Josef Newgarden challenged Ganassi and Penske, gets hired






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    Josef Newgarden challenged Ganassi and Penske, gets hired

    by Robin Miller/LAT

    "Roger is not going to hire anybody that's not ready to win a championship, But the past couple years Josef's shown he can do the job and now he's got the experience and the right mindset."

    Timing is everything for a race driver. It wasn't right for Roger Penske and Josef Newgarden five years ago but today it looks like a perfect fit for The Captain, the kid and IndyCar's future.

    When Newgarden interviewed with Tim Cindric, Rick Mears and R.P. in the fall of 2011 he was a wired 20-year-old undoubtedly a bit overwhelmed about his surroundings and why he was at Team Penske.
    "Rick Gorne brought Josef to us after his Indy Lights championship and we've never hired anybody out of Indy Lights," said Cindric (pictured), the president of Team Penske the past 16 years who wasn't around yet when R.P. snatched up Paul Tracy after only one CART start in 1991.
    "Roger is not going to hire anybody that's not ready to win a championship and Josef wasn't ready. But the past couple years he's shown he can do the job and now he's got the experience and the right mindset."

    And one of the best rides in all of motorsports.
    "To put it simply, it feels amazing and it's an amazing honor," said Newgarden (below), who will replace Juan Montoya in the team's No. 2. "As a relatively young guy in the sport, it's an amazing opportunity."
    In hiring an American full-time for the first time in a decade (Sam Hornish Jr.) for an IndyCar seat, Cindric and Penske instantly made the team younger and more popular since Newgarden has a rapidly-growing fan base because of his personality and his abilities.
    "It's been 10 years since Sam but that's not the reason we hired Josef," continued Cindric. "Obviously, it's a bonus for sure but we wanted somebody we could build on for the future. We've been keeping our eye on him."
    Which has been easy to do since Newgarden has been running up front the past two years with ECR and Sarah Fisher's defunct team. He won three times and led the most laps (combined) of any driver in the Verizon IndyCar series in 2015 and 2016. He also showed some 1960s moxie by not missing a start and playing hurt after his massive accident at Texas last June.
    "It's no different than when we signed Simon," said Cindric, referring to 2016 IndyCar champ Simon Pagenaud. "You have to decide if you're going to make a place for somebody like that or you're going to race against him for a while. So we figured he was better off being on our side than the other side."
    The other side was one of the better stories in the paddock, from the growing pains and promise with Sarah and Wink Hartman on a one-car effort from 2012-'14 to Josef's breakout season in 2015 with Ed Carpenter and Fisher/Hartman joining forces.
    Along with Graham Rahal the past two seasons, Newgarden upset the balance of power and challenged Ganassi and Penske at any track. Together with engineer Jeremy Milless, the gregarious kid from Tennessee became a bad ass and showed he deserved a chance with the best teams in the business.

    But it wasn't as easy a decision as people might think. "It's a lot harder than people realize," exclaimed Newgarden at the Sonoma finale.
    For starters, ECR was built around Josef and it had a great chemistry. He was the focal point and it was a relaxed, good-natured atmosphere. And I'm told his financial offer from Carpenter may have been better than The Captain's.
    Now he's one of four spokes in the Big Wheel and it's a button-down, white shirt, black pants world at Team Penske which always expects to win.
    "But you don't turn down Roger Penske," said Ryan Hunter-Reay a few weeks ago before breaking into a grin since he did that very thing a few years ago to stay with Michael Andretti.
    I've gone from non-stop tub thumping to get Penske and Cindric to hire Newgarden to changing my mind and wishing he'd stay at ECR because the team that finished 1-2-3 in the championship just got even stronger. But, to think about this American kid climbing through the ranks and having the best of everything with a chance to win Indy and championships, it's a great opportunity to get IndyCar more exposure and more fans.
    It's the right time.
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    PRUETT: New development for Newgarden

    Marshall Pruett / Images by IMS Photo, LAT

    We work from the general belief that taking a young, race-winning driver like Josef Newgarden and exposing him to the full might of Team Penske will somehow transform the kid into an ass-kicking, championship-dominating machine.


    If only it was that simple.
    The Tennessean, who turns 26 in December, will indeed have access to every resource imaginable as the newest member of Penske's IndyCar empire. But as history suggests, delivering glory for the Captain will only happen after Newgarden makes a crucial mental transition.
    After breaking into IndyCar with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing – Josef's equivalent of community college – and rising to the increased scholastic challenge with Ed Carpenter Racing, the blinding spotlight at Penske University has finally arrived. Gone are the gravy days of being an underdog where any amount of success was celebrated due to the long odds that were involved.
    For Newgarden, years of safe and measured grooming at SFHR and ECR have been replaced with immediate pressure and unfathomable expectations. Or so it would appear from the outside.
    "The way I see things in my lens, I agree, it is a lot like transferring college," Newgarden said. "People have asked me what it's like being around this type of group compared to my past teams, if the pressures are going to be different, if I feel a different responsibility. And I tell them it's really not that different. I mean, it really isn't. It is all the same stuff."
    Months away from his first race alongside defending champion Simon Pagenaud, 2014 IndyCar title winner Will Power and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, adjusting to the new surroundings is first on Newgarden's priority list. Based on his experiences so far, it would appear Team Penske is working hard to smooth Newgarden's transition before the 2017 championship gets under way.

    "You have a great responsibility that is bestowed upon you, both on and off the racetrack, and I haven't experienced much of the on-track portion, mostly just the off-track stuff," he said. "But, sure, there are different classes, if you will, there's different professors, but a lot of the workload is similar.
    "A lot of what they expect from you, all of those pressures and all of those different things that they really require, feels similar. I feel the same demand, the same responsibility to uphold all of my tasks and responsibilities.
    As one of IndyCar's most private programs, Newgarden didn't know what to expect once he was welcomed into the team's inner circle. His findings might come as a surprise.
    "I think there's a perception on the outside of what Penske is like," he said. "What is their working environment like? No one knows unless you're there. I had no idea what type of chemistry the group has, or how comfortable the working environment would be. Those are all questions I certainly had from the outside, as I think a lot of people do. At least people who have never been there. And then I got to experience the reality myself.
    "What I have been able to experience so far in the last month, it has been wonderful. Just my life with the team has been very, very easy. They work at such a high level and they have such a large scope throughout the whole organization. Yes, it is a lot to take in, and there's a lot of information to process. But at the same time, it is almost easy to integrate yourself because they have so many tools and so many things to help you integrate."
    It's too early to judge how Newgarden will fare at Team Penske once the engines are lit, but the 2011 Indy Lights champion appears to be on the right path.
    "I know it's on me to learn and get plugged into their approach to IndyCar; they're not expecting to have to teach me to do anything to fill in any gaps," he added. "There is absolutely no magic within the Verizon IndyCar Series. If you look at what we did at Ed Carpenter Racing this year, we took the fight to Penske. We were, at times, capable of being on their level and sometimes better than their level.
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    Cindric to call Newgarden's race strategy

    RACER Staff / Image by IMS Photo

    After five and a half years and a Verizon IndyCar Series championship on Will Power's pit stand, Tim Cindric is moving to call strategy for Team Penske's newest addition Josef Newgarden.
    INDYCAR.com reports that Jon "Myron" Bouslog, Juan Pablo Montoya's strategist for the past two seasons, will move to Power's team. Team owner Roger Penske will continue as Helio Castroneves' strategist, as will Kyle Moyer for defending series champion Simon Pagenaud.


    "As we look back, Will and I had a lot of good times but he will continue that without me," Cindric told INDYCAR.com. "Will has won no matter who is in his pit and I think it's important to understand the transition. As I looked at where our strengths are and where our experience is, Myron and I talked about it and thought we should switch this thing up a bit.
    "If we don't get off on the right foot, at least we will understand why. I'm confident the No.12 car group will be just fine with or without me and the No.2 car group is in a good place, but I want to help his transition be the right one."
    The Cindric-Power partnership produced 17 wins and 23 poles – numbers Newgarden says give the 12 team "a lot to stand on as a group."
    "I'm excited to work with Tim," Newgarden said. "I respect him a lot within motorsports. He has done a great job with Team Penske. Look at the history with him being a team leader – they have a lot to stand on as a group.
    "It's going to be exciting to work with him. I think he is a great leader and will probably help me be better at my craft and help me improve from what I've done in the past. I hope to collaborate well with him and the whole team on the No. 2 Verizon car and having success together."
    Bouslog combined with Montoya for three wins, including the 2015 Indy 500. They also earned eight podiums and two poles together.
    "I think I will learn a lot, to be honest with you," Bouslog said. "There are so many people involved in strategy during the race, you can't watch everything. There are so many eyes on it. It's going to be a collective team effort just like before. I think it's the right thing to do with a new driver in Josef. Tim knows how to handle the new drivers, the expectation level of the team. The best move is to do that for Josef so he has the best of everything to win."
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    Newgarden takes points lead with Mid-Ohio win

    Sunday, 30 July 2017


    By Marshall Pruett / Images by Scott LePage/LAT

    The Captain has a new lieutenant in his Chevy army and his name is Josef Newgarden. Roger Penske's most recent addition to his IndyCar empire made another statement in his debut season with the defending series champions as he swept past teammate Will Power on Lap 13 to take the lead and never looked back.

    If outfoxing the pole-sitter by swinging left and right before diving down the inside of Turn 4 to snatch the lead wasn't impressive enough, Newgarden proceeded to put his foot down and pulled away from Power with ease. As the lead grew to more than seven seconds at the midway point of the 90-lap contest, the rest of the field knew it would be fighting over the remaining podium positions.

    "Well, I've got a great crew," Newgarden said after leading 73 laps and crossing the finish line 5.1 seconds ahead of the Australian. "When they give me a car like this, I don't want to say it's easy, but it's easier at least. I think we've been hitting on all cylinders. The car was really fast [on Firestone] reds [and] blacks. We're getting after it, I'll tell you that."
    With Newgarden going on to score his second consecutive win and third of the season – more than any other IndyCar driver – the young Tennessean also took the lead in the Drivers' championship.
    Power scrapped with Graham Rahal as the Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver settled for third (+6.3s) at his home race and the top Honda representative at the Honda Indy 200 event.

    "It was OK, but we had too much push on reds," Power said of his car's main handling deficiency. "Solid day for points. We're just going to keep making hay."
    Rahal could stay close to Power, but felt he had more speed to show if the Penske Chevy wasn't creating a turbulent wake ahead of his car.
    "It was a good run," he said. "Our car had great pace, but we could never get in clean air. We'll be back strong in Pocono."
    Penske's Simon Pagenaud took a fighting fourth behind Rahal (+6.8s) and Andretti Autosport's Takuma Sato, who started third, quickly faded and held onto cross the line in fifth (+7.3s). His teammate Alexander Rossi improved from ninth to sixth, but tangled with Andretti's Ryan Hunter-Reay early in the race, which resulted in a spin for Hunter-Reay.
    "I was on reds and he was on blacks," Rossi said of having sticker tires to use in his overtaking attempt. "It's unfortunate. You never want that to happen with a teammate."
    Like Sato, Castroneves also faded, dropping from fifth to seventh in his Penske entry (+11.6s), and behind him, a fiery Hunter-Reay drove through the field to secure eighth in his Honda.
    "Josef, he was flying," Castroneves said. "Man, I can't wait to go to the next race and do better."
    Former championship leader Scott Dixon did his best to handle his second straight event where outright speed and good fortune eluded the Chip Ganassi Racing Honda driver. Slow pit stops and an ill-handling car conspired against the New Zealander, who went into Mid-Ohio with a slim three-point lead over Castroneves but left in third place in the championship.
    "Really bizarre, even from the get-go," he said. "We had no rear-end stability. I was holding the whole field up. As soon as I turned the wheel, it wanted to spin out. I think something mechanically is broken at the back of the car. [Then] we had a [wheel] gun failure. It was just one of those days where everything could possibly go wrong. We'll keep digging here. It's one to forget."
    The top 10 was completed by a highly impressive Conor Daly, who chased down his friend James Hinchcliffe during the final laps and earned his second-best result of 2017.
    The one-car Rahal Letterman Lanigan team and Graham Rahal out-classed all of its rivals, barring Team Penske. Considering the might and resources of four-car teams like Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing, the team sent yet another reminder of what quality staff and hard driving can return in the midst of monster programs. Dixon's insane performance to hold onto a car that wanted to swap ends the entire race was another achievement that deserves praise.
    Newgarden will enter the Pocono superspeedway with 453 points in hand as teammate Helio Castroneves (-7) and former championship leader Scott Dixon (- will have some ground to make up in their title bids.
    "Oh, that's great," Newgarden said after learning he'd taken the championship lead. "I was wondering where [Scott] Dixon was. I was looking at all the cars around me and I go, 'this has got to be a good points day for us.' So, we've just got to keep it up. No mistakes. If we don't have any mistakes, we've got plenty enough to win this championship. So, we're going to keep at it and see what we've got for the last four races."
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    Newgarden's ahead of the curve

    Monday, 31 July 2017


    By Robin Miller / Images by Mike Levitt/LAT & Scott LePage/LAT


    When you put on that Team Penske driver's suit you are instantly a marked man, and expectations aren't a matter of if, but how soon. Wins and championships are a forgone conclusion, and your performance is evaluated and scrutinized like nobody else's.
    In the litany of great racers that have driven for Roger Penske, some were instant home runs while others required a little gestation period.
    Rick Mears won in his fourth start as a part-timer at Milwaukee in 1978 and came back in 1979 to capture the CART championship and first of his four Indianapolis 500s. Al Unser Jr. only required three starts to bag his first victory at Long Beach in 1994 on his way to eight victories and a title. Will Power scored his initial win for The Captain as a part-timer in 2009 at Edmonton in his fifth start before amassing eight poles and five victories in his first full-time campaign in 2010. Danny Sullivan captured Indy in his second start for Penske in 1985 while Sam Hornish's 2004 debut wound up in Victory Lane at Homestead.
    But it took 17 starts for Paul Tracy to settle down and put up his first W in 1993 at Long Beach, while two-time F1 king Emerson Fittipaldi required 15 races to win for R.P. at Nazareth in 1990, and talented Juan Pablo Montoya needed 11 starts to shake off the rust in 2014 and triumph at Pocono.
    And Simon Pagenaud went winless in 2015 before bouncing back to take his first checker at Long Beach in his 19th start in 2016, when he went on to earn the Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
    That brings us to Josef Newgarden.
    If replacing Montoya wasn't enough pressure, then looking across the transporter at Power, Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves certainly should be. But this kid obviously has the poise to go along with his speed and race craft – and it was all on display last Sunday at Mid-Ohio.
    The 25-year-old native of Tennessee put a move on Power that would have made Russell Westbrook proud as he used a masterful fake to snatch the lead away from the pole-sitter and run away with his third win of 2017.
    "Will was good but I felt we were a little stronger at the start," said Newgarden, who vaulted into the point lead with four races remaining. "I think Will was struggling a little more than me, and I just didn't want to wait behind him. We were either going to pass him on track in a straight-up pass or pass him on the pit cycle. That was our plan. I didn't want to wait until the pits. I felt like I had an opportunity, so I just tried to time something and pull a move on him.
    "He gave me a lot of racing room like a great teammate. I think he knew we were a little bit quicker. So he gave me good room, and once we got past him, I thought we were really fast."
    In leading 73 of the final 78 laps and moving seven points ahead of teammate Castroneves and eight clear of Scott Dixon, Newgarden was never pressed and in total command of a race he should have already won twice but was eliminated by pit incidents.
    That's what is expected of a Penske driver: Qualify up front, lead, close the deal and move on. And it's clear the young man who got a lifeline from Sarah Fisher, Wink Hartman and Ed Carpenter to showcase his skills before being snatched up by The Captain understands the deal.
    "From the outside, people look at it, you're going to arguably the best team in the paddock with the most history in IndyCar," continued Newgarden (pictured above being congratulated by Power in victory lane). "You've got to look at it and say you should be great now, right? I think that's what the perception is from the outside. There are parts of you that would hope that's true. You come to this group, and you would hope you find success pretty fast because everything's in order and working how it should. There's no one more polished than Team Penske.
    "But with the way the series works now, it's very difficult. It's not just, hey, hop in one of the best cars, and you're just going to kick everyone's butt if you've got the talent. That's not how it works. Where we got very good at ECR was I'd been there for five years – different iterations of the team, different personnel, but I'd been there five years. I knew where we went with setup and direction for every single track. Every year we went to a track, I knew where we were and where we're going for this year.
    "With Team Penske, I had none of that. Totally new setups. Completely different philosophies. So I had to like adjust myself to something I didn't actually like at the beginning of the year. I didn't really love it to start with. You just start molding it to yourself, figuring out how it works for you, and you just get better and better, hopefully."
    Tracy, now an IndyCar analyst for NBCSN, knows the drill all too well and that's why he's so impressed with Newgarden.
    "It's a whole new world at Penske," said P.T., who won 10 times with Team Penske but butted heads with R.P. before being cut loose after 1997. "He's got three teammates with a lot of experience, a new engineer, a new approach and all those expectations.
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