By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar Correspondent
SPEEDWAY, Ind. – There’s been quite a shakeup in the world of Josef Newgarden. CFH Racing went back to its old former self of Ed Carpenter Racing after the decline in the price of oil inhibited Wink Hartman’s ability to be a co-owner of the team.
But despite the ownership issues facing ECR, Newgarden isn’t worried about 2016.
“There’s definitely been team differences each year, and I think I’m probably more relaxed this year than any season, for one reason or another, I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s because we had a couple of wins last year, it’s amazing what that does to you to relax you and bring you into a better place mentally. So for me, I feel comfortable,” Newgarden said.
The team ownership question has affected the car count slightly for ECR. Ed Carpenter will pilot the number 20 Chevrolet on the ovals, but without more funding, ECR will be a single car team for the road courses, not giving the team a second set of data to look over. That may be a detriment for Newgarden, but not having a second set of data to look over didn’t hinder Graham Rahal all that much.
“I know the guys have been working hard on making it still a two car effort full time, I think we’ll probably be one and a half at least, obviously with the way we have it running now, that side I don’t feel too worried about, either. I like having a strong teammate, Luca was a fantastic teammate, really great to work with, always providing something to learn and build upon and I think it strengthened us last year. But I think going forward, I’m not concerned either way it swings,” Newgarden said.
Of course 2016 will also have a major schedule change for Newgarden with Phoenix rejoining IndyCar’s schedule, a track that Newgarden has never driven and will replace a track that Newgarden felt he was good at, Milwaukee.
“I think Phoenix will hopefully bridge that gap from Milwaukee a little bit, I’ve heard great things about it, and so it’s new for me. I always like a new challenge and everything I’ve heard about it is that it’s fast, it’s somewhat Milwaukee-like, but a little different, it’ll have its own challenges. If we were good at Milwaukee, which I think we were, then hopefully that bodes well for Phoenix,” Newgarden said.
Despite all the changes for Newgarden, a stable offseason routine can only further improve his performance.
“We always go through a big process in the offseason of how are we going to improve everything, from what I’m doing in the car, what the engineers are doing, how we’re interpreting the data, what we can do to develop the car, and I think it’s just all those processes have been refined and made better with the same core group. I think that’s been the big difference for us is having the same core group of people to work with […] has made it easier to make gains, and for us, we try to refine that process, we work a lot with simulation and the engineers and I think that’s what’s going to make the difference for us going into this season.”