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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.

Newgarden, Rossi ready for a red-white-and-blue INDYCAR finale

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MONTEREY, California – In an international series that personifies diversity from all over the globe, the two main combatants in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship are from the United States.

Josef Newgarden of Tennessee takes a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Northern California into Sunday’s double-points season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud of France, is just 42 points out of the lead.

It’s been quite a while since the two drivers entering the final race of the season were both Americans. Four of the top 10 drivers in the series are from the United States. Last year, five of the top 10 were from the USA.

All but one race in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule is contested in the United States.

Patriotism still matters in IndyCar.

“I think so,” said Andretti Autosport driver Rossi, who is the last American driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “I know I’ve read a lot of things from other drivers saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, no one cares.’

“I can’t really get onboard with that.

“I think me as an American, growing up, being a fan of the Olympics and everything, like you cheer for Americans, right? That’s what you do as a patriotic person. Canadians cheer for James. We see the Swedish contingent that comes to the races for Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist.

Getty Images“I think Americans will cheer for Americans. I would love to see an American to win the championship. I think it’s important for the young kids watching hoping to be IndyCar drivers one day, that they see someone who grew up in Tennessee or California or wherever. It’s like, there’s a lot of relate-ability to that for a young kid with aspirations of being a racecar driver.”

Since Sam Hornish, Jr. won the final of his three IndyCar Series championships in 2006, just two American drivers have won the title – Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Newgarden in 2017. During that span, Scott Dixon of New Zealand won four of his five NTT IndyCar Series championships and Dario Franchitti of Scotland won all four of his IndyCar titles.

The last time two Americans had a chance to win the championship in the final race of the season came in 2001 when Hornish won the championship over Colorado’s Buddy Lazier. Connecticut’s Scott Sharp was third and Arizona’s Billy Boat was fourth in the final standings that year.

That was a much different time and place for IndyCar. At that time, many of the top drivers were in CART while the old Indy Racing League featured a predominantly American lineup. Once unification brought the two sides together in 2008, the championships have been fought on American soil, but international drivers were victorious.

The last time two American drivers finished 1-2 in CART was 1996 when Jimmy Vasser of California defeated Pennsylvania’s Michael Andretti for the crown. In 1992, Bobby Rahal of Illinois defeated Andretti and Al Unser, Jr. of New Mexico for the CART title.

Prior to that, the IndyCar “National Championship” was dominated by drivers from the United States.

 

While Rossi openly choose to wrap himself in the American flag, it’s not as important to Newgarden.

“For me, it’s never been something I put a lot of emphasis on,” said the Team Penske driver. “I’m proud to have grown up in such a wonderful country as the United States, but what I’ve always loved about the IndyCar Series is that they bring the best of the best from around the world. That’s always been important to me.

“It means more I think when you have the best from all over the place coming to compete at the Indianapolis 500, during the whole championship. You really feel like you have that in the IndyCar Series. You get the best drivers from around the world.

“To pair with that, I think we need strong Americans running, as well. So for sure, having guys like Alex and Graham Rahal, some young guys coming up like Colton Herta, myself, it’s really great to have young American competition representing as well and running so strongly.

“What I’ve always loved is the great mix of talent from around the world. To me that’s just so important. If it was all Americans running in the championship, I don’t think it would mean as much. I like that we have that great diversity and that great mix from around the world.”

Although these two drivers are both from the USA, they are fierce rivals. They have mutual respect for each other, but they sure aren’t considered close friends.

“Josef and I honestly aren’t that close,” Rossi admitted. “He never lived in Indy when I moved here, or he was just moving. I actually never really hung out with Josef.

“We obviously have a lot of respect for each other. We raced together for a short period of time in Europe. We have a lot of mutual friends.

“Josef and I don’t talk or socialize really. So, it doesn’t have any impact.”

Newgarden agrees that these two men choose to embrace the rivalry.

“I think it’s just really business,” Newgarden said. “He lives in Indianapolis. I live in Nashville. I don’t see him too often outside of the racetrack. We go and we compete. He’s a great competitor. He’s definitely a tremendous talent, has done a great job in his career.

“It’s been a good, competitive relationship I would say.”

With the return of American drivers capable of winning races, championships and Indianapolis 500s, it has sparked a rejuvenation in IndyCar racing. With drivers from all over the world fighting it out for glory, this series that was born and bred in the United States can take pride in featuring some of the best racing in the world as the series continues to grow in popularity.

“I think we just need to continue a focus on our product,” Rossi said. “I think we have the best race product on the planet in terms of entertainment, the variance of winners that we have throughout a season, how many guys are capable, teams are capable of winning races.

“But that’s an ever-moving target. I think IndyCar has done a good job of placing the priority on that. I just think we need to continue doing that and everything will be moving in the right direction.”