Newgarden bullish over Penske’s street course prospects

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden says he’s confident that his squad is equal to or better than Andretti Autosport on street courses, as he prepares for his home race in Nashville, TN.

The inaugural Motor City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville on Aug. 6-8 is one of two temporary tracks remaining on the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, the other being this year’s season closer, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

And while Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi dominated the last two Long Beach races, while Colton Herta dominated this year’s street race at St. Petersburg, Newgarden doesn’t expect Michael Andretti’s squad to have an edge over Team Penske-Chevrolet.

Newgarden, who won St. Pete last year, and was the closest thing to opposition for Herta at the same venue in April this year, said: “I think we’re closer if not ahead in some respects.

“Our development was heavily focused on Indianapolis, but the focus development-wise everywhere else was more broad and affected both road and street courses.

“As far as improvements go, I think we’ve had a really good improvement in not just road courses but street courses because of a global change in some of our philosophies. So I think we’re really stout on street courses. I think we have a good car to bring to Nashville and Long Beach, so I feel confident about it.”

Asked what that change was – a fundamental change or a better understanding of shocks and dampers – Newgarden replied, “It’s a secret!

“I’d say it was more global. Let’s just say, fundamental.”

Asked if he can therefore be expected to perform in the manner of Rossi at Long Beach in 2018 and ’19, he replied: “I hope so. I think we have the capability of that, I really feel confident about where we’re at setup-wise. I think the possibility’s quite strong.”

Newgarden got his – and Team Penske’s – first win of the season on the board before this summer break, with a flawless run from pole to checkered flag at Mid-Ohio. However, misfortune – particularly at Road America, which he dominated but lost due to transmission problems – have left him 69 points off Alex Palou’s championship lead, with Pato O’Ward and Scott Dixon lying in between.

“Hopefully we have no more humps on the way to the season finale,” said the 2017 and ’19 champion. “[The win] was certainly needed. I think for us, the preceding races were disappointing in some ways and certainly hurtful as far as the championship points situation goes.

“So I think it was really critical for us just to get the points on the board. Very good all-around, for multiple reasons. I think from a team morale standpoint, it never hurts. I think we all believed we were in the fight but to see it and actually have a tangible was really good for everybody.

“So I’m excited for Nashville, it’s going to be a big event, and to carry some momentum – momentum is never a bad thing – to carry whatever’s left of it four weeks later, we’ll try and put it to use in Nashville.”

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