Josef Newgarden is already hoping for a return to ice racing after finishing fifth in his RallyX on Ice debut.
Driving the Team Penske-liveried Supercar Lites entry from over the Swedish border to Al in Norway, it took a day or so for Newgarden to acclimate.
A solid performance through the qualifying stages earned Newgarden a place in the semifinals, where he brought home a respectable fifth-place finish in weekend he described as “a total blast.”
“It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to come over and try this,” he said. “It was very difficult – I take my hat off to all the regular rallycross guys. I think they’re phenomenal at what they do.
“Race day itself was tough. The track was really technical and it became very rutted the more cars ran, so the deeper we got into the weekend, the more precise you had to be and people don’t realize just how easy it is to put it into a snow bank if you go off-line.
“I got so nervous and even at the end, I was still trying to figure out how to keep it in line. Normally it’s very easy for me in an open-wheel car to do that, but with this thing, you’re full hands on deck – you’ve got to be working the wheel, the throttle, the brakes and the handbrake at all times. When you stop doing that, the car stops reacting. Man, it makes you work for it!
“Thankfully, I had a wonderful coach in Oliver Eriksson, and I finished with probably my best run of the day in the semi-final, which was encouraging. I just need to take a couple more steps and then maybe we can return next year and do a little bit better – I certainly still have a lot to learn. The experience has left me determined to come back, because I really want to master this.
“They put on a great show, and hopefully we can bring this series to North America and I can do a couple more races – that would be great for us. I’m so happy that Team Penske let me come over. I had a total blast!”
Newgarden took the ice reins from Penske teammate Austin Cindric, who competed in two rounds in Sweden, and he’ll pass the car on to Helio Castroneves, who will compete in the RallyX on Ice finale at Gol in Norway on Saturday.
“Oh, Helio is going to suffer,” he laughed. “He does not like the cold, Mr. Castroneves, so I think he’s going to be seeking heat at all times! I’m looking forward to seeing how he does. He’s going to learn a lot and he’s going to figure out it’s not so easy to slide these cars on ice, but most importantly he’s going to have a blast just like I did, and I’m excited to watch.”