Q and A with Josef Newgarden
MODERATOR: Welcome to the Economaki Press Conference Room. This is streamed upstairs, by the way. So this is always important to know this is also going out.
Josef, you come off a really good performance at Brazil. It's a different environment, but still it's always good to have a good race.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It is good to have a good race. Yeah, Brazil was great -- well, I don't think it was great for me. It was a great race; we had a good race personally. So that's important, I think, leading into this event. That was the big thing for us. If you're going to be coming to Indianapolis the week after, you better make sure that you come home with a car that's not been wrecked and that has a decent finish.
So that's what we had, we had a top-five, so I'm really pleased for that. We obviously want more. Top-fives aren't going to be pleasing for us. They're good results and that's consistent and that's what you have to do all year, but we're here to win races. So, we'll keep edging toward that. I think once we finally get there, then we'll really be satisfied with what we're doing.
MODERATOR: We've had Munoz in here a couple of days, Tristan Vautier was in here, as well. And I was thinking to myself, you probably understand the cadence of the month of May now in the IndyCar Series as well as anything. You came here, had great success, obviously in the Lights. Everything was coming up roses. During the month of May last year, you were quick. And you blink your eye and suddenly you are mid-pack when you were up front, you could lose the handle on the race car, things can happen quickly here.
NEWGARDEN: You brought up a good point with the cadence there. Pacing of this month was very important. I think a lot of people know that. Everyone that runs here knows it. Last year, that was probably the biggest unknown for me. I didn't understand, you know, the pace of it, the time that it takes to get through all the practices, how qualifying works, and on to the race. It's an endurance event, if anything. There's a lot that goes into it. You can't focus on one part of it. Your central focus is definitely the race, obviously. That's the most important thing.
How do you build your program around focusing on the race while working on each part of the month? You obviously have to work each part of the month with practice, and you have to qualify, and qualify well. Then get in the car and prep for the race, practicing for the race, and then the race.
There are all those processes: How do you go through all those while keeping the central focus on the race? That's a difficult thing to do mentally and collectively as a team. That's what you've got to do, figure out how to pace yourself throughout the month and not get wrapped up in all the head games of who's quick, and when and how. And what's going on. I think for us we need to know exactly what we've got to do. And that's be strong in the race. What we weren't last year, we weren't strong in the race, and this year, that's what we've got to be.
MODERATOR: I would suspect day of a race driver -- a race, a season and a career, one of the tasks of the race driver is not to get too high or get too low. You've got to sort of manage that emotional curve at all times.
NEWGARDEN: Absolutely. You've got to be very even-keeled. There's a long season. The other thing, too, you come to Indianapolis and it's all about winning this race, you don't come here to finish second or anyplace behind it. It's all about winning the race which is different, I think, the mentality of any another race we go to. It's all about points for every other race. You don't have to win races throughout the calendar year; you have to finish very strong in each one of them and get solid points. Not have any DNFs, not finish in the back.
And especially now, the point structure is different. You get a top-five or a top-10, that's a lot more valuable than it was last year. Because if you finish 20th or lower, it really hurts you now. Now it really hurts a lot. If you're a guy that never finishes back there, I think it changes your year-end result drastically.
So this race, you kind of change modes a bit because we're purely focused on winning the race, which I think we can do. That's the only reason we're here is to win the race, as every other team is and every other driver. That's what we're focused on. And once we get out of here we're going straight to Detroit, and we'll focus on points again because that's the name of the game in the IndyCar Series.
Q: Josef, you're -- in the two practices, you've got the fastest Honda at 220. They're talking about a possibility of 230 again. Is that a possibility, do you think?
NEWGARDEN: I think it's a possibility, for sure. I don't know about this year. That would be tough to get to this year, I think. But I think we'll definitely be faster than last year. If they were 226 last year in qualifying -- I don't want to speak too soon because it's hard to tell, it's still early in the week. Maybe we can get over to 227, 228. 230 is definitely achievable. We can definitely do that sort of speed. If we're going to get it this year, I don't know, that's going to require a lot of work. We'll have to see. Again, it's possible, but I don't know about this year.
MODERATOR: We're still working the microphones. Questions from the group?
Q: Josef, you seem like quite the entertainer. You definitely have an online presence -- watched a couple videos earlier today. You talk about the pacing of May. How does that play a part, keeping you relaxed, keeping you calm, to be doing a lot of things off the track?
NEWGARDEN: How does it relate to off the track?
