Photo: Chris Jones, Indycar
Don’t get Josef Newgarden wrong. He is focusing on winning the Indianapolis 500 this year. That doesn’t mean he is putting his desire for a third NTT Indycar series title aside. He would gladly take both in 2021. Since 2017, Newgarden’s titles have come every other year. This is one of those years. About his plans for the upcoming season, Newgarden says,
“Well, it’s definitely the same. It’s a little boring, but it doesn’t change. We want to win an Indy500. For me specifically, that’s a big goal. I’ve not won that race. Obviously as a team, we’ve had a lot of success there. They’d like to add to that.For me, I’d like to get my first. Then the championship as well, yeah, we’re looking for another one. Obviously I was hoping we were going to win our third championship last year and we could be working on the fourth. We’re going to have to go back to square one and try to knock the third off this season.”
Winning the 500 takes a lot of time and effort. Newgarden explains,
“Indy is a really tough track, not only because it’s the most important race but I think because it’s all about very small details, and those little details take a tremendous amount of time and effort to move the needle. It’s all these little things that add up at the end of the day when you show up in the month of May . It takes a tremendous amount of time to make large progress at Indianapolis, whereas at another track you may find a small difference or small change with something that you found that didn’t take nearly as much energy or money or resources.
We didn’t perform like we wanted to at the 500 from a qualifying standpoint and race standpoint. I think that’s why we’ve heavily leaned to get that right in the off-season.We haven’t left anything else behind. We’re still pushing forward on all the other fronts because we need to be strong across the season.”
Newgarden’s Team Penske crew was was not as strong at Indy as they have been in the past.
“Last year our qualifying form was not strong. We were all disappointed with our speed. That was first and foremost. How do we fix the speed of the cars from last season? There’s been a tremendous amount of work that’s been put in. We have the best of the best in my opinion when it comes to talent and personnel. There’s been no shortage of effort and time to make these Penske race cars as fast as possible. That was first and foremost.”
Newgarden shares many other drivers’ optimisim that Roger Penske is the right man to leading Indycar during these difficult times.
“I think this year has strong potential to really go to the next phase of where we’re at in this pandemic, hopefully back to a newer normal and working towards what we love, and that’s having people at the track, putting on great shows,providing great entertainment.I’m really excited. As we get to this next phase, I think the best is still yet to come from Roger Penske and the entire organization. I think, like I said, we’re all very thankful that he’s in charge and that we’ve got a good direction in front of us.”
Newgarden summed up his 2020 season as one where the breaks didn’t fall his way.
“I feel like last year was one of those years. We were just inthe wrong place, wrong time, a little too often. You have that happen just one too many times, basically what happened to us is the result of it. I felt like our momentum was quite consistent throughout the year, at least from a performance standpoint. We could just not seem to catch enough breaks. That’s the nature of the beast.”