Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is serious about mounting a comeback charge to try and claim his third NTT IndyCar Series title, and after leading the 10 drivers in attendance for Tuesday’s private test at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the Tennessean sent another message to those that stand in his way.
“It was a pretty good day for us,” he told RACER. “Pretty productive from our side. We tried to limit our running. We wanted to be precise with what we were doing today. To have this test during this big break was good for us. The car was relatively solid, and we feel confident we have something good to bring back here in September. It’s about getting the small details right and having a solid weekend when it’s time to racing at Laguna.”
Winner of the most recent IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio, Newgarden paced the Monterey road course with a lap of 1m11.55s in his Team Penske Chevy. Colton Herta was a close second in his Andretti Autosport Honda, and from there, it was a steady trade as Penske Simon Pagenaud was followed by Andretti’s Alexander Rossi, who was followed by Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, who was followed by Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Santino Ferrucci was the first to break up the Penske-Andretti sextet as a stand-in for Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Takuma Sato, who was unable to travel to the test, in seventh. From there, it was Penske’s Will Power, RLL’s Graham Rahal, and Andretti’s James Hinchcliffe who rounded out the field after nearly nine hours of running.
Newgarden and race engineer Gavin Ward were economical in their use of time, logging 56 laps while teammates Pagenaud and McLaughlin, and Rahal, turned 100 or more tours of the 2.2-mile facility.
Other than a heavy dose of spins and running off course at Turn 11, the worst part of the test came from the steady depopulation of squirrels. An unfortunate number of the notoriously indecisive rodents attempted to run across the track throughout the test, with many failing to complete their journeys to reach the other side.
“This was a record,” Newgarden said. “There were at least eight carcasses out there at one point. It got so bad, there were three on the racing line in Turn 11, and they had to red flag the session to clean things up because were having to alter our lines under braking just to avoid them.”
It’s believed Andretti’s Colton Herta recorded the deadliest tour of the day after striking four squirrels in a single lap.
Josef Newgarden, 1m11.55s
Colton Herta, 1m11.65s
Simon Pagenaud, 1m11.71
Alexander Rossi, 1m11.89s
Scott McLaughlin, 1m12.02s
Ryan Hunter-Reay, 1m12.21s
Santino Ferrucci, 1m12.26s
Will Power, 1m12.41s
Graham Rahal, 1m12.48s
James Hinchcliffe, 1m12.87s