Q: Yeah. Does it play into the pacing of the month at all? Does it have anything to do with keeping you calm during the month?
NEWGARDEN: Yeah, all the off-the-track stuff is very important to how you are on the track, I would say. You know, for me, I've always tried to take a lot of relaxed time away from the track. And Indy is actually really nice. If you don't have a lot of media commitments going on, it's really easy to be able to basically go home at the end of the day. I live in downtown Indianapolis. That's convenient for me; I just go home. I try and get my mind away from the track.
When I'm at the track, you're focused on what you're doing. But when you get home, just think about something else, don't worry about racing, and I think that kind of keeps you mentally prepared for what you're doing here. So sure, you're absolutely right, you can mess yourself up off the racetrack for when you get back here.
Q: Does that type of presence, social media, that type of thing, does that slow as the race gets closer? Are you pretty calm right now, or is that something you try to keep steady and try to keep pace with everything?
NEWGARDEN: The social media thing is weird for me. I don't even like social media, to be honest with you. I dislike social media. The thing is, I've learned how to, I guess, do it and how to be more up to date with it. I'm still learning how to, as well.
For me, if you have fans and you have people that take an interest and take time in your career and they are actually interested in what you're doing, you kind of owe them that information. That's the biggest thing for me. I've always tried to give back the info. on my life. I'm not so worried about it; I don't mind giving out the info., anyways. But it's more the process of doing it that I dislike. I don't want to have to do that.
When I'm doing an event or if I'm out with friends doing something, I don't want to have to update the world on it (Laughter). I'd rather just do it. I'm here with people: Let's just enjoy it instead of letting the whole world know about it.
Like I said, if there's people that take the time and they invest time in your career, it's definitely your job to give them something back. They're doing that for you, so you owe them something. That's why I like doing social media.
Q: You went through the procedure of going to Europe and learning the trade, so to speak Conor Daly is doing the same thing, another American now, coming back here. Do you have any advice for him coming here?
NEWGARDEN: I think Conor could give me some advice. I think Conor has driven more cars in the last six months than any other driver in the world. That guy has been all over the place. So he's very experienced. I think he'll be just fine. He knows exactly what he's doing; he's a good driver. So he doesn't need to talk to me. He's got a good crew around him. A.J. Foyt Racing is a great group. He's going to have access to all the right people. So he doesn't want to come talk to me. I'm not the guy to speak to, for sure.
Q: What do you learn by going to Europe and coming here where it seems everybody else starts in Europe and comes here and you go the other way and come back?
NEWGARDEN: They both have their pros and cons. Right now, America has it going on with the Mazda Road to Indy. They've got the best ladder program out there for the junior series. If you really want to be an open-wheel race car driver, there's no better path than the American path right now with the Mazda Road to Indy. It's clear, very defined. It's probably the easiest path to make your way up. It's been very successful the last couple years and even before that. There's a lot of guys from Indy Lights that have come to IndyCar. That's the pro for Americans. The pros going to Europe is really the training ground.
The thing that's been difficult in America is that it's been tough to get a depth of talent; there's not been a depth of talent in the lower series. Over in Europe you get that, you get the big pools of talented drivers. The talent's not different. The guys at the top of the list are the same talent at the guys at the top of the list over here. There's just more of them. And that makes it more difficult because you have more of them. Instead of having six fast guys, you'll have 25 fast guys in a junior series.
It's kind of like IndyCar. If we could get what we have in IndyCar right now and all the junior series below it, then you would be talking about something awesome. IndyCar, there's problem with the field in IndyCar right now. There's an incredible talent depth there. But we have to get that in Indy Lights and in Star Mazda and in F2000 below that. That's really the only missing ingredient I would see right now is the depth of the talent. You get that in Europe. That's why you go over there and train in that depth of talent, which gets you a little bit better prepared to come back over here.
Q: Josef, when you look back on last year, what was your most favorite part about going through the entire process of the Indy 500? And now that you have a year under your belt, how are you going to look at it approaching this year compared to what it was like for you last year?
NEWGARDEN: There's so many things that were cool about the whole month. I think, you know, I really liked the Indy 500 before last year. I really like this event. But last year just completely changed my opinion on it. I mean, looking at it and going through it as a driver, it's just the coolest thing possible, especially living here. I live in downtown Indianapolis. It's so cool how big this event is here. And then just the ease of being able to go home and race on the same day. That whole kind of vibe and feeling. You can drive the race car and go home at the end of the day. I love that. I think that's so, so cool.
