CHEVROLET - Josef Newgarden Media Day
CHEVROLET RACING IN THE VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES
102ND RUNNING OF THE INDIANAPOLIS 500
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVYDRIVER TRANSCRIPT – MEDIA DAY
THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2018
JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO. 1 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET:
Q. Obviously the last couple years has been really, really thrilling, exciting racing. With the temperature the way it is and that the cars have, how is it going to change it? What are we going to see do you think?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It's hard to say. I don't think the front of the field will change drastically from years past, which is good. We've had great races for the last five or six years, and I think when IndyCar was developing the '18 kit, this was a place they didn't want to change. The front of the pack I don't think will alter massively from last season. Deeper in the pack it is tougher. It's tougher to get runs on people, it's tougher to follow. There's a little less downforce on the car in race trim, the maximum you can put on, so when it's a hot day, it makes it a little bit tough.
I think tire dropoff might be higher compared to years past with temperatures being up. But not drastic differences. I think the front will look very similar. You're going to see guys swapping back and forth. It's just you get buried in the pack, it'll probably be a little harder to work your way forward.
Q. Is there a favorite to this race or are there favorites, or is it more wide open?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, you want to say there's favorites, but I don't think there is. I mean, it's hard to predict. Everyone is up and down. It's a matter of when you peak. Some guys peak one day and they're terrible the next. If you peak on race day, you're probably the favorite. It's a matter of who makes that happen.
I mean, there's guys that have looked good at certain points. I thought the Schmidt cars actually looked really good in race trim, but then Hinch didn't even make the race. It's tough to predict. You don't know who's going to be strong. I think Ed looked very good out front. If he stays out front, he has a good shot. I think we have good cars, and there's four of us so that hopefully bodes well for at least one of the Team Penske cars.
Q. The first year with the team, is there anything new?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: No, not drastically. For me I was a little uncomfortable when I joined Team Penske. I didn't feel like I belonged in the group. And then as you stayed there for about a year and you have success, you feel more comfortable. I feel ‑‑ not necessarily more welcome, I think they were very welcoming, but I personally feel more comfortable on the team. That's probably the biggest difference.
Q. Have you noticed the last couple days any kind of improvement in terms of race pace?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, from the drivers? Yeah, I still have a hard time predicting what's going to happen. I feel better about our race car now. I thought there were some things that we couldn't make better. Following deep in the pack I thought was going to be very tough, but I think we've figured out ways to make the car work very deep in the pack, so I feel better about that. I feel encouraged. Who's going to be the strongest is kind of hard to predict. I don't know about that. That's the tough part.
Q. Entering this weekend as the point leader, does it give you any confidence, or is it just a race like any other?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, it's so early in the year that you don't look at points too much, just because of how early in the season it is. But it's an important race. It's double points. Like for Hinch, for instance, he's going to take a huge hit because it's double points. You think of it as an individual event because it's the 500 and you treat it differently than the championship. You have to try and win if you have a chance.
But at the same time, if you have a really good or bad race here, it can really affect your championship run. So it is ‑‑ it's a critical race to get right in my opinion.
Q. Would you trade a win here against a championship? Is it that kind of event, that kind of magnitude?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It's hard to say. If you had a lot of championships, to give one away probably, yeah, you'd trade one. If you only won one championship, would you trade it for the 500? It's a tough decision. I don't know. I don't know what I would do. But if you had multiple championships and you had to give one away, probably, you'd give one away for the 500 win.
Q. Do you have a team strategy or are you focusing on your own race?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, the good thing about Penske is there is a team ‑‑ there's an overall picture, but they let us all race. Something that works better for the 1 car or for the 22 or the 12, you can run with it. You don't have to follow in line to a certain agenda that the team sets. So we're all racing each other. Tim and Roger are famous for trying to beat each other, so that's sort of the attitude. You go into it, you try and beat each other, you try and take care of each other, but we're all trying to win at the end of the day.
Q. Is it different when you're racing with your teammates? Do you keep a little bit of margin for safety?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don't know, I run my teammates as hard as I run anyone else. You keep the same amount of margin because I don't want to try and wreck with anybody. You hope not to. So yeah, it's not ‑‑ for me it's not been too different. I raced my teammates the same way. But like I said, you don't want an incident to happen with anybody, so it's the same with the teammates.
