Josef Newgarden celebrated winning the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship with an exhibition run in his No. 2 Team Penske Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet during the NASCAR weekend around the Charlotte road course.
“It honestly felt really, really good,” Newgarden said. “I didn’t know what it was going to feel like, but everything was pretty smooth for the most part. I was most interested in the tire difference [because] when you run a weekend with multiple series that have different tire makes and different cars. Normally when you go out after another session, you have to clean the track up. I was only one car, so I can’t clean the track for myself very fast, so I felt there really was no issue having two tire makes, and that was my big concern going into it. So, it was interesting to feel that.
“It felt good. It wasn’t bad. The banking was really neat just because the wheel was really, really heavy. We don’t have power steering in these vehicles, so it was pretty loaded up for a long period of time through the banking, but no problems. I tried to go fast, but not too fast. I think there might have been another second or two in it, but it was one run so we wanted to take it a little bit easy.”
Team Penske president Tim Cindric confirmed that the car Newgarden used in the six-lap demonstration was not a show car but the primary Simon Pagenaud used in the IndyCar Series season finale last weekend at Laguna Seca.
No times were published officially.
“It’s for sure different than anywhere we go,” Newgarden said of the Charlotte course. “I wouldn’t say it’s similar to anything. It’s clearly a road course, but it’s got some street course sections to it, like Turn 1, Turn 2 reminds me of a street course, and then you’ve got the oval which reminds me a little bit of the Indy GP that we run and then everything is kind of something new. So, it didn’t really remind me of anything as a whole, but it had some characteristics of some places we’ve been to.”
After his run Newgarden was greeted in victory lane by his NASCAR teammates Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano. It was Logano who had joked earlier in the day Newgarden didn’t deserve his 2019 IndyCar Series championship trophy if he didn’t run faster than a Cup Series car, and for how excited Newgarden was to get on track he kept pitching being able to run a stock car around the course.
Along with fans in attendance, the NASCAR garage was also curious about the run. Of course, the conversation turned to whether the IndyCar Series would ever hold a race on the Charlotte road course and Newgarden believes he’d have to think about what changes, if any, would need to be done to make that happen.
“There wasn’t anything that jumped out to me that was bad,” Newgarden said. “I would like to see more (cars) on the track because then you would have a better idea of how would we race. If we got a 20 car group running you’d see kind of how we draft. I think we’d have a pretty good ability to race off of the infield all the way down to the back straight chicane. We’d probably get a lot of drafting going on there and probably see some guys into that chicane which would be a good zone and probably the same thing again going into the Turn 1 and 2. So I think it has the potential to race really well here, but I wouldn’t limit it to this. I think this is where we chose to showcase our partnership with Pennzoil, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t do something together somewhere else.”
Also in attendance was IndyCar president Jay Frye, whom Newgarden will provide his thoughts on tires, race-ability, and other variables if asked.
“It was great,” Frye said. “An opportunity was presented, and the team took advantage of it with the help of Pennzoil. It was pretty cool to watch. I thought the car looked very natural out there; it looked good. Lap times were I think in reason of what everybody thought it would. So, who knows.”
The hurdles of making an IndyCar race at Charlotte happen are like anything in racing – scheduling, timing, how it works, etc. Frye said that would be something to look at down the road for Charlotte or any other tracks, but he doesn’t believe an IndyCar event would have to be on the same weekend as NASCAR.
Both Frye and Newgarden were pleased. Said the newly crowned IndyCar champion: “The more we can do together in the future is, in my opinion, the better thing.”