MADISON, Ill. (AP) — Josef Newgarden will have a chance to expand his points lead in the IndyCar series with a win Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
Newgarden was the series champion in 2017, but finished fifth last season and is on a mission to claim his second title in three years.
"I want to win it every year. Every year, you've got the same drive," he said. "If the drive diminishes, then you've got to do some soul-searching. But it's been the best. You always try to win every session, every race. No matter what it is, you always want to be the best."
Newgarden has been the best this season. With 535 points, he is 35 ahead of Alexander Rossi and 40 points clear of teammate and Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud. Five-time series champion Scott Dixon is fourth and Will Power is fifth.
Driving for Team Penske gives Newgarden a better chance than the other 21 drivers entered for Saturday's race at the track near St. Louis because Penske's drivers have owned the ovals this season.
Newgarden, Pagenaud and Power are unbeaten in four oval races in 2019, with Newgarden winning at Texas and Iowa, Pagenaud at Indianapolis and Power at Pocono.
And Penske has dominated at WWT Raceway since the series returned to the track (formerly Gateway Motorsports Park) in 2017. Newgarden won that year and Power was victorious last year.
Before that, Penske drivers Helio Castroneves (2003) and Gil de Ferran (2002) were winners when the Indy Racing League (IRL) raced here and, in the first season under the Championship Auto Racing Teams banner, Paul Tracy was the winner. That gives Penske five wins in nine races.
"What you're noticing here is what you notice everywhere," Newgarden said of Penske's mark at Gateway. "The record is not that different from any other place. Overall they're a very well-rounded group, which is key to IndyCar racing. We don't struggle consistently at any of the disciplines.
"It's a lot of history. It's a cultural thing. We have a culture that makes you want to get the most out of yourself. You're not forced to do anything. They don't force you to feel a certain way. But you feel that certain way. It's a great atmosphere they've created."
If Newgarden wants to win his second championship, he'll have to maintain his consistency for three more races, including the last race of the season at Laguna, where points are doubled.
"Unless you've got a hundred-point lead going into Laguna, you're not going to be comfy going into the finale," he said. "To me, it's still wide open mainly because of double points. It's super close in my opinion amongst everybody."