Q. If Haas or another Formula 1 team invited you, would you go for Formula 1?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I would love an opportunity to try Formula 1. I think it would be something I've always wanted to do at some point in my life. Not that I didn't want to run IndyCar, but it's natural to want to go do something like that. It would for sure depend ‑‑ it would depend on what the opportunity is. I have one of the best jobs in the world right now, driving for Roger Penske, and I think personally we have the most competitive racing series on the planet. My fascination would definitely lead me to want to try F1, but it would really depend on what the opportunity was, and then I'd have to think about it, talk with Roger and Tim and see what they thought because I think it's important to be open and honest with them about what's happening around me.
Q. It would have to be more than just a test?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: No, I mean, I would be open to test a car. If Tim and Roger let me go do it, then I would love to test one. And if it was a good opportunity to go test, I see nothing wrong with that. If Tim or Roger thought it was the right thing to do, they'd probably let me go do it, as well.
Q. We have a U.S. team in F1 at the moment, we don't have a U.S. driver. Why do you think that is?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, it seems like there's an opportunity, I think, for Haas to have a U.S. driver, I just don't know their appetite for it. That's a better question for them. But I wouldn't want to limit it to driving ‑‑ if you're going to go to Formula 1, I don't think you have to drive for the American team, you can drive for anybody. It's just a matter of making it work and if somebody wants to put it together.
Q. I think F1 is pushing towards being established in the U.S. do you think that's a series that could be ‑‑
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: For sure, I think IndyCar is on the rise, specifically in the United States, but I think there's some global appeal to what is happening in this world in IndyCar. You saw that when Alonso came over that there's genuine interest. It's not something people are averse to. IndyCar is interesting. So I think it will exist regardless if F1 has a bigger presence here. And yeah, I think right now in motorsports, there's more of a shift to ‑‑ if you're a motorsports fan, you like everything, and why not. I've always grown up liking everything myself. I always fell in love with open wheel cars first, but that doesn't mean I don't like other forms of racing, and I think that kind of attitude is really good for the health of motorsports all across the board. If you like F1, you can like IndyCar; if you like IndyCar, you can like F1. It doesn't matter at the end of the day. You can have two great series, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Q. Would you like to have a go at Le Mans?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, yeah, for sure. I think everyone would.
Q. GT or prototype?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, prototype, just because you want to have a shot at the overall victory, but I think if you had a shot in GT, you'd probably take it, as well. You could win in a GT car overall; it would have to be crazy circumstances, but it could happen. Maybe something crazy happens, right? But no, I think prototype you'd obviously have a much higher chance of potentially finishing overall, so that would be my first choice.
Q. You're the reigning series champion, you've won two races, you're the points leader. We've seen you kind of blossom into the star of the series. How have you managed the pressure of what you expect in this big race because this is still the biggest race and it's still one you haven't gotten yet?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, you can only do your job, you know? I can only do as much as I can, and I hope at the end of the day, it's enough. We've had a good start to the year. I think we have all of the ingredients necessary to be good here this weekend. I mean, we have an opportunity to win the race.
You know, the pressure has always been there. It's there every race. Even when it's not the Indianapolis 500. I've always thought of it ‑‑ I don't think of it as the Indy 500. When you start putting it in that box, you say this is what it is, then it can, I think, have a negative effect on how you race. You just think of it as another race, which is really at the end of the day what it is. You just go out and do your job, and if everything lines up, then it can work out.
Q. How long does it take into the race, because you hear with Super Bowl athletes, they say they need to get a couple hits in and it's just another game at that point.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah.
Q. How long for a race car ‑‑ obviously the three‑wide starts unique, but does it take your mindset to say, this is just another race? How many laps do you feel ‑‑
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think a lap or so. As soon as you get going and you're already one, two laps in, then it's just another race, and you already start feeling that. It's good. Once you get to that point, that's kind of the mind frame you need to be in the whole day.
Q. And then how many laps from the end ‑‑ Will was saying it never crossed his mind in 2015, but do you think, holy crap, this is the Indy 500, this could change my life? Does that pressure ever come in that you have to fend off a little bit?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, it's impossible. It's impossible not to have those thoughts. I remember in '16 that was my best chance to win the race so far, and it's hard to not think about it. You just ‑‑ it's impossible. So yeah, you always let a little bit of information slip in, but you don't let it overcome what you're doing because you have to think about the race, you have to finish before anything can happen. Yeah, you get a little bit but not too much.
Q. You were doing a lot of running up on Will and Will was (indiscernible) ‑‑
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I know, they all blend.
Q. Are you now finding that you can get your car through traffic? Penske has started looking good earlier than everyone else in terms of being able to follow close.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, it was always okay with one car, but once you got seven or eight, even five, five or six deep, it was difficult. And I think it's been that way for everybody. I think we've gotten the car better, and I think the more you work with it, the more you figure out, okay, how are we going to make the car work and force it to work in a really deep part of the pack. So I feel more optimistic if we get buried that we can work our way forward, but it's still going to be tough. I think it'll be a little bit tougher buried in the pack to come forward than previous years.
Q. Are the weather conditions at the moment ‑‑ is it just me, or does humidity make it even more sketchy?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it's more the heat because track temp is the most critical ‑‑ because this car is more sensitive to track temperature. If the track temperature rises, that's really what ‑‑ it can be hot and low track temp and you're okay. It's when the track temp rises this car suffers. I think it's just more relying on the floor, and that really seems to dictate the tire life. We kind of noticed that in qualifying. We all thought qualifying was going to be easy this year because of the trim steps, and then it heated up, and it wasn't that easy. I mean, you could still ‑‑ it was on the edge when the track was hot.
There's guys that took off side walls and they could not be flat. Rossi had not so great of a run when he took the side walls off Saturday. It's tough with the track temperature. I think this car is very sensitive to that, not so much ambient but track temperature.
Q. You mentioned '16 a little bit; anything you recall, anything where you look back and say, why did I think that? Know what I'm saying, just anything that maybe I thought that too soon?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: No, nothing like that. I think more it was just the surprise of afterwards, you heard Rossi won, and it was like, what are you talking about, Carlos Muñoz won, I saw him win in front of me. So I remember that very vividly. For us it came down to that final pit stop. We thought pretty much everyone was going to pit. There was going to be a couple guys that maybe stretched it and it's not going to work out, but everyone was going to pit for that splash at the end, and we were ahead of Muñoz up to that point, and then he had a little better pit stop than us and pulled a couple seconds on those last couple laps, and I thought, man, we just lost the 500. There was just too much of a gap right there at the end. I just remember the surprise at the finish and being caught off guard by what happened. That was the biggest thing that stuck in my mind.
Q. You never even saw Rossi ‑‑
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: We saw him in front of us. He was putting in front of us, but we never even thought he was an equation in the race, so yeah, that's the biggest memory I have.
Q. A lot of the older guys are saying this car is harkening back to guys being seat of their pants. I don't know if you have a point of reference with that, or have you heard of that, or do you feel that?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I mean, generally we're down in grip everywhere. What they've done with the aero kit is taken off tons of downforce. Around 25 percent at a lot of places, which is a big shift. So people now are having to pedal the car, it's not as stuck. We're going to rewrite the way we drive the car, the way we set the car up. Yeah, but it's more on the edge. You slide the car a lot more. It doesn't feel stuck to the ground, and it's fun. It makes it entertaining in the race because guys make mistakes easier and you can capitalize on those mistakes when people make them.
So I think it's made us work harder inside the car, but it's also made the racing harder.
Q. Seems to show more what you're talking about on road courses and maybe short ovals, but maybe it's going to be a little different on a superspeedway, maybe even Texas?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think you'll see it on the superspeedways, too. It's more noticeable on the road and street courses because you have more angle on the car. You can't get that much angle on a superspeedway. I mean, once you get too much, you show that, you're normally wrecking. You're going to see guys suffering, you're going to see them slow down, and I think it will ‑‑ like it's been everywhere, be more of a handful in the race once we get to that time.
Q. What's your spirit animal?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Walrus. I don't know.
Q. What's the longest word you can use in a sentence?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Flabbergasted.
Q. That's a good one. Yanni or Laurel?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it's Laurel. No, I think it's Yanni. I think it was Yanni that I heard. Yeah, Yanni.
Q. Of everybody in the paddock, who's least likely to pick up the check at dinner?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Will Power.
Q. Would you rather be the smartest guy in the room, the best‑looking guy in the room or the richest guy in the room?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: The smartest guy in the room.
Q. What's worse, losing your cell phone, your wallet or your keys?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Wallet is tough. You can buy anything you need if you have your wallet. I mean, if you have a little bit of money, you don't need much.
Q. Do you say indoor or (indiscernible)?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I say indoor.
Q. Would you rather get a phone call or a text?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I'd rather get a phone call.
