By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
Switching teams from one season to the next can be a daunting task. It can be more daunting when you’re going from having one teammate to having multiple teammates. Further daunting would be joining the most successful team in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
That’s what Josef Newgarden has done for 2017, leaving the comfort of Ed Carpenter Racing and stepping up to the big time and with it, a whole different team structure.
At Ed Carpenter Racing, the 2011 Indy Lights champion had Ed Carpenter driving on the ovals with Spencer Pigot driving on the road and street courses in the last half of 2016. In 2017, Newgarden has Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Will Power as full time teammates with Juan Pablo Montoya driving at the Indianapolis races. How does the only American on the Penske squad handle the different team structure?
“It’s just a different management process, you kind of get used to a level of information that you’re intaking with a certain amount of teammates and for me that’s just increased by a lot,” Newgarden said.
“Having more information, more teammates, you just have to understand how to manage that, not overthink things, not look into stuff too much but also try to extract the right information to help you out and make you better over a race weekend so I think just the mental management side of it is what’s been the biggest difference to me.”
Having more information can have a downside in having too much of it. Can you have too much information?
“Sometimes, yeah, I think you can have too much to look at and data that can confuse you and turn you backwards without realizing it so yeah, you’ve got to be picky and choosy with what you look at and how you apply it to yourself so that’s the risk of having too much information.
“I’d rather have the information than not have it,” said Newgarden.
“I’d rather have too much information and learn how to use it to be the of my ability and maximize it than not have enough and try and make do with that, so I don’t mind the information increase, but you just have to be careful with it.”
Having the same teammates race after race brings about something else missing for Newgarden: consistency. Newgarden has had to switch between Carpenter and Pigot or Carpenter and Luca Filippi over the last few seasons but having the same guys there week in, week out for every race is certainly a benefit.
“It brings consistency. It’s nice to have the same guys to talk to every weekend, it brings more consistency to what you’re doing in the race car, how you feel about things so that’s only a good thing,” Newgarden said.
“It’s only a benefit, you’re not having to adjust as much. I had to adjust a little bit more the last couple of years from track to track, just working with different teammates and now you have a very consistent dialogue so that’s only a good thing, I’ve enjoyed that.”
With a different team comes a different management style and a different way of dissecting everything. ECR would probably be different in how they operate, especially having much few cars, right?
“I think the experiences haven’t been drastically different,” said Newgarden.
“ECR is a great operation, we had a great opportunity to win the  last year, with Penske there’s more to manage, there’s a lot more partnerships you’re looking after, a lot more cars you’re looking after.
“You know we’ve got five cars here so I think that standpoint there’s more managers, there’s more to look after, there’s more that can go wrong but they obviously execute beautifully.
I think Penske’s the best at managing an operation and understanding how to get the most out of their people. So you know, from my side it’s not been drastically different but I think from the inner team working side it’s probably a very different landscape.”