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Podcast: Newgarden on Penske adaptation, hectic schedule

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Newly crowned Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden paid a visit to Nate Ryan’s NASCAR on NBC Podcast presented by STP, at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Despite the setup, recording in a studio that Ryan jokingly referred to as an “oversized closet,” and with Newgarden holding a hand mic flag for about half an hour, the two enjoyed a lively conversation about a number of topics.

Newgarden, a self-described introvert, has had to adapt to moving to Charlotte (Davidson, N.C.) as part of his team switch to Team Penske and taking on far more roles over the course of the year than just driving.

“I only just moved in January. It’s just tough. If I’m not racing, it’s nice to be at home with recovery time,” Newgarden told Ryan. “(In IndyCar) we have a much more condensed schedule but it’s very intense. A lot of back-to-back-to-back. We’re happy to be at home. When we’re not home, we’re doing partner events or press tours. I never have a great answer, but we’re always doing something!”

Newgarden explained how interdependent all of the Team Penske race programs are, among the NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA and Supercars operations.

“Driving for Roger is a different character. It’s a different sort of experience and one of the most professional people you’ll ever meet. There’s this process, these sayings… but Roger leads by example. That’s how he is and how he runs his businesses and race teams. You see how it works,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of divide (in racing) over 15 years. But racers are interested in racing in general. Whether you’re NASCAR, IndyCar, V8, sports cars, we’re all interested in what’s going on.

“For the IndyCar side, I think it’s helpful. What’s most helpful is that everything is under one house. All these guys can work together to maximize their own programs. I think that’s really the bread and butter. The sports cars will only add to that element. I like being in a new environment. Don’t get comfortable. Becoming uncomfortable, coming to a new city, 100,000 vs 40,000 square feet. It’s a good thing.”

Newgarden said he’d love to try NASCAR but like Simon Pagenaud, who also addressed this this past week in Indianapolis at the PRI Show, said he’d prefer to try on an oval.

As for Danica Patrick returning to the Indianapolis 500 after a seven-year hiatus? Newgarden is all for it.

“I always get excited by that stuff. It’s the Indy 500. I’ll be politically correct and say it’s one of the largest races in the world,” he said. “It used to be fun to see who’s gonna be in the race. Kurt Busch, Alonso, and now Danica Patrick coming back… this is her coming home. It’s been fun to watch her at the NASCAR side, but this is fitting. You have to give her credit. She was very good at the Indianapolis 500. More racers the merrier. I’d love 50-60 try the Indianapolis 500. I think it’ll be great.

“I’d be surprised if she wasn’t in the mix. It will take some re-adapting. That will speak to her adaptation skills. She started out open-wheel cars… so I wonder if this will be like riding a bike. I think it’s impossible to predict. If (she’s driving for) someone like Ganassi, she’ll be in the mix.”

You can hear the full podcast below, or in the following links and platforms Ryan shared.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.