Q. If I leave you a voicemail will you listen to it before you call me back?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yes.
Q. What is the biggest relationship deal breaker?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: What is the biggest relationship deal breaker? There's none for my girlfriend. We have a great relationship. If she didn't shower, that would be a deal breaker.
Q. Cargo shorts, yea or nay?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Nay. Actually I'm going to say yea. Cargo shorts are ‑‑ we can utilize them.
Q. Most prized possession?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: My mattress.
Q. Favorite Muppet?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Kermit.
Q. What's harder to maintain, diet or exercise?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Diet.
Q. If you had to eat your way to (indiscernible), what would it be?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: In‑n‑Out.
Q. If you're battling for the lead on the last lap of the Indy 500, who would you least like to be battling.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Helio Castroneves. He knows what to do. He's going for four. I wouldn't know what to do. I don't want to be in that situation.
Q. Along those lines, Helio has talked about how he had to remember back, and he's probably one of the few guys who can, how he had to ‑‑ he actually said he had to reverse his data bank, which I'm not sure he has one in his brain, but he said that in terms of when he drove a car that had this kind of downforce maybe back in the '90s or past that, so has he really helped the team in terms of sharing with the three drivers, and has he been pretty open about his ideas?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I mean, Helio is helpful just because he has been around for a while through different versions of the car, and he knows Penske very well. He's been on the team since 2000, and he's run ‑‑ 2001 he won his first Indy 500? 2001, yeah, so a long time. We know what we're doing, too, Will, Simon and myself, but Helio is just so strong at understanding everything and seeing the whole picture.
He's a great asset to all of us. I think he's helped make us better this month, and I think he's going to be in for a good shot to try and win it again.
Q. When you're in the car, how much focused are you on just driving, because you've got Tim in your ear telling you what you need to know. Are you really aware of how many laps you've done and that kind of thing?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, the whole time. I mean, Tim makes it easier for me to focus on my job. I can't focus with these guys over here. They're talking about this crap. Yeah, Tim makes it very easy for me because he lets me know what's going on behind me, what's in front of me. Generally we have a good discussion before the race. We have a good idea of what the strategy is going to be. So when it starts to develop, I know where we're going or what we're going to change or if it's staying on track.
He brings me a lot of comfort just because I know how good he is at the strategy and how long he's done that and how often he's been correct. So I feel pretty comfortable inside the job just focusing on my job.
Q. Josef, you're the series champion, you're ahead this year, but no one is really talking about you, they're talking about Danica, they're talking about Helio. Do you like being in the background where you're just kind of the odd man out?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Absolutely. We'll swoop right in. We'll swoop in unexpected, and then it'll be a party after we get in there. It will be a party afterwards. It's been great. We've had awesome publicity. It's great to have Danica back. I mean, it makes a lot of sense. This is where she started everything, so why not finish it here. She's done a really nice job, too, this month, and then everyone knows Helio's story. It's been building for the last couple years, but we're all hoping he kind of gets the fourth. I want to win, but I also kind of want to see Helio get his fourth. And then you have other great stories that are sad. Hinch not making it is a great story for IndyCar. It's a sad story, but it kind of highlights the difficulty of this race and what can go right and also what can go wrong.
There's tons of story lines. It's good for the series. I mean, I'm happy about it because I think it helps the overall health.
Q. What's the key to winning this race when it comes down to the end?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I think the key is positioning yourself with 10 laps to go. You position yourself with 10 or 20 to go, then you can start thinking about how you're going to win it, but until you get positioned correctly for 20 or 10 to go, you can't even think about the scenario, and generally you're learning the whole race what you're going to need for those last 20 laps. That's what you're working towards. I can't even give you the answer for the key because it might change from race to race, but just positioning yourself for those last 20 laps is critical.
Q. When you look at the temperatures out there, do you guys have any notion as to what to expect in those conditions, in traffic?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, track temperature is most critical. The air temp can come up, but if the track stays cold or cool, I should say, with cloud cover, it's not too bad. But when the track temperature rises, that's what makes the car difficult. It's what wears the tires out quicker. This car's aero kit is more sensitive to the under body's aero because most of the aero is made from the floor of the car, and the floor is right on the racetrack. So when the racetrack gets hot, that's what makes you suffer. And I think we're going to have a hot day. I think we're going to have a hot track on Sunday. It's going to be a handful. The cars will be sliding. I think the tires will wear out, and it's going to be about who manages that the best.
Q. How do you try and manage that?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: You've just got to try and make the car comfy. It it's hot, it's going to slide. You're not going to get around it, so you've just got to make the car comfy. Everyone has a different opinion of what makes them comfy, so it's all personalized. The setup is not one fit all, but yeah, just making it comfortable with that slide is really what we've been working on now.
Q. 10 laps to go, you alluded to it, you and Cindric, Captain and Helio, you guys know what this one means, and you know it may be his last, you haven't won one yet, how difficult will that be for you?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, man, I don't want to be in that situation. The tough part is I think it could happen because Helio is very good, and he's got a good car, and I think we have a good car. So the possibility is there.
I think I would just race Helio hard but fair, and the best man is going to win on that day. But it would be ‑‑ it would be a tough situation. Everyone wants Helio to do well, and it's a great story, and it's good for him. But we're racers. It wouldn't make the win special if someone gave it to him, so you'd have to race him hard and make him earn it.
Q. You have a series championship on your belt and you're looking for that first Indianapolis 500 win. Does the fact that you do have the championship in your back pocket in any way change your calculus when it comes to taking risk, doing what you have to do at the end of the race to try and bring home an Indy 500 crown?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it depends on your race car. You'll know what type of race car you have 100 laps in. The race is all about working on it, trying to prepare for the end, thinking about what you're going to need. And it's hard to look at this race and say I'm going to race for points because it's the Indy 500, and you treat it differently than the championship. If you have the winning car, all bets are off. You're going to try and win the race. It's not about points. If you don't have the winning car and you recognize that, it might turn into a points day, and this is one of the most important places for it. You look at Hinchcliffe who's going to take a big hit, and being in the show there and just finishing decently, it does wonders for your championship.
I guess what I'm saying is it really depends on how the day unfolds. But anything can happen in this case. You can't throw in the towel until the very finish because things can turn around very quick, and I feel good with team Chevy and Verizon, and I think we've got an incredible package for the race on Sunday.
Q. What are you looking forward to most on Sunday? Silly question, but what's the thing about the 500 that you think, okay, I'm locked in and this is really cool?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, just being in the show this year is really cool. If you look at Hump Day coming back, it was very exciting in qualifying, and nerve‑racking. If you messed up, you probably weren't going to make the show. If you wrecked your car, you probably wouldn't have been in. Just being in the show is a big deal. You get to take the green, you get to see all the fans, the sea of people outside of the racetrack. It's unbelievable when you're in the car and you're starting up and you're going. So I look forward to that. The start is always so me pretty mesmerizing. It's one of those special things you get to do.
Q. You mentioned this question before, but running for Penske and you've got Helio and Penske's team orders are 180, take care of each other, the last 20 you go get your face on the trophy. What do you do if it's you and Helio two laps to go?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It's impossible to know. You've got to react. I think I'd run Helio hard but fair. It's a tough situation. I hope I never am put in that situation, especially this year. But I think you have to race him hard. You've got to make him earn it, because for him, he wants to earn it. The win doesn't matter as much as someone that just gives it to you. So yeah, I'd run him as hard as I could and try and beat him.
Q. Considering double points, defending champion, all that jazz, what's the risk level on Sunday with double points considered?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: The risk level?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, you know, you really don't think about it here until after the fact. It's one of those things that's in the back of your head, and you say, this could either really help or put us in a hole, but you can't focus on that. You've just got to ‑‑ the whole month you have to focus on your car and what you need from your car. It's not about, hey, you get in the race and you start thinking about points. It's about tuning that race car every stint, every set of tires. If it's not good, how do we make it good, how do we win this race. That's got to be your thought process until the very end and the points shake out how they do. It's just one of those deals where when you come out of it, you hope it worked out because what it does, it helps you a lot in the end game for the championship.
Q. How comfortable have you been in passing this year?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Up and down. It's been a bit of a roller coaster. I think with one car, it's fine. It's not been a big deal. Two cars, still okay. As soon as you introduce a third or more, it has become very tricky, and I think everyone has struggled to complete passes deep in the field. You get yourself buried 10 or 12 places back, it's tough to move. It's tough to get runs. It's tough to make something happen in the corner. I think the back of the pack might shift a little bit from last year, but the front will look very similar. You're going to see a lot of moving around for the lead. I don't think that's going to change. I don't think anyone is really going to check out. I don't think you're going to go back to like pre DW12 era style racing, but the back of the pack is going to have to fight harder than they have.
Q. What's the tire deg like when you're running in that four or five lineup back in the field?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It was at its worst on Monday.
Q. What was the ambient on Monday?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it was about 80, but the track temp was the big thing.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, what we've noticed is like if the ambient is 84 but it's cloudy and it's 100 degrees on the track temp it's fine. This car is so sensitive with the floor now, where it's not ambient, it's the track temperature. If the track temperature shoots up, it's very difficult.
Q. We're looking at like 91 now on Sunday. It's been creeping up a little bit.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It's going to be sunny, right?
Q. Sunny but maybe some cloud cover. But the tire deg was worse Monday then you would have seen last year?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I thought so. Compared to last year, yeah. We can't put quite as much downforce as we used to be able to. We're kind of capped out. So the car is a little lighter, and it's very sensitive, like I said, to that floor.
Q. Like seeing cords at the end of the stint?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: No, I mean, tire wear has not been like that. Even last week, we actually said the tires weren't wearing enough last week with the new aero kit, so we thought maybe the tire might be a little too stiff. But I think you're still going to get some degradation. It's really the movement that's causing it. It's not necessarily the tires wearing out, it's just the downforce from the floor has really made the car slide a lot. When it's hot, the car is sliding, not necessarily from a tire grip standpoint, and when you force it to slide that much, you're going to get some deg, as you know. It's so temperature sensitive. That's going to be the MO for everybody.
Q. Given those conditions, where do you want to be, you've got plenty of gas the last ten laps?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Where do you want to be? You want to be leading. I think you want to be leading here. If your car is good and you can get 20 laps deep in a stint at the end, maybe you can hold someone off. I think it's going to be tough, but I would probably want to be leading there at the end of it.
Q. Two observations from practice: One, everybody seems to run as low as possible, right, you can't find any air down low and you've got to be careful at the apex curves, especially in 4, and then this other trend I noticed was you make a pass and then guys are just cutting off the nose going right up to the wall for turn‑in as soon as possible. It looks like it's going to be a more contested end of straightaways for the passing situations. Is that the kind of sense you get? Is it a little gnarlier than last year in terms of guys fighting for what's going to be a pretty tight single groove?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It seems a little bit later. Like deeper in the pack, the passes are later on corner entry, and guys have been very aggressive in practice. You've had some rookies in here that have been extremely aggressive. So yeah, I think it's going to get tight. It's going to get tight, and everyone now is on the let‑me‑get‑as‑low‑as‑I‑can sort of style, and that makes it tough because people are chopping and they're just fighting for like an inch of air, and you just can't find it. So it's become very tricky to cooperate with people.
Q. Have you tried at all just hanging slightly off the outside, or is it too risky?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It doesn't seem to work super well. A lot of guys, what they get good at is you get better at crossing the wake, and they try and get across the wake later. But this year it's been hard to make that work. You can get the car to cross the wake really nicely and get that cut on them where you're not sustained in the direct wheel track too long. It just seems harder to make it happen this year. You get a bit stuck in that direct wake, and the car wants to wash out. So I think it's just ‑‑ I think it's a little less downforce.
Q. Is there just an adjustable rear wing in the pit stop on the new aero kit?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, but it's not worth much. I mean, you can do it, a little bit, but it's not going to be like years past where you find a mile‑an‑hour, mile‑and‑a‑half with a couple of degrees.
Q. And have you done hot front wing adjustments that don't involve presetting and all that?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, we've done hot adjustments. You need a lot of wing in this thing. For this front wing to be powerful you've got to crank a bunch in. It's a ton of angle, so just to get it to react.
Q. You're fighting for time just to get the wing change in?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, you're probably getting a quarter of a percent. You're not going to get that full three quarters. You're going to get a quarter.
Q. You said passing is going to be a little tougher mid‑pack and beyond. Can you explain why that might be?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I think with this car it's been a little less downforce, it's tricky to drive with temperature. You look at the model of the aero kit, most of the downforce we generate is from the floor now. We took all the top side stuff off, so it's been very difficult when the track temp comes up. The car slides a lot. And then in qualifying we thought it was going to be easy with the aero kit just this year, and it was hard, just because track temperature was 120, 125 degrees, and looks like it's going to be like that on race day. So I think guys will be suffering to keep the car underneath them to fight for clean air. That's just the nature of this new car. I think up front it won't change drastically. That sort of intense battle for the lead we've seen the last five, six years, I think you'll see that throughout the race. It's just when you get buried in 15th or 20th place, you're going to be scrapping a lot harder to try and get by people to get back to the front.
Q. I talked to Seb about this, and he said people might get impatient in those scenarios, especially later in the race when people are trying to make something happen. Do you have to be extra wary at that point when people are like ‑‑ those cars are not really meant for doing those kind of things.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, just looking at traffic, people have been so aggressive this month, so you don't want to get yourself in a jammed‑up situation and get taken out early in this race, so I think you need to be aware of that. I predict we're going to have some yellows early. Maybe we won't. It's hard to tell. You go into IndyCar races and you say, we're not to have no yellows, and there's a ton, and you say races where you're going to have a ton of yellows and you don't have a single one. It's always hard to predict. That's the good thing about IndyCar is you can't seem to figure it out. But I think with what I've looked at in practice and a couple of the guys and how aggressive they are, I wouldn't be surprised to see a yellow or two very early.
Q. Some of the younger guys being pretty aggressive?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, possibly. There's a lot of guys that are out there feeling confident mixing it up. That's good. I mean, it makes it exciting to watch, but it creates a little chaos at the end of it.
Q. Speaking of chaos, what are restarts going to be like with these new cars?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don't know about that. Probably similar to last year. The tow is very strong. Like the draft of the car is significant. So you can get runs off people, and I think on restarts you'll probably get some of the best runs. Yeah, I think compared to last year, probably very similar. You'll see this three, four wide craziness going into Turn 1 and then carrying all the way down to Turn 3.
Q. Chevy seems to be the car that has a little bit more power this year. How much comfort can you take going into a race knowing that you guys kind of showed more power throughout the month?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I feel really good about it. Team Chevy right from the beginning of 2018, they've delivered what we needed. With the common aero kit coming in place, it's really down to this engine power, and Chevy has done an incredible job. They've brought us the power here, and when you saw them in qualifying, we had everything that we needed. We got good fuel mileage and we've had incredible durability. We're not really worried about the reliability of the engine. A lot of our performance is down to team Chevy and what they've brought to the speedway, so that's great. I think on the chassis side, our Verizon car has been solid. It's a little up and down at times. You have too much time here to work on it I feel like during the month of May, so you can get turned around, and you don't want to peak at the wrong moment, but I think our car has been relatively quick and painless. We've just got to make sure we peak out on race day. That's when you want to hit your maximum.
Q. Hinch was talking on his podcast today about bringing some changes to the Indy 500. One of the things he suggested was maybe they can get a no‑points race, kind of like an All‑Star Race because of how much emphasis is put on it and making it different from the regular season. What are your thoughts on that?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I'm not surprised to hear that sort of a thought process. I would want that, too, if I were Hinch right now. Well, we make it no points, that works. I don't disagree with him. I think double points has been maybe not the way to go here. Double points has shown the significance of the 500 and that it's a big race and you've got to bring your A‑game here. It means more. But I think regular points here was fine. I'd prefer to probably go back to that. If it was up to me, I'd go back to regular points. I don't think it's a deal breaker that it's double points, just it can be a little bit of a hit in your championship, but it's not been crazy. It's not like they're giving you three or four races with double points. That would be aggressive. But if we were to go back to something with regular points, I think that's what would make the most sense.
Q. How is your fragrance game today?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: How is the fragrance game today? Oh, solid, solid.
Q. How was that improv thing? I watched that yesterday.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, yeah. It was a total blast, man. I've never been so nervous in my life. You'd think there was only like 250, 300 people in the audience, but I was nervous. You've got to go up there on stage and try and figure something out out of thin air, and I'll tell you, it's a rush. It's like a ‑‑ I want to throw up sort of adrenaline rush.
Q. I can imagine the air of criticism is just thick in the room, right?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, gosh, yeah. You get eaten alive by the audience. It's worse than wrecking your race car in front of 350,000 people. I mean, it's bad. I can get out of the car no problem here, but if you mess up on stage like that, it's embarrassing.
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Dave Chess has been writing for RIS since the late 1980s during the CompuServe days. His work has also appeared in Auto Week magazine, Chicago Gearhead News newspaper, ATA airlines in-flight magazine, National Speed Sport News and on many websites.