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MONTEREY, Calif. – Joseph Newgarden walks into the Media Center for the final post-race interview of the 2022 IndyCar season.

To make matters worse, while rival team owner Bobby Rahal and driver Christian Lundgaard finished their press conference regarding Lundgaard’s 2022 IndyCar Luke of the Year title, he arrived early.

Newgarden looked exhausted.he gave everything he had behind the wheel He’s looking to win Sunday’s Firestone Monterey Grand Prix and possibly the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series Championship with Team Penske in his No. 2 Dallara Chevrolet.

A corkscrew mistake and spin during Saturday’s qualifying put him in a deep hole.he started at age 25th But the car passed quickly, as if sitting still.

“I was driving old-fashioned,” said Newgarden. “I’m back in my junior days. What happens, what happens. I just go as hard as I can.”

On lap 46, he overtook teammate and championship leader Will Power for second place. If Newgarden was able to win the race and his teammate Power finished outside the podium, Newgarden could challenge for the championship.

However, race winner Alex Palou was out of control and could not close the gap to second-placed Newgarden.

Palou’s #10 Honda crossed the finish line 30.382 seconds ahead of Newgarden’s Chevrolet. Power was his third, his second NTT IndyCar Series championship he won by 16 points.

Newgarden considers himself a perfectionist.He ran a near-perfect race, but in his mind, 25 he shouldn’t have made a mistake in qualifying where he was forced to start fromth In the 26-car field at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

When Newgarden sat alongside Palou in the post-race interview, his eyes looked like he was a million miles away as Palou talked about his only win of the 2022 season. I was looking forward to

No one could have guessed what Newgarden was thinking. At one point he bowed his head and rubbed his eyes.

This is the pain that comes with finishing second in the IndyCar Series Championship for the third year in a row. It’s also the pain that comes with his four wins more races than the series champion in 2022. He has 5 wins to his 1 win in Power.

However, Power finished on the podium nine times, while Newgarden finished on the podium six times.

“We needed a more consistent season,” lamented Newgarden. “There’s no question. I think peak performance has been there all year. It’s just been inconsistent. That’s ultimately what put us at a disadvantage when we got here.

“If I can do that, I have no doubt that I will be able to challenge for the championship next year.”

Newgarden joined Team Penske in 2017 and found immediate success as he won a championship in his first year with the team. Two years later, Newgarden won another championship in his 2019.

Since that championship, Newgarden has been IndyCar’s strongest closer, but he has managed to walk away from the leaders and seize the championship. It built a big lead early on. The schedule featured doubleheaders at most venues and three races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course to run the full season.

Newgarden charged hard at the end of the year, winning the season finale in St. Petersburg, Florida, but Dixon won the championship by 16 points.

Going into the 2021 season finale in Long Beach, Newgarden finished third in points behind Palou and Pat Oward. After openly pondering why he attended the championship contender’s pre-race media event, Newgarden finished second as O’Ward crashed on lap 43. Palou finished fourth, 38 points ahead of Newgarden.

At Laguna Seca on Sunday, he finished with another strong closing performance, 16 points behind Power.

“Well, I certainly tried today,” Newgarden said. “As always, we did our best. It was difficult to catch Alex today. I think he was great, especially in the last few stints. It was hard to get to.

For the second year in a row, Joseph Newgarden finished second in the IndyCar season finale and championship rankings (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“We were in second place all the way. We need one more spot but Alex seemed a little out of reach today. Quite an incredible job by them.

“I’m happy to have made it this far. It was a tough day and we knew we had to fight. We have to be there and we have to fight harder to put ourselves in a better position for this weekend and I believe we can do that.

“This has been a really tough year. It has been good in many ways, but also very negative in many others. Excited about the reset and excited to be back next year.” and know the team will do the job.

With pain comes pride. There was no reason Newgarden couldn’t help but be proud of his efforts, as he spun after an eighth-place finish at Portland on September 4 and failed to advance out of the first round of qualifying at Laguna Seca. That’s the championship.

“I think it’s a different day if it’s definitely starting on pole position,” Newgarden said. “It gives us a very different image. .

“It’s hard to predict. If it wasn’t for the deficit, I don’t know if it would have been enough to beat this guy (Parou) today. I don’t want to underestimate that.

“But it’s another day to start first. We wouldn’t have had to make that deficit.

“I don’t know how it was. I don’t know if it changed the[power’s]program. Really, we got the pole and won the day. I need All that’s left is for Power to finish in 4th place.

“In the end, the spin was the coffin nail of the weekend. There is one curbstone, but I accidentally touched it and made a big fuss.

“Yeah, I don’t know what would have happened if I had it on the pole, but today I would rather have it on the pole and see what happened than come from behind.”

Newgarden was proud of his team’s efforts. As they say at Team Penske, “One car wins all of us wins”.

“Obviously, we’re all competitive and we want to be winners individually, but when we win as a team, it’s a big deal for everyone,” Newgarden said. Filled with a lot of pride.

“But I’m also filled with a little bit of relief. I’m happy to come this offseason to reset, recharge, and find a way to hit everyone harder next year.

“Another overwhelming positive on my mind is that I know I can do better than I did this year. I’m just telling you, be careful, because when we put it together, it gets bigger.”

In a way, Newgarden should take pride in his efforts. He gave it his all, got behind the wheel and pushed his race car as hard as he could, only to see the winning driver disappear in the distance and his championship hopes fade.

“That was all I had today,” said Newgarden. “We fell short of Alex in the end. We have to re-evaluate and find ways to improve even a little bit on the deficit we gave Alex in the last few stints. I think you already know what we’re going to try if we run this race again, hopefully for another shot.

“For what we put together today, that was all.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter (@BruceMartin_500).