Newgarden and engineer Mason strike gold fast in Texas

Newgarden and engineer Mason strike gold fast in Texas


Newgarden and engineer Mason strike gold fast in Texas


Another Texas IndyCar race win for Josef Newgarden, another first-time win for Newgarden’s new race engineer.

Not only did Team Penske’s two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion earn back-to-back victories at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend, but he also completed a rare year-to-year feat of introducing his race engineers on the No. 2 Chevy to their first triumphs as engineering leaders in IndyCar.

In 2022, it was Eric Leichtle, who went on to capture five wins with Newgarden on the way to placing second in the championship. After Leichtle took a job with SpaceX during the offseason, it was time to find the American’s replacement, and who better than his assistant race engineer, Australia’s Luke Mason?

Presented with the opportunity to take the engineering reins on Newgarden’s Dallara DW12, Mason only needed two races to steer the Tennessean to victory lane.

“I think the world of Luke,” Newgarden told RACER. “Just to look back a year ago, I felt the same way about Eric. I think Eric did a tremendous job for us in 2022. I can’t speak highly enough about the job that he did. Then for Luke to step into the role, I’ve just got a high level of confidence in that man. He is just so excellent at what he does. He is a phenomenal race engineer. You got to understand the definition of ‘race engineer’ to really understand that praise. But he is phenomenal. I’m excited for him.”

Just as Mason was an important part of Leichtle’s cast on last year’s timing stand, Newgarden praised the revised support engineering core who form the No. 2’s technical collective.

“[Their success] obviously extends much further than Luke,” Newgarden added. “Luke has a great team behind him: [assistant engineer] James [Schnabel], we have Mustafa [Malik], aka ‘Simba,’ on the stand now, a new guy on our team doing performance and helping Luke. You have the entire crew obviously behind him. It’s a big team effort. But I think the world of Luke and the entire team. Just to repeat, I feel really good about where we’re at.”

In typical Newgarden fashion, the Texas win introduced a new celebratory wrinkle to the series as Schnabel, who was on the No. 2 car in 2022 and also doubles as race engineer for Penske-affiliated Indy NXT driver Ernie Francis Jr., was awarded Mjolnir — aka Thor’s hammer — at Texas, which replaces the Chalice of Excellence, the former intra-crew award presented to a member of Newgarden’s team.

Forget the Chalice of Excellence, now it’s all about Thor’s hammer. James Schnabel lofts Mjolnir with Newgarden in victory lane. Brett Farmer/Motorsport Images

And in a final Texas-related note for Newgarden, statistician Scott Richards reports that with his win, the 32-year-old has joined an elite group after securing an oval victory in his eighth consecutive season, most among all active IndyCar drivers, and second only to a pair of legends in Johnny Rutherford (1973-1981) and Bobby Unser (1968-1976) who hold the record with nine straight years of oval wins.