Just the event in general, it's hard to choose one thing. I think the process of having two weeks here and knowing you're going to be here for a couple weeks. And it's all going to be about Indy. I like that the most. Just the whole fact that it's a big event for that long of a period of time. I think that's what I like most about it.
I could say I like the driver intros, which is always fun and the parade is great. The qualifying is so intense and seeing all the people in Turn 1. All those are great, but I think the event, in general, to know it's that much different than any other race you go to this year. That's what I like the most about it.
I'm sorry, to answer your question about being different this year? It's definitely the timing. Like it was all new to me. I didn't realize how much there was to do in a month. I mean there is so many media commitments. Even if you're not a popular driver, there's still a lot you've got to do. There's a lot for every driver out here. So that's really different when you've never done it before.
I feel so much more prepared now having done it, and I know exactly what to expect, and I'm a lot more at ease. You know, looking at time sheets for practice and everything, I think you attack everything a lot different and your mindset is a lot different now. For me, I know exactly what we've got to do to win the race. Last year I wasn't really sure of what we needed. I thought I knew. I thought I had an idea, but I wasn't sure. Now I feel like I know exactly what we've got to do to win this thing.
Q: What is it?
NEWGARDEN: It's a matter of prioritizing stuff. I don't want to tell you all the secrets, but -- there is no secrets. I think you've got to have a big belief here. You've got to believe that you can win this race is the biggest thing. Not believing it just to believe it, but you have to know you can win it. I know I can win it with this team.
Q: Josef, I got here a little late, but I don't think you've been asked this. Talk a little bit -- I understand you went over to Dallara's facility in Italy and did the simulator, which is supposed to be the next great simulator as we keep moving forward in technology. What was it like, and did you learn anything from it, and how important are simulators in your preparation?
NEWGARDEN: They're definitely making a big wave with the simulators. That was a lot of fun going over to Italy and seeing that. Their simulator program over there is interesting because of how large-scale it is. I mean it's a big operation. They've got a big staff there. You know, eight to 10 guys, fully on that program. And then the simulator itself is massive. It's a huge simulator. Like the thing fills up an entire room, probably three times the size of this room. It's huge. It's such a big simulator. And that's one of the, you know, most shocking things about it when you get there, you can't believe the size of the thing.
But yeah, it's a great program, it's a great tool. There's still things they've got to work on to make to a little bit more realistic from a driving standpoint. From an engineering standpoint, it's very useful. The usefulness of it is you can go there with a test item list you want to work on, and maybe you have some goals that you need to achieve before you say go to Mid-Ohio before the race and you can go there and test all those items and you can basically set a priority list of what you want to try in real life, is what I think. So when you test all those items you're, not going to necessarily take them as this is what it is, we learn this and this and this. But you can say we learned this and we want to cut this list down to this, and then you cut off a bunch of the items and basically shorten your list to a more prioritized list in life.
I think it can shrink your program a bit and make it a lot more dialed in before you get to the racetrack. It makes everything faster, and I think get you up to speed quicker just because of that.
So you're not going to take everything for what it is, what you see at the simulator, you're not going to necessarily take it for fact at the simulator. But you can shorten that list to try it in real life. Instead of going through 20 different things in real life, you can go through six things that are probably more of a realistic thing that you need to work on.
Q: A couple guys yesterday real quick said that they liked that the cost factor (inaudible) in the car. What's your take on that?
NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I would agree. And the travel is a problem, too. You know, you don't want to travel over to Italy -- from what I have heard they might be putting one up here at the Dallara (factory) here. That's what I've heard, which will take the whole travel equation out of it. The other interesting thing is HPD and Honda -- well, I should say Honda, Honda has a simulator that's going to be coming out over here, as well. I've been pretty fascinated and also very impressed by their simulator, to be honest. They had one in Oxford, England -- actually, I think it was close to -- Bicester, it was Bicester, England. That was HPD's simulator, and now Honda has one that HPD basically runs for them now. That's another cool simulator tool, and I actually thought it was very interesting comparing it to the Dallara sim.
So, yeah, cost is a factor, like you said. If you're going to spend that much money, you might as well just go run a test day. Obviously, test days are limited. It's hard to say; it's in the transition phase for simulators. They're not a very prevalent thing right now, but I could see them becoming more prevalent in the future.
MODERATOR: More questions?
Josef, thanks for coming in.
NEWGARDEN: Thank you, guys.