IndyCar champion Newgarden stunned by wild offseason developments

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
0 Comments

Josef Newgarden figured the offseason following his second NTT IndyCar Series championship would go much like the weeks that followed his first title in 2017. He would make some media appearances, attend some awards banquets, meet with the sponsors and then ease into another IndyCar offseason.

What has happened this year, however, has been stunning to say the least.

First came the news on October 30 that popular driver and IndyCar Series race winner James Hinchcliffe would not be a driver for Arrow McLaren Racing SP, although he has one year left on his contract.

Then came what can be called the biggest news in racing in the last 50 years on November 4. That is when Newgarden’s team owner and famed business and industry leader Roger Penske had purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500, INDYCAR and IMS Productions from Hulman & Company. That will end 74 years of ownership by the Hulman George Family when the sale is completed in January.

On November 22 came the announcement that four-time Champ Car Series champion and 37-time race winner Sebastien Bourdais would not be part of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan in the No. 18 entry next season. A major part of Coyne’s funding for 2020 had fallen through and the team has yet to sign a contract to return to Honda or join Chevrolet in 2020.

Newgarden admits he doesn’t know what to expect next.

“It’s been a crazy offseason,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com in an exclusive interview. “It’s been one thing after the other. It seems like every week there is some seriously impactful news that has been hitting the table. It’s been a whirlwind.

“It makes me think about my position in the sport and how fortunate I have been to not only have an opportunity, but a continued opportunity in IndyCar. You can’t take it for granted. It’s like in any other sport, you don’t know how long your runway is going to be in the sport itself or with the team in that sport. It’s a changing landscape and sometimes you forget that.

“I’m excited to go racing again but this offseason has not been short of shocking news. I don’t know what else is going to happen before the end of the year, but it is setting up for quite the anticipation before St. Pete.”

Of all the news that has happened during the IndyCar offseason, the most impactful is Penske’s purchase of IMS, the Indy 500 and INDYCAR. The 82-year-old shows no signs of slowing down and with his deep respect for the Indy 500 and IMS, the future is in great hands under his leadership.

But how will Penske’s new responsibilities impact Team Penske, which features Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Newgarden?

“With Roger’s announcement, it’s a very welcome change for everyone involved,” Newgarden said. “We are excited what the future is going to bring.

“Roger has always done a great job of delegating. On the racing side, we spend the majority of our time with Tim Cindric overlooking the racing operation. I think Roger’s time will shift in the future and we will see him less on the racing side and more on the ownership side.

“I think that’s a good thing. The health and the vitality of the series is just as important as the racing team health. It stands to be a benefit for all of us. I’m excited about it.

“If there was one person in the universe that you could pick to take over the reins of IMS and the IndyCar Series, there is no better person that Roger Penske.”

Newgarden believes Penske is a great listener and puts a team in place to get things accomplished with sincere thought. He is also very focused on fans and customer relations not only for both the short term and long term.

Newgarden clinched the championship in the season-finale on September 22 in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Now that it’s December, Newgarden is ready to get back to work.

“Very much so,” Newgarden admitted. “That’s always the case with IndyCar. When you end the season, it’s nice to get a break. But as soon as you get two months in, you are ready to go racing again. I’ve already started to put a plan in place for how next year should look, what we can do better, areas that are strong and areas that need work.

“It’s a never-ending battle. When you get to the top of the group, it’s very difficult to stay there. Things are always changing in motorsports. Trying to retain your crown is getting more and more difficult every time.

“The work has already begun.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

 

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

3 Comments

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.