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IndyCar Nashville

Newgarden: Penske must “elevate our game” to challenge Palou

Two-time IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden says his Penske team has been “too up and down” to challenge points dominator Alex Palou effectively enough this year.

Josef Newgarden and Alex Palou spray champagne on the podium

Speaking after the recent double-header races at Iowa Speedway, where he scored a brilliant brace of victories to narrow the gap to 80 points, Indy 500 winner Newgarden admitted that his team needs to do better on non-oval tracks if he is to challenge his Chip Ganassi Racing rival.

When asked if the squad had been too inconsistent on road and street courses this year, Newgarden replied: “I think that's the unknown. We have been a little bit too up and down across the board. We've talked about this before.

“It's just, yeah, I don't think we have the consistency that we want as a team. When you look at every track type, we're probably bouncing up and down a little bit too much.

“There's no doubt that the ovals, particularly the race package has been very strong for us. It's hard to complain about our race cars on ovals these days. They're very, very good.”

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet

Photo by: Gavin Baker / Motorsport Images

This weekend’s Nashville street race is on home turf for Tennessean racer Newgarden, who hails from nearby Hendersonville.

It is the final street track of the schedule, before a return to the Indianapolis Road Course, the 1.25-mile oval at Gateway, and the back-to-back west coast road courses of Portland and Laguna Seca that round out the season.

“It's a complex schedule on the way out,” he added. “We've got to do street course, road course, oval, back to two road courses, and yeah, it is a question mark.

“We definitely have to elevate our game on where we've been the first half of the year. There's no doubt.

“I think that Alex and his crew, they're in a really good spot. They've had what appears to be a pretty consistent program. We've got to elevate to their level and just execute.

“You just never know what's going to happen. I think if we can be excellent on the back half of the schedule, then anything is possible.”

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

Title rival Palou is banking on his team’s form in Nashville to reap another strong result this weekend, to reinforce his championship lead.

“Iowa wasn’t the best of weekends, but we got a podium in the #10 American Legion Honda,” said Palou. “We kept improving every session throughout the weekend and now I am very excited for Nashville.

“We know it is going to be tough, but Chip Ganassi Racing has managed to get wins in both years, so hopefully we can make it three in a row. We’ve had a ton of speed there and it will be about surviving to get to Victory Lane on Sunday.

“It is exciting to get to this stretch of the championship run.”

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