver. Rosenqvist impressed early, even beating out Newgarden during the first pit stops under yellow but faded late. Pato O’Ward had to hold off a hungry Team Penske duo over the last stint. Scott McLaughlin and Will Power pressured the Arrow McLaren driver with quicker alternate tires after the last restart on lap 72 but O’Ward never faltered. 

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It was a repeat runner-up for the lead McLaren driver, who lost out on this win last year when his engine had a plenum event. It was a quality start for him to start the season with a good result.

McLaughlin finished third, followed by Power and Herta rounding out the top five. Chevy took the first four spots. Other notable results were defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou who quietly worked from a disappointing 13th starting position to sixth and Rosenqvist who drifted one spot behind the Chip Ganassi Racing driver to seventh.

Leading up to the season premiere event, Newgarden was clear he was taking a new direction in his off-track responsibilities to put the right attention into his season. Last year, the Nashville resident won four races, but all on ovals including the Indianapolis 500, but was unsatisfied with his pace ‘turning right’ on road and street circuits. In the twelve events of that type, he managed one podium, and four top fives. More challenging was the lack of poles, which he remedied on Saturday.

Now he has put his car back into victory lane at a race he’s won twice before, kicking off his pursuit of that elusive third title that has been dangled in his face since his last Astor Trophy in 2019. He’s finished twice three years in a row and fell to fifth last season as his car ran well, but not great enough to challenge. 

He will leave Florida with the most points possible – 54 – as he looks to the series next race at the Thermal Club on March 24.

“I just feel really relaxed right now,” Newgard said. “I got excited initially and then calmed down those last 10 laps and we can move on from here and enjoy this first win.”

The win broke a tie with Rick Mears in career IndyCar wins, moving Newgarden to 13th on the all-time victory list, and the third most in active, full-time drivers. Only Power and Scott Dixon have more.

Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson, Grosjean in his first race with Juncos Hollinger Racing and Ericsson in his first racing in Grosjean’s former ride with Andretti Global, both retired due to mechanical issues. Grosjean had previously been involved in a collision which ended with Linus Lundqvist‘s taking heavy damage in turn 10.

Marcus Armstrong retired from his first race as a full-time Chip Ganassi Racing driver after crashing in turn 10. Sting Ray Robb retired with a mechanical issue.

2024 IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Results

The next round of 2024 IndyCar season will be the exhibition $1 Million Challenge from the Thermal Club. IndyCar’s first visit to the private track near Riverside, CA, will go live at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 24 with coverage on NBC.

About the author

Tom is an IndyCar writer at Frontstretch, joining in March 2023. He also works full-time for the Department of Veterans Affairs History Office and is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. A native Hoosier, he's followed IndyCar closely since 1991 and calls Fort Wayne home. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomBlackburn42.

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