The NTT IndyCar Series heads to Pocono Raceway for the ABC Supply 500 on Sunday with series points leader Josef Newgarden in the No.2 Hitachi Chevrolet starting the race from pole position after qualifying was rained out. Newgarden’st team mate Will Power starts the race from fifth place in the No.12 Verizon Chevrolet.
The drivers were asked:
WE’VE SEEN FIVE, SIX, SEVEN CARS WIDE APPROACHING TURN 1. WILL, IT’S PRETTY THRILLING STARTS AT THIS RACE. LOOKING FORWARD TO IT?
“Thrilling. No, actually the starts, I tell you, more the restarts actually are nuts. It depends on how the guy in the front there, how he accelerates. For the most part I don’t like the seven-wide. I only like it from the one on the inside. If you got two either side of you, it’s not a good feeling, especially when they start to close in on you. That happened to me. Montoya and some other geezer over here decided to close in. I lifted. Otherwise there was going to be a massive shunt. Someone has to be smart enough to go, Let’s not do this.”
WILL, LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR SUCCESS HERE. FIRST, FIRST AND SECOND THE LAST THREE YEARS. VERY STRONG ON BIG OVALS. THERE WAS A TIME IN YOUR CAREER WHEN WE NOT MIGHT HAVE SAID THAT.
“There’s a time in everyone’s career where you would have said, He’s just not an oval guy. Now you’d probably go, Yeah, he’s pretty good. He’s pretty good. Not good enough, but pretty good.”
“Oh, yes, yes. Will is a very good speedway driver. He’s a very good driver all around, but he’s gotten very good at places like Pocono and Indy. He had a winning car I would say last year, drove a winning race in a lot of ways. If you get it right, get in the comfort zone as a driver, I think you can have really strong races at these types of tracks. You want to get that everywhere. That’s the goal. We go to so many different types. But, yeah, sometimes it takes a little longer to find that happy balance. For drivers, it’s different. Sometimes you pick up to that quicker at certain places than others. I think Will is a very strong 500-mile runner. It’s good to have that, too, because you can kind of look at — for me, I know I look at Will, his style, try to learn a bit from him, what makes him good at these types of tracks.”
WILL, IS THERE A SECRET FOR 500 MILES THAN MAYBE ON THAT’S HALF THAT DISTANCE?
“Yeah, I mean, you’ve got a bit more time, you got a bit more time to not take a risk and kind of sit back, plenty of stops for it to unfold, get the car right. You don’t need to get too desperate at the beginning. I was a lap down, I came back and won. Actually, as I was sitting a lap down, I was thinking, If I get our lap back, I can have a top five because the whole field is actually bunched up. I actually won the race. Take your time, as we saw last year. Man, you don’t want to take too big of a risk on that first lap. You just got to make smart decisions on superspeedways, everything is so much faster. You know what I mean? Once you’ve done a few miles, you don’t realize how fast you’re going. When something happens, then you do. It’s never good.”
JOSEF, YOU’VE ALWAYS RUN WELL HERE. WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPENT THIS WEKEND FOR YOU TO KNOW OUT THE GOOSE EGG HERE IN THE WIN COLUMN?
“We just got to get it right. Last year I think we missed it by a little bit. I don’t want to put it on time, but we kind of ran out of time last year to just nail the setup. Obviously it’s a really tight, tight window. I think Will was in the right place. You saw in the race he was strong. We were just slightly out of it. We were on defense all day last year, just trying to stay in the top five. It was really a struggle. But we’ve also been here, like in ’17, had a strong racecar. I think we’ve always kind of managed to be there at the end at this race. That’s why we’ve got good results. Like you said, we don’t have a win. I don’t know. I think it will come at some point. Kind of like Texas where we’ve had strong cars there, I felt like we could have won that race. Finally this year it all kind of fell into the perfect window where we were able to do it. I don’t know what it’s going to be. We just got to keep staying close. I think if we keep putting ourselves in position, top three, top five, one of these days we’re going to win this race. That’s all we’re focusing on right now.”
WILL, YOU’RE STILL LOOKING FOR YOUR FIRST WIN THIS YEAR. HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT YOU CAN DIAL IT IN THIS WEEKEND?
“Yeah, I mean, I feel like we have a chance at the next three races, for sure. I like the tracks, have done well there. Man, it’s just a matter of it falling in place, getting the car right. Everything has to go right these days. Too many good teams and drivers for you to leave anything on the table. Would love to get a win before the end of the year. Would absolutely love to just for all the reasons that go with winning.”
JOSEF, WHEN YOU WON IN 2017, YOU WERE LEADING THE POINTS COMING INTO POCONO. DID YOU ENJOY BEING OUT IN FRONT, BEING CHASED, OR DID YOU FEEL THE PRESSURE?
“I prefer to be in front. I think it’s always better to be in the lead because then you can control it more so than chasing. I don’t remember how I felt necessarily going into Pocono. I just like we were in the points lead, that was a good thing. We’ve had that pretty much for the most part this year, which has been good. But it can change. I think history can rewrite itself pretty fast. Just because it worked out the way it did in ’17, doesn’t mean it’s going to work out the same way this year. We have to stay on top of it. If you could choose, you would always want to be a leader in the championship. It’s always better to be leading than chasing.”
JOSEF, ARE YOU IN A BETTER POSITION IN 2019 THAN YOU WERE IN 2017 GIVEN YOUR EXPERIENCE?
“Yes. I would say as far as me as a driver, I think you should get better every year personally. I feel like I’ve been better every year I’ve done this sport. That’s why the veterans do so well, is because experience really pays quite a bit. It just does.
There’s so many types of tracks, they change so often, you’re going back and forth. There’s not a lot of consistency. That experience gets you better and better at this every year. So, yeah, I definitely feel like I’m a better driver than I was two years ago. I’m a better driver than I was five years ago. Every year you try to improve. I think you don’t ever want to flatten out that learning curve. You always want to be getting better every single season.”
WILL, IT REMAINS TO BEEN SEEN IF POCONO WILL BE ON THE SCHEDULE IN FUTURE YEARS. HOW PROUD ARE YOU TO BE A POCONO WINNER?
“I love the track. I love it. Obviously, it’s always a proud moment when you win a race. If you win back-to-back 500-milers, it’s a big deal. It’s a cool track. I feel like the more ovals, the better for me. I really enjoy them. It would kind of be disappointing if it went away. Obviously, I had nothing to do with that. It’s obviously IndyCar negotiating. Yeah, hopefully I can get another one.”
JOSEF, THE LAST RACE DIDN’T END THE WAY YOU WANTED. DOES THE LONG BREAK MAKE THAT HARDER?
“I mean, they’re all different cases. Normally it takes a good I think 48 hours. I want to say 24, but it’s a little short. 48 hours, then you’re kind of over it typically for me. If you make a mistake, you regret doing something, then, yeah, 48 hours is a good amount of time to probably leave me alone. It’s just hard. I mean, this is a sport that you are competitive at, there’s a lot of emotions, there’s a lot of care that goes into it from everybody. We don’t do this because we just want a paycheck. We’re all here to be competitive and win. Whenever a day like, yeah, Mid-Ohio happens, it’s tough. It takes a little bit. I think 48 hours, ready to roll. Ideally you would like a race weekend directly afterwards. That would be lovely. If you could race the next day, you’d love to do that. But that’s not the case. You get to sit on it for a little while. I think the breaks are good. When you get a couple weeks off, for me, I like to get away from the racing world. I don’t do anything in racing. I’m at home on completely different things. It actually helps when you come back. You feel that energy. You feel that enthusiasm. You’re excited to be there. It’s almost nice having a little bit of a break, getting to miss it for a bit.”
CHAMPIONSHIP-WISE, HOW MUCH ARE THESE THREE RACES IMPORTANT?
Will Power: “Yeah, I mean, from a championship perspective, obviously a lot can change in three races full of points. You just don’t know. For Josef’s position, it would be very important to execute, you know, maybe be a bit conservative. I don’t know. It depends. With double points at the end there, really you’ve got to be within 20 points of the guy and you can control your own destiny by winning the race. I think you can’t really manufacture it. Every race is different. Every circumstance is different. You just
got to go out there and do the best you can. Obviously if you’re leading the championship, you probably think about it a little bit more, playing off the guys closest to you, which there actually are four legitimate guys in the game.”
Josef Newgarden: “Yeah, I would agree. Look, four races to go with double points, there’s over 260 points on the table, it’s huge. That’s a big swing that can happen.
I think you see it throughout the year. You see these gaps open up. It’s hilarious to read the articles because people will be like, The championship, it’s wide open now, because it got close. It opens up again, Oh, it’s only down to two, those are your two frontrunners. It yo-yos all year. Until we get down to Portland probably, then you leave Portland, you go, Okay, where is everyone at with a hundred points in Laguna, who is really in this battle? Then you can start really narrowing in on it. It’s going to change over these next four events one way or another. Maybe someone will rip a gap, it won’t be close, or maybe it will stay tight, yo-yo a bit. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You have to maximize each weekend. That’s the most important thing. Just get the most out of yourself for each weekend, that’s our goal, then the points are going to shake out how they’re going to shake out.”