The smiling Canadian on Josef Newgarden’s timing stand is his new race engineer, Gavin Ward. On the cusp of his first NTT IndyCar Series championship, the ‘rookie’ is in an enviable position as his Tennessean driver holds a solid lead over Alexander Rossi and fellow Penske driver Simon Pagenaud in the standings.
Very few race engineers are fortunate enough to win a title in their first year with a driver, which makes Ward’s story somewhat unusual. Having worked as Newgarden’s assistant engineer under Brian Campe the ex-Red Bull Formula 1 engineer had the good fortune to interact with the 2017 series champion and learn his preferences and working style.
With Campe reassigned within the Penske operation, Ward was elevated to his current post, and if their four wins this year—more than any other driver/engineer combo—says anything, it’s how strong they’ve become in such a short amount of time.
“I’m obviously pretty lucky to have a long hand over there from Brian getting up to speed, so that helped,” Ward told RACER. “Josef’s a really easy driver to get on with. I’ve been really lucky that way. I feel like — well, pretty fortunate for myself, really, to step onto a timing stand where everybody you work with is exceptionally good. I have the best assistant engineer, we’ve got the best drivers, I’ve got the best crew chief — everybody’s top notch. They all make me look good!”
With Newgarden needing to keep things quick but unspectacular to clinch the championship, Ward says the No. 2 Chevy crew are treating the Monterey season finale like it was any other race on the calendar.
“It’s been a great year — can’t complain about the year we’ve had — so this weekend for me is just keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Ward added. “We’re not really approaching this event a whole lot different than any other race weekend. Josef’s a pro; he’s got the right mindset. You don’t even have to bring it up. He gets it. We just want to finish it off and finish it off well, and if it goes our way, then great; if it doesn’t, well, that’s how racing goes sometimes.”