By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
Josef Newgarden had about as good of a 2016 season as a driver can have that wasn’t driving for Team Penske. In fact, his season was good enough that Roger Penske signed him to drive the fourth car in the team and that turned Newgarden’s world upside down.
Moving from one team to another can be a very arduous ordeal for a driver. Moving from a two car team to a four car team that has many more resources can exponentially multiply the problems faced, but the icing on the cake for the Tennessee native? Moving to North Carolina to be near the team.
“Man, that was a chore,” Newgarden said, on INDYCAR Media Day.
“I don’t ever want to move state to state again. I had more stuff than I realized. I don’t know where people accumulate all this stuff from. I had way more clothes — I need to go to Goodwill and give some clothes away because I have way too much clothes, but it was a chore, so I finally got in last week and I feel like I’m going to be moving for the next two to three weeks before we get everything done, but at least I’m located down there now, which I feel good about.”
However, things will be radically different for the 2011 Indy Lights champion, similar to how they were different for teammate Simon Pagenaud when he moved to the Penske organization. Both Pagenaud and Newgarden came from smaller teams before joining Team Penske and compared to his teammates, the Frenchman’s first season with Team Penske was not as good, but Newgarden had a different point of view.
“Simon is an interesting case because if you look back at it,” Newgarden said. “Simon didn’t actually have that terrible of a year in a lot of respects. The results weren’t what they wanted. They’d finished outside the top 10 in the championship. When you look at it just from those particular numbers, then it wasn’t a good season.”
The biggest difference, however, between Newgarden and Pagenaud will be that Newgarden is going to drive a car for a team that already existed for Penske in the No. 2 car, while Pagenaud’s team had to be built for him from the ground up.
“You know, whatever else was a missing link, everyone has a different case, so in Simon’s, for instance, they had to build a new team. He’s talked about the difficulty of them having to add a team, different people. Sure, he brought over (Ben) Bretzman, his engineer, so that was his continuity for him, but there were some other elements that weren’t continuity. So that’s his own case,” Newgarden said.
For Newgarden, his expectations are clear: win.
“I’ve got no excuses, this is my sixth year. I’ve been around quite a while, I’m not a rookie by any stretch. You know, I’ll be in the best equipment from what everyone considers, and I’ve got a good team. There’s not a lot of variables for me. Brian is a variable. The new working environment is. But on the whole, I should be pretty much ready to rock and go. If I’m not getting the job done, then I’ll have to figure it out pretty quick.”