Watch out IndyCar! The Oval King has fixed road and street course struggles

The 2024 season opener saw Team Penske's main man break a nearly two-year duck

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Josef Newgarden was the king of turning left in IndyCar in 2023 but now he seems to have mastered the right turns too.

The Nashville native took a superb pole position in Saturday’s qualifying session and never looked troubled on his way to victory in the 2024 season-opening Grand Prix of St Pete, his first on a road or street course since Road America in 2022.

Newgarden did win four times in 2023 but all came on ovals with two at Iowa, one at Texas and the one Roger Penske wanted more than any other, the Indy 500.

Josef Newgarden, Pato O’Ward and Scott McLaughlin on the 2024 IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Podium | Penske Entertainment: James Black
Josef Newgarden, Pato O’Ward and Scott McLaughlin on the 2024 IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Podium | Penske Entertainment: James Black

While the Team Penske driver was never under serious pressure, he had to keep the pace up to prevent McLaren’s Pato O’Ward getting close enough to attack, the Mexican bringing home second to kickstart his campaign.

Scott McLaughlin made it two Penske cars on the podium thanks to some bold overtakes through a rather stagnant field for IndyCar’s standards with his teammate Will Power fourth ahead of Colton Herta and 2023 champion Alex Palou, who recovered a poor qualifying for the Chip Ganassi team.

Chevrolet edge Honda?

The engine battle in IndyCar has long been Honda vs Chevrolet and there has been little to split the two in these current regulations but maybe now there is a clear leader.

The three Penske cars and O’Ward’s McLaren saw Chevy lock out the top four spots while Herta and Palou led the Honda charge, unable to keep up with those ahead once the overtakes were made.

Chevy also had a slight advantage on ovals in 2023 and if they have managed to maintain that, it could be a long season for the Honda-powered cars, such as Chip Ganassi and Andretti Autosport.

Things could change dramatically after the Indianapolis 500 in May, however, with the hybrid technology finally coming 18 months after it was originally planned but if Newgarden and co. put this kind of display on every time, the title could be out of Honda’s hands already.

Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Results 2024

Pos.NameTeam
1Josef NewgardenTeam Penske
2Pato O’WardArrow McLaren
3Scott McLaughlinTeam Penske
4Will PowerTeam Penske
5Colton HertaAndretti Autosport
6Alex PalouChip Ganassi Racing
7Felix RosenqvistMeyer Shank Racing
8Alexander RossiArrow McLaren
9Scott DixonChip Ganassi Racing
10Rinus VeeKayEd Carpenter Racing
Joe Ellis
Joe Ellis
Motorsport journalist, indyCar correspondent and F1 writer for Total-Motorsport.com
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