INDIANAPOLIS – We always knew that one day Josef Newgarden would be a Verizon IndyCar Series champion. What we didn’t know, was when? We finally found out last September of the “when” factor as the talented American driver was crowned the season champion at Sonoma.
Newgarden, 27, was in just his sixth full time season in the series, but his first with Team Penske. His first five years were with Sarah Fisher and/or Ed Carpenter Racing. He had three wins in 83 career starts with SFHR and ECR. In just 17 starts last season with Penske, he had four wins alone.
As you can see, he’s a rising star.
Now, he will don the No. 1 entry for the 2018 season. That number is annually reserved for the defending series champion. But, with that number comes responsibility and pressure. That number means there’s a target on your back.
How will Newgarden respond in 2018? After all, this is the first real season with a target on his back. Previously, he drove for smaller teams, or was in his first season with Penske. There’s not a lot of pressure on you in those situations. Now, he’s won a title and is back with Penske. Does that change his approach?
“To carry the No. 1, that adds a little bit more pressure, but the thing that I tell people is when you drive for Roger Penske, there’s always pressure, so whether you won a championship or not, I think that level of — not expectation but responsibility to do your job and represent the group well and trying to get the most out of yourself, I think that’s going to be there the same as it was last year,” Newgarden said.
With a new car design for 2018, everything he’s ever learned is now thrown out the window. Newgarden said most of the notes from the past are thrown out. This new car will race totally different. So, that also adds an intriguing element to defending his series title.
But, the Tennessee native is saying the pressure is always the same when you drive for Penske no matter what car number is on the side of the car.