Josef Newgarden hopes that getting a first Penske win under his belt at Barber on Sunday will help to speed up his integration with the team.
Newgarden capitalized on a puncture suffered by teammate Will Power to secure his first win since joining Penske from Ed Carpenter Racing at the end of last season. The 26-year-old said that he hadn’t feel any particular pressure to get off the mark with his new employer, but conceded that winning in just his third start as a Penske driver will make it easier for him to focus on other things in the races ahead.
“It’s nice to get it out of the way,” he said. “There’s always expectations in racing. It’s not like I felt any more pressure. I think I felt the same pressure you always feel: ‘Hey, look, if you’re not getting it done, what are you doing in the race seat?’
“Whatever team you’re with, it’s nice to get [the first win] out of the way early. You feel like you’ve accomplished something, then you can focus on the next accomplishment for the season.
“I feel like it’s gone pretty well so far, [and] I only think it’s going to get better. We need some time to understand what I need out of this team, and that just takes experience together. You have to run race weekends, run at the track. The more you do that, the more you build up a rapport. I’m happy we were able to get something pretty big out of the way at the start, and hopefully now we can continue to try to repeat it.”
Newgarden’s Barber victory makes him the fastest first-time Penske winner among the team’s current lineup. Helio Castroneves made his first trip to Victory Lane with Penske in his seventh start with the team at Detroit in 2000 (BELOW), Will Power won at Edmonton in 2009 on his fifth race with Penske, and Simon Pagenaud was making his 19th appearance in Penske colors when he won at Long Beach in 2016.