With the Verizon IndyCar Series’ season-opening race just days away, Josef Newgarden has one more item on his off-season agenda. He got his first taste of driving on ice and snow before making his RallyX on Ice debut Sunday in Norway.
Newgarden will drive the No.2 Supercar Lites entry, fielded by Swedish rallycross powerhouse Olsbergs MSE in Team Penske’s colors. For a champion used to finding the perfect driving line, it’s a different feel compared to most of the cars he’s raced before.
“You have to drive this car sideways all the time,” he observed. “You can’t not be doing anything – you have to either be on the brakes or on the throttle or on the handbrake. It’s been tricky to get my brain around what I need to do and the biggest thing for me right now is finding consistency, but it’s an awesome car to drive, especially on the ice.
“I like the fact that you have to drive it hard – you can’t relax at any stage. I realized very quickly that as soon as you stop doing something, the car stops working. I’ve just been trying to figure out how to use the brakes, how to pitch the car in and how to get back on the throttle – it’s all very different in terms of the technique, but hopefully now I’ve got a little bit of an idea of what I need to do to be competitive. For me as a driver, it’s a great opportunity to learn a new skillset – getting that diversity in your toolkit I think helps you a lot. I’m enjoying it and I think it’s going to be fun to try and figure it all out this weekend.”
Newgarden is following in the footsteps of Team Penske teammate Austin Cindric, who took to the ice for two rounds of RallyX on Ice in Sweden earlier this year. Helio Castroneves is also set for a stint in Norway on March 3.
“I think Helio’s going to be a little out of his element when he comes next weekend, being from Brazil, and I’m actually excited to see how he’s going to do,” he said. “It’s been a big Team Penske effort, and we’re really just having some fun during the offseason, trying something new.
“We’re normally pretty busy at this stage of the year preparing for the start of the IndyCar campaign, so it’s cool to get the opportunity and I didn’t need asking twice! It would be great to be able to bring this car and series to the States – I’d love to do it if it was a little bit closer to home, but at the same time, it’s fun to come to Norway. It’s beautiful to see this country and everybody’s been so welcoming. I couldn’t turn this opportunity down. As soon as Team Penske told me about it, I was ready to rock.”
In his first few laps, Newgarden was able to get a feel for the car – before encountering a snowbank.
“It’s weird being on a lake, driving around in a rallycross car, but it’s been fun. The grip changes constantly throughout the day, which is different to the way a track rubbers up in an open-wheel car. They’re all things to take in and try to figure out.
“I was trying to finish the day with a pretty hot lap and I think it would have been a good one, but [the snowbank] just caught me out. Still, it was good to get that out of the way – hopefully it won’t happen again tomorrow. We had a lot of clean laps for most of the day.”