THE MODERATOR: First up today is Scott McLaughlin. Welcome back for year two. I saw the other day you were shoveling snow.
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
THE MODERATOR: Pretty excited about that it looked like.
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, I was busy as a one-legged cat in the sandbox doing all that sort of stuff, shoveling on the driveway. It was unbelievable.
No, it was a lot of fun. I can see why people get over the snow, that’s for sure. We just had another dumping in North Carolina, which is pretty cool. Always cool waking up to it. Never really done that before in my life.
THE MODERATOR: What else in the first year of ‘Scott Sees America’ stuck out besides the racing?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Oh, I think the biggest thing is everywhere you go in America, it almost feels like a different country. The west coast is different than the east coast. You have Wisconsin, they talk a little different. You go down in the south, they talk a little different compared to people in the north. It’s cool. I really enjoy the cultures, stuff like that.
Had a lot of fun, especially in Wisconsin. I had a lot of fun with the cheese factory we went to. Cheese curds, really good.
THE MODERATOR: If I looked at your first season in INDYCAR, I would have been surprised most of your success would have been on ovals. Really took to it quickly. Was there something leading into the preparation that suggested to you ovals were going to be a strong suit for you?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I was pretty bamboozled with that myself. The ovals are completely new to me. It’s something that I didn’t have any bad habits where the road courses I thought potentially I had some bad habits from my time in the Supercar, how I wanted the car to feel versus how it needed to be to be fast was different than what I initially wanted.
It wasn’t till the last few races, probably last six or seven, where I felt a lot stronger on the road courses and street courses, felt like I had a direction on where I wanted to go with the car.
But the biggest thing for me is overcoming qualifying, getting that right off. I’ve said that a number of times. I feel like my race pace is decent, especially on the road course. Just a matter of making it all happen when it counts in qualifying to get me a good spot for Sunday.
Look, I was surprised, but I love the ovals. I wish there were more. I think it’s a cool form of racing. I think that’s why INDYCAR is so special. It’s so diverse, so different. You get a lot of disciplines you got to get ready. I enjoy that.
THE MODERATOR: The team goes from four cars to three cars. Puts a little extra spotlight on you to be concerned about. Have you noticed much change yet in how the operation works?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: It’s interesting. I haven’t been here with three cars. I’ve seen it, come and watched it occasionally over the years. Certainly feeling like it’s a little bit more under control I guess you could say. A lot more people and more projects than it was, whereas it was a bit more spread out last year.
Certainly everyone has done a good job. Wishing Simon all the best at his new venture. We are excited to challenge ourselves again. Obviously we wanted to be better than we were last year as a team. We’re working very hard to do that. Us three drivers are getting along very well. Hopefully we can make that happen.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. (No microphone.)
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, braking for me, I wasn’t too bad. More worried or more focused on trying to feel comfortable with the aero package, knowing exactly how much aero I want in the car.
I haven’t driven a huge amount of aerodynamics in any race car before. For me I’ve been just trying to get used to that, find the balance right. The last six or seven races I felt like I actually had a pretty good balance there for myself.
Yeah, there’s so much time in that little area you got to get right. If you don’t quite get it, you just lose time like that. That’s two or three rows. So competitive. It’s just going to get more competitive. I have to make sure I’m onto it.
I worked hard with my engineers over the off-season just to understand the different packages that I tried throughout the season, what stuck out to be good, what stuck out to be bad. Trying to build a little toolbox when we go to the races again, go to tracks that I know now this year.
THE MODERATOR: Did you find anything relative to your training that needed to be different for year two that you were lacking in year one?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah. I mean, my shoulders and stuff, trying to get them more stronger this off-season. Actually really gone hard on the weights, more harder than I’ve ever gone just beef up and be stronger to manhandle these cars. You really got to do it, especially on those hot laps in qualifying where you have sticky tires, the track is gripped up. You have to make sure you can hustle the car, especially at a place like Barber or even Detroit was quite difficult. Yeah, I’ve been working really hard at that. Then obviously the general fitness sort of side.
The heat of the car obviously got higher because of the windscreen. Everyone is battling with that. I think INDYCAR are doing a great job with apparatus to help us with cool suits, drink systems that can get better and better which hopefully can help us.
Q. Do you feel experience with the cars or familiarity with the tracks are more important for second year?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: To be honest, I think the tracks. I felt like I got a pretty good handle with the car halfway through the season. It’s just going to tracks I didn’t know. You basically waste a first session just getting used to them.
It’s not an excuse, but that’s just how it is. You come back at the end of the race, you’re like I found out something in the race that if I did that in qualifying or practice, that’s 1 or 2/10ths. 1 or 2/10ths in this field is huge.
I’m feeling excited. I don’t know if it’s going to change the world. It’s certainly going to make me feel more comfortable heading to each track, each race knowing the lefts and the rights, what curbs to hit, what not to hit. It’s going to be a lot of fun doing that.
Q. Did you feel as a rookie that you met your expectations or did you feel a little disappointed?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, I think in some ways, I’d lie if I wasn’t disappointed a little bit. I think we showed some really good promise on the ovals and stuff. I felt really strong there, which surprised me a little bit. I probably exceeded my expectations on the ovals.
But the road courses, I would have loved to have qualified better. I was really content with my races. I felt really strong in the races. I did a few mistakes I probably shouldn’t have made. On the qualifying side, especially that has been my strong suit in other categories for many years. Working very hard to get better.
Certainly I feel like I’m in a good spot right now head space-wise, where I am in my development to continue moving forward.
Q. You talked about some of the differences of this team moving from four cars. Even late in the season we heard Josef make a point to talk about how your contributions were really big. You were playing a pretty big role in some of those engineering meetings already. How much bigger of a role, you, Will and Josef will need to lean on you going into year two with the team scaled back?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: That’s a good question. I guess I’ve got to step up, absolutely, to make sure that I’m at the point where I know what I’m feeling in the car, what changes and developments we’re making.
We’ve built a solid base there, but we’re all in the same direction where we want to go. I feel like the best thing is we’re on the same page, like I said.
I think it’s going to be interesting. I feel like I’m a lot more confident in my feedback and how I’m giving the feedback back to the engineers, giving the feedback back to Josef and Will, which will certainly help us move forward.
I think around that Gateway time is when I felt I was really feeling comfortable with the race car, knew exactly what I was talking about a little bit there.
Yeah, I don’t think I’ve lost any of that. Certainly feel like I’m going to, like I said, step up. I know I’m ready for that, ready to move the team forward along with Josef and Will.
Q. Tim Cindric said he hoped you would be somewhere right around the top 10 in points at the end of your rookie season. You were fairly close. He would love to see you somewhere around the top fives with podiums and maybe a win in year two to judge your progress. Do you feel that’s a reasonable expectation?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, for sure. I certainly believe I can do that. I feel like I’ve got a great team behind me. I feel like I’m in a good spot to really move my way forward.
I’m not really going to forecast wins and stuff like that. I certainly feel like I can be right there and challenge for them. I feel like I got the pace to do as well. Like I said, I have to sort my qualifying out. That’s half my job done if I can qualify in that top eight. It’s going to be a lot easier to move forward through that than starting 15th, 16th.
I’m in a good spot, like I said before, feeling-wise. Looking back at 2021, I think if I had finished some of the races where I probably should have, Indy was one that stuck out with the big points, the pit lane penalty really cost me a ton there. Everyone says everything, but I certainly felt we were going to be right inside the top 10 which would have completely changed my points structure, I probably would have made the top 10 by end of year. Ifs and maybes. I have to make sure I finish the races as I should and that will certainly help out positions as well.
Q. Based on some of the questions you’ve been asked already about your rookie season, do you feel you are judged a bit too harshly by media or fans?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: No, no. I’m fully content with how it was all judged and whatever. I think everyone was very nice to me. It’s a big deal joining Penske, a big organization. Always a lot of pressure. I knew that was going to be the case.
Like I said, I feel like I’m on the right trajectory. As long as I’m happy and the team’s happy, that’s the main thing.
You can’t really focus on that too much from my side. I feel like I’m in a good spot. We’ll continue working forward. Yeah, there’s no one that really puts more pressure on me than myself. I think I’ve always been like that throughout my career. That will certainly be the case moving forward as well.
Q. What about the fundamental driving aspects? Anything particular that you’ve worked on with the data you have access to, the off-season, to work on some specific things you need to improve on?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, understanding the way that the track transitions. We’ve always been very quick in practice and right there or there about, the top eight, top six. You sort of hit qualifying and it sort of just goes down a hole a little bit. Wondering why that was.
We feel like we got a few ideas why that was. Potentially going the wrong way with some setup. What was very interesting, I went through the whole year with some engineers. I felt like we worked out — there was a common trend going on. I felt like we were being a bit too aggressive on a few things that made the car really hard to drive when I needed to hit it at peak speed in qualifying.
It was nice to go through all that and certainly have a focus area. I feel like we’re in a good understanding of where we need to be come practice to qualifying, especially St. Pete this year.
Q. What is crazier, Supercars or first race in INDYCAR?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: What was my favorite you said?
Q. Which was much crazy for you?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Oh, much crazier (smiling).
No, not crazy, but just probably like starting my first oval was pretty crazy. Like I never really have driven in a huge pack before. Heading into turn one with 16 or 17 cars ahead of me in Texas was a pretty eye-opening experience, rocks and stuff hitting my windshield. I was hearing noises I never heard before.
Supercars, it was a good time. I felt like I was very comfortable with my surroundings there. Here it was a little bit different. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was a thrill. That’s what is so cool.
Q. What is your opinion about your countryman Liam Lawson? Do you think he should try to join INDYCAR in the future?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Liam Lawson?
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, I don’t know. He’s on a pretty good trajectory to Formula 1. He’s probably New Zealand’s next hopeful to be in the Formula 1 seat. I certainly hope he tries very hard to get all the way there.
Yeah, there’s always — regardless of where he wants to go, obviously his goals are Formula 1 at this point. I certainly wish him all the best. He’s a great little driver, someone that New Zealand is very proud of.
Me and Scottie will look after things over here. If he wants to come to Indy one day and have a challenge, we’ll welcome him with open arms I’m sure.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Conor Daly has joined us.
CONOR DALY: How’s it going?
THE MODERATOR: Doing well. The season begins February 27th so you’re right on time.
CONOR DALY: Yeah. I mean, it’s kind of par for the course really. I’ve done late deals before, I’ve done no deals before, and I’ve done I guess somewhat early deals before.
Yeah, doesn’t matter, as long as we got it done (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: How did the process come together? It was a juggling act as it usually is.
CONOR DALY: Well, I’m willing to tell you a great story about it. This truly is a very Conor Daly-type story, how this all came about.
Everything kind of seemed to be going the wrong way, all of our deals we were working on were kind of pitter pattering out. I planned a 30th birthday trip to Las Vegas, obviously. At the time I had talked to a long-time friend of ours, both me and Doug knew him as well, Doug Boles. He had this idea for this meeting with this guy that was interested in racing, INDYCAR racing. I was like, You know what, happy to do it.
Are you going to be in Vegas by chance like December 17, 18?
I said, Funny you ask. Yes, I will be there for my birthday.
I went out there with me, Alex Rossi and two of my other friends from Indy here, and Travis Pastrana met us out there as well.
Had this meeting on Saturday. I was like, This is it, this is what I got. I have this meeting or I have nothing.
We woke up Saturday. My friends, they were still celebrating. I was not. I was locked in. I was sweating. I was like we tried to have lunch. I ate food. Travis got in. He’s very exciting. It’s very tempting to start doing what Travis wants to do, which is like jump off of buildings, cool stuff like that.
I said, Hey, I can’t. I got a meeting.
I go to this meeting at like 6:00 in the afternoon, to do whatