Josef Newgarden proclaimed his stunning win on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway as the best of his career and it also served as an incredible achievement for his new race engineer Eric Leichtle.
Brand-new to the role in the NTT IndyCar Series, Leichtle became a winner in only his second race as an IndyCar race engineer as the No. 2 Team Penske Chevy rocketed past teammate Scott McLaughlin to secure victory on the final lap—coming out of the final corner—to the delight of their boss, Roger Penske, who was given his 600th motor racing win with the achievement.
“Well, look, I don’t think you can discount the tall order that Eric has in front of him,” Newgarden told RACER. “He’s a very smart individual, really great person, good personality, total team player. But, you know, Eric’s never engineered a car like this. I mean, nothing even anything close to this. And he hasn’t been in an engineering position like this in I don’t know, eight years. And that position was very, very different than the position he’s in now. So he’s had a lot to learn. And he is just trying to soak up information from everybody.”
While short on IndyCar race engineering credentials, Leichtle is long on engineering knowledge after serving as Pratt & Miller Engineering’s IndyCar project leader; PME is a longstanding partner of Team Chevy whose technical services have played a great role in the brand’s numerous IndyCar championships since 2012.
“You know, he’s been leaning on [Will Power’s engineer] Dave [Faustino], on [Scott McLaughlin’s race engineer] Ben [Bretzman]. You know, all the other engineers,” Newgarden continued. “And they’ve done a great job of just trying to inject as much knowledge into Eric as quickly as possible. But you can’t force this stuff. Like, you can’t give Eric a binder with every piece of information he would ever need, and he could read the thing three times over before the season starts. Until he goes and does it, he’s never going to really understand it. And he’s not going to get good at that instinctual ability that he has to have as a race engineer. So he’s got a super tall order in front of him. But he’s just he’s staying positive.”
The engineering calls made on Sunday by Leichtle made the difference between winning and losing as Newgarden surged in the final laps to come away victorious with the No. 2 Chevy.
“A day like today is very validating for a person like Eric, so I’m really happy for him,” he said. “I’m happy for our group. It’s only one race. Let’s not get too excited. But this is a good boost for everybody. And I think, you know, Eric’s doing a tremendous job of being a team player for all of us.”