NTT IndyCar Series championship points leader Josef Newgarden in the No.2 PPG Chevrolet for Team Penske gained a valuable bonus point in qualifying for tonight’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway. The Tennessee native now holds a 36 point lead over Alexander Rossi and speaking following the session he said:
This is kind of like an Iowa situation to me. When we were in Iowa practicing, I said this is the car that can win the pole. And we just missed it by a little bit. I would have been so mad at us, as a unit, if we did that again. I’m so happy we got it right. The guys did an amazing job with the PPG car. It was so good right off the truck. We didn’t touch it, at least going into qualifying. We made a couple of little adjustments in practice, but once we finished it was like, don’t touch it. Let’s just run the thing for qualifying. So I was really happy with it. Chevy has done an amazing job so we have power there to get the pole. So, now we’ve just got to finish it off tomorrow night.”“It rolled off perfect. We needed to make it a little bit better, but right off the truck it was fast. It was like let’s not do too much to this thing before qualifying. So we didn’t touch it, we just tried to go out and to the same thing we did in practice. It was enough. I knew we had a fast car, it’s just about putting it together most of the time. And we did that. We need to get rolling again. It is going to be all about traffic. So we will take the PPG car and work with Chevy on fuel mileage.“The pole helps with the championship. Every practice. Every qualifying session. Every race. You just keep marching on until this thing finishes off. Every weekend you come in invigorated that you can put together a winning car and come in and win the race. I think that is why we show up. We are going to try and do that tomorrow night.“It is good. It is going to be tough in this championship. Even though we have at 36 point gap, I don’t think that a big gap. This race can change dramatically. Then you have Portland in between and with double points (at Laguna Seca), you just don’t know what is going to happen in this thing. You have to stay on our toes. You have to be alert and hopefully it’s enough and we can average better than everyone else the last three races.”
“It’s good for the start, but these races are so shaken-up now days that you can’t really count on qualifying. It’s really just nice for the beginning of the race. It gives you track position and hopefully you get out of the mess, but that doesn’t mean, or guarantee anything for the race. You’ve got to watch those guys. Fuel mileage became an issue last year. At least it became a prominent figure of the race, like that was what it was all about. Will that be the same this year or will it be something different? You can’t always predict it. I don’t think it gives us too much comfort, but for the start of the race, we’ll take it.”
“The good news was that the car was great by itself right off the truck. So, for qualifying, I felt confident. I’ve not gotten behind anyone in a traffic situation, so I don’t know what the car is like in dirty air. That’s our next thing now. We’ve got to make sure that we’re pretty good in dirty air and that we can get through traffic if we need to, and that the car can survive the stints. That’s what you kind of work on in these races is how do the tires live, how do that start to go off? We’ll get our answers tonight. But, we’re going to be working on longevity, for sure.”
On the second lap had a big moment in turns one and two. Just cost me a little. The car is good, just had that moment,I think it would have been close.I don’t know how close it was…but think it was close. It was on the right rear and then it just let go and I had to catch it and get off the throttle and get back on it again.”
The first lap was very difficult. The car was very active in turn three then turn four. It came alive on the second lap so it was time to be very aggressive on the second lap. I am very happy with the performance. The 22 team did a tremendous job. Team Penske and Chevy as usual gave me a very fast car.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, inside I’m just dying slowly. Years are just coming off me. You can’t see that, but…I did actually feel a little bit better today because Sebastien knows this, but when you roll off with a car that is just fast and it feels comfortable, you don’t have to do too much to make it more comfy, it gives you a lot of confidence, and I can’t remember the last time — probably Iowa, we had a really good car like that, too. And you don’t know, because in ’17 we had a really good car here, ’18 we dropped off with the new aero kit; we just ran out of time and didn’t hit it right.And then we looked at everything, and we came with a completely different philosophy, and right off the truck it was just perfect. I mean, it was like right on. And it’s hard to do that. It’s really, really hard to do that. You try every weekend to make that happen, and it’s like maybe once or twice out of the year you go, okay, we don’t have to do much there. The only problem is I don’t know how that’s going to translate to the race. By myself it was fine, qualifying was fine, but in traffic I kind of hope it’s the same thing.I think we’ve only come to — only gone through half the journey this weekend. We need to go through the race simulation and then see where we really end up. But I feel pretty confident that the PPG car is going to be strong, and Chevy has obviously done their homework and given us a great package.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I forgot to pack my crystal ball, so tough to answer. But it’s possible. You know, this place could breed it. We’ve seen it. Maybe it will repeat. I don’t know. Hopefully not. Hopefully we’re like up the road and nobody has got to worry about that. But you know, this place because the straightaways are just long enough, I think it invites a little bit more of that late move. You saw last year, too, every move is late. You’re kind of late into Turn 1, and it’s just the style of racing here. So I think everyone kind of knows the drill after a couple run.It’s really going to be kind of down to is it different than last year as far as lane usage. We were kind of pinned on one lane last year, which hurts the racing, unfortunately. But can we open that up this year, will we get a second lane? That’s what we need to figure out tonight. I will say, though, I think there’s more grip than last year. I think Firestone has brought a bit grippier package. The left side tire change, it just feels a little easier to drive.I still don’t know in traffic how it’s going to translate, but it could be a little different style than what we saw last year. Maybe a little bit more passing. That’s our hope. So we’ll see. I think we’re going to get a lot of answers this evening before we race tomorrow.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Give it time. Just give it time. We all can mess up, as everyone has seen from me. But yeah, so far, so good. You know, it’s the same drill every weekend. Sometimes you start off hot and you stay hot, sometimes you start off hot and you get cold. We’re going to try and stay in the good side of the temperature for this weekend. But we’ll just see. I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t know anything about the car in traffic. That’s the biggest unknown for me. I was good by myself. Are we going to be good in race conditions; that’s kind of the next thing on our list.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it’s case by case, depending on the team. Last year we didn’t change much from daylight to night. I think it depends on the car, but for us we were pretty consistent. Grip comes up. We got quicker in the race, and you feel a little bit comfier as you get towards the end of it. It was already getting that way in qualifying. I felt like the grip had come up, aside from the Turn 1, Turn 2 quick dry that was down there. That made it a little bit trickier. But once that gets run off, I think you’re going to have more grip than we’ve had. So 3, 4 is very possible we might get flat towards the end of the night. We’ll see. But I just don’t know. I think temperature-wise it’ll be nice for the fans. I was at a ballgame last night and it was beautiful. If it’s like that, it’s going to be a good night for the fans for sure. But racing-wise we don’t know yet.Hopefully we’ve got a little bit more ability to pass. That’s the goal from everybody. But we just don’t have answers. I don’t have any answers for anybody on that yet.