Defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske says he is super excited to be going racing at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.
The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season gets underway with the Genesys 300 on Saturday with a condensed schedule with practice, qualifying and the race all taking place on Saturday June 6.
Speaking during a media conference call ahead of the race the Tennessee native said:
So, yeah, I’m super excited about starting off the season next weekend. It’s certainly something we’ve been waiting for the last three months, is the call to go race.
Feel like we have some goals to look forward to. We have some tasks at hand, we know what they are. I know the first couple weeks of this lockdown in the United States, it felt quite hopeless. Now we feel pretty positive that we have something to work towards.
Excited to get to the track. It’s what we love the most. Excited to do it in the safest way possible with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. We’re going to be looking to come out of the gates very strong to start a different-looking season with XPEL onboard this week in Texas, which is going to be cool for us, and some good power from Team Chevy, as well
Newgarden was asked about the rookies taking part in the race this weekend and if that changes the comfort level given that they have never raced on an oval in IndyCar before.
Totally agree. Texas is a very difficult racetrack to race in general, whether you’ve been there 20 years or first time. It’s a daunting track to get right. Typically we have five races or so to sort out our stuff, kind of get ourselves in the right frame of mind, have a general base before we go to a track like that.
I think for the veterans it will be a tough race to get thrust into. From the rookie side, it’s going to be extremely difficult. This whole year is going to be tough on rookies with limited track time. I think Texas will be one of the toughest places to go to right out of the gates, face a big challenge. It will be tough on everybody.
Probably have to change our mental process a little bit for how we race people. Like you said, I think rookies might have to have some extra care or some extra thought coming up on somebody or racing wheel-to-wheel with one of those guys.
I hope everyone tries to get back into a rhythm to start this season. It’s going to be very, very important, especially at a place like Texas, that everyone try to settle in for this first race out. I think we need to do that for ourselves individually, but I think collectively as a group coming off the simulator racing we’ve been doing, everything over the last two or three months, trying to get back into a rhythm is going to be important for us.
Newgarden was asked if the limited number of personnel travelling to the race will change his approach to the event to which he said:
I think procedurally it will be very different. Our process within our own team, our process within teams collectively, race control, INDYCAR, that’s all going to be different.
But I think the flow of information, race control during the race, decisions throughout the day, typically all that is done remotely anyways. I don’t think that will be aggressively impacted. I think we’ll be able to operate pretty globally, not a lot of lag time with communication flow from an event standpoint.
Within the team, that hands-on experience of just to be able to walk over, talk about (indiscernible), whatever it is, you’re not going to have that interaction. That’s going to be very, very different from my standpoint as a driver.
I think the most critical relationship is the engineer-driver combo. From my standpoint, that’s going to be the thing that I need to stay most in touch with. That’s what we’re working on, is how can we make that as fluid as possible. Everything else I think can flow pretty normally outside of that.
My performance is certainly going to be directly tied to staying closely connected to my engineer and going from there.
Newgarden was also asked about the break between Texas and the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis which takes place on July 4.
Yeah, it’s a strange time, right? I think it’s been tough for everybody right now, regardless of what industry or way of life you’re operating in. A lot of things have been taken away, our passions and our jobs a bit altered.
It’s going to be a new world for us racing here. Showing up for a one-day show, different than what we used to do at Texas. This sort of lag time between some events is very different. Haven’t been in the car in three months now kind of getting to Texas.
Look, we got to make the most of it. I think in some ways it’s very exciting because we’ve never had opportunities to see who could shine under situations where there’s not a lot of testing. Kind of have to make quick decisions, hopefully make them better than people around you. From that standpoint, I’m really excited.
I think it’s going to put a lot of pressure to get it right early within a race weekend, within a race situation. I think some people will really shine under those conditions more so than others.
Newgarden was asked about the format of the one day event to which he said:
I think it’s like everything: INDYCAR has done a great job of trying to analyze, figure out what is the best way to get back going. Inevitably, like everything, it has to get back going at some point.
The fun thing about our sport is we can create that separation specifically, but amongst the athletes, a lot of the individual teams, we can create these bubbles and figure out how to social distance together, put procedures in place that keeps us safe.
We’re not in the position yet to bring fans back. That makes me pretty sad. But at the same time just thinking that we’re putting procedures in place that get us back to the racetrack, get the show on TV, still get the race out to fans remotely, that’s really exciting.
I love where we’re starting. I feel comfortable with the guidelines that are in place. Everyone has worked hard. I think we’re doing it smart, safely. With some baby steps, trying to do this methodically, I think we will get back to the full force of what racing was three months ago before not too long.
Newgarden was asked to describe the race track at Texas to a potentially new viewer to the race as it will be on prime time for the first time in 13 years on NBC.
Great question. Always hard to answer. I think for me it’s like watching jet fighters in a gymnasium, you know. Let’s go with that. You’re watching these incredible pieces of art, these cool machines, they’re jet fighter planes in my opinion on the ground. They are flying around in close proximity and going to battle.
Texas is one of these places where you get these really intense battles with these jet fighter-looking cars. They’re constantly drafting each other, trying to use the air and push the air to either get ahead of someone or keep someone behind them. It’s just a very fun, intense battle, which turns into a bit like a dogfight. If you’re into that action, I think you’ll get that at Texas Motor Speedway.
To your point, it’s a great opportunity for us to maybe showcase our sport to people that have not been exposed to it before. People that love sports, but maybe haven’t seen an INDYCAR race, INDYCAR action around Texas under the lights. I think it’s something once they see it, I know we can put on a good show and I think they’ll enjoy the product.
Newgarden goes into the race as the defending Genesys 300 race winner and will be hoping to add to that on Saturday night under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway.