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Newgarden’s “killer mentality” kicked in when he lost St. Pete IndyCar lead

St. Petersburg IndyCar winner Josef Newgarden admits he wasn’t sure if he could regain his lead after losing out in the first round of pitstops on Sunday.

Newgarden had dominated the early stages in his Chevrolet-powered Team Penske car from pole position, but an early caution period – caused by Marcus Armstrong’s crash – led to a round of pitstops under yellow during which he dropped to third after a slow rejoin from his pitbox.

He subsequently charged back to the front, passing Colton Herta and Felix Rosenqvist in successive laps to regain his lead, which he held until the finish.

But when asked if he was confident of retaking his track position at the front of the field, he replied: “No, definitely not.

“I went into the race comfortable with the fact that let's just have a good day. If we don't win, that's not the end all, be all. Let's just get good points.

“[But] as soon as we restarted, I'm like ‘I'm going past these guys’. I don't care if I wreck it. I'm just going to the front.

“I felt that today. So, it was fun to have the killer mentality. I think you've got to have that in a lot of ways in any race that you're in. It's hard to survive without it.

“But, no, I had no idea that we were just going to be able to get back out front and win.”

After a disastrous end to his 2023 campaign, when he slumped from second in the points to fifth in the final five rounds, Newgarden admitted that he’s changed his mindset for this season, removing the expectation to be perfect.

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

He started the season in style by winning the Daytona 24 Hours with Porsche Penske Motorsport and appears to be rejuvenated by his IndyCar form too.

“I think just simply put, it's just nice to feel positive,” he said. “I'm just really encouraged about everything going on in life, and I'm not overloaded.

“I think I overloaded myself in the past, and that comes from my desire to just excel. I want to exceed at everything that I do.

“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.

“Simply put, I just wanted to be happier again being at the track and enjoying the job and the process, and I do.

“I've let go of some of the perfectionism. It's in there. It's never going to fully go away. I just want to be the best you can be every single year.

“I look at 17 races and I go ‘how do we win 17 races?’ You lose one race and you already are you're mourning the one race you lost. You just can't live on that hill for that long. It gets you a little bit lonely.

“So I'm enjoying it more, simply put.”

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