Newgarden secures his first podium for Penske at Long Beach

Photo: IndyCar

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Such are the expectations of you at Team Penske that podiums come first, wins come not much later when you arrive.

Josef Newgarden checked the first one of those to-do list items off the list in Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in the No. 2 hum by Verizon Chevrolet with a third place finish, behind the Honda-powered pair of race winner James Hinchcliffe and Sebastien Bourdais. His previous best finish at Long Beach was seventh in 2015 and he was eighth in the season opener at St. Petersburg.

And he hopes his bosses, Roger Penske and Tim Cindric, are pleased.

“I hope they’re happy enough so far! I’d like to stay… I’m not ready to get fired yet,” Newgarden laughed in the post-race press conference.

Newgarden started only eighth and found some performance today after a tough weekend trying to dial in the setup. But he said the comfort level comes from the team even though he said he didn’t feel that comfortable with his car.

“The great thing about Roger and Tim is they’ve let me settle in,” he said. “They let me know how to interact with the teammates and engineers. I feel really good about gelling with the team. This was the most eye opening weekend. I wasn’t super happy. I wasn’t 100 percent comfortable with the car. And that’s OK. There’s gonna be some weekends where I’m uncomfortable. But it feels great.”

For the race, Newgarden explained the mix of strategies between two versus three stops shook everything up, even though Newgarden and Scott Dixon had two of the fastest cars.

“It got a lot more mixed up with the strategies. Me and Dixon were on something different that the front guys,” Newgarden said. “We had a car that was capable of challenging for the win. That last yellow allowed everyone to catch up on fuel. So our strategy of trying to run those guys down wasn’t really able to play out. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how it goes.”

Newgarden and Dixon could have had time to catch the drivers had it not been for a seven-lap caution caused when Alexander Rossi stopped on track with a mechanical issue on Lap 63. Everyone was locked into the same strategy though when this caution flew. Newgarden said his car was solid at both fuel saving and making speed.

“We were strong saving fuel and going fast. I think we were the fastest saving a lot of fuel,” he said. “We closed right back up while saving a ton of fuel. We had a really quick car. It was hard at the end. It was tough for me to get by Sebastien to get to James. Everyone was even. When we had clean air, we had a very fast race car. I had no complaints.”

Even though this is the first time none of Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams and Andretti Autosport have won the first two races since the Champ Car/IndyCar merger of 2008 occurred – Dale Coyne Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have opened the 2017 account with wins – Newgarden said the so-called “big three” aren’t struggling so much as the series is just providing a showcase for multiple teams to star.

“It seems like typical IndyCar to me,” Newgarden said. “It’s not bad…  Bourdais didn’t qualify at St. Pete, so you don’t know his qualifying pace. We’re all capable. Who’s to say they wouldn’t qualify in the top three? Here, I think with James.. the Hondas looked strong. The Hondas were tough to beat. James was good all weekend.

“I’m not sure it’s been super shook up. It’s typical IndyCar. Anyone can win.”

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.