Newgarden: “You feel pressure wherever you are”

Team Penske’s new hire for 2017, Josef Newgarden, says the burden of expectation at Roger Penske’s legendary team will feel no different to what he expected of himself at Ed Carpenter Racing.

Newgarden: “You feel pressure wherever you are”
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Start: Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet leads
Josef Newgarden
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Podium: race winner Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, second place Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet, third place Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet and Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet takes the checkered flag
Conor Daly, Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet in huge crash
Qualifying Top 3: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda, Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

Newgarden, who finished as top non-Penske in the 2016 championship, spent three seasons with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, then one with CFH Racing as Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman merged their squad with Ed Carpenter’s team, and then this year with Ed Carpenter Racing, as Ed reverted the team to its eponymous title.

In that time, the 2011 Indy Lights champion rose from 23rd in the final points standings in his rookie year to fourth this season, and along the way claimed three victories.

The 25-year-old from Hendersonville, Tenn., said that joining the team that dominated the past season and has 14 IndyCar championships and 16 Indianapolis 500 wins, would not be an extra weight on his shoulders.

He said: “I think pressure is always present wherever you're at. I always put pressure on myself with any situation I was in, driving in IndyCar.  I think we had high expectations at ECR, and rightfully so.

“I thought we had a lot of talented people there. We had a really great process, great ownership and great partners. Really had a lot of tools to be successful. With that, there was a lot of pressure there to do a good job, for everyone involved – our partners, our ownership.I don't foresee that shifting too much. I think you're going to have that sense of responsibility anywhere you race.

“But it certainly is hard to not be inspired, I guess – or overwhelmed! – when you walk into the Penske establishment. It's filled with a lot of great people, as well – a lot of great partners, tremendous support from the ownership. I think that same type of pressure that I felt at ECR is going to actually translate pretty well to what I feel here.

Asked how he expected to fit into a four-car team after running as solo entry initially, followed by a revolving cast in the second and third seat, Newgarden said: “I'm excited for that. It's going to be a shift for me, something I've not been used to. But I don't want to discount what I've been up against in the past. I've had a lot of help from my previous owner, Ed Carpenter: he was a great teammate to me, very strong on the ovals. [And there was] J.R.  Hildebrand, Spencer Pigot, Luca Filippi…  There's been a lot of camaraderie in the past for me and I've had a lot of great guys to work with and bounce things off.

“What's really going to change is there's going to be more of that. There's going to be more available here at this group, which is why they operate at such a high level. When you get that many talented people together, it really helps elevate the whole program and you push each other a lot more.  It's going to be different.

“I don't know what that's going to be like. I'm excited for it and I hope it pushes me to a new level. I'm probably going to figure some things out about myself I didn't know and hopefully those are good things. The bad things, I'll try and fix them pretty quick.  But I think it's going to be a great change.

“Difficult” telling Carpenter he was leaving

Newgarden, who will test alongside new teammates Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Helio Castroneves at Road America on Monday, admitted it was hard telling previous team owner Ed Carpenter that he would not be signing the new ECR contract that was offered.

“On the inside, you know, it's very difficult; it was really difficult,” he said. “It was almost easy up until the end of the season, because I didn't really put much time into it. We really just focused on trying to win the championship, get back in the hunt after the whole Texas deal [where Newgarden crashed, fracturing his collarbone and hand]. We had a great effort going all year with ECR, and so I didn't really spend much time thinking about it.

“I wanted to spend a week and take some time after the season finale to really assess everything; and I came to the conclusion of where I wanted to go and where I saw things and where they probably needed to head.

“And when I had a conversation and made the decision with Ed, it was difficult. I mean, it was a great partnership. It was a great, great environment for me and to do something different is never easy. But I think at this point, it can be a very positive thing for the growth of my career.

“And I think ECR is going to come out great from it, as well. Like I said, Ed's got a great group with the ownership they have over there, so I'm sure they are going to make a great choice.  They have got a great team, so I expect to be chasing hard to beat them… They have a really good product.  I don't think it's going to be easy coming to the other side trying to beat them now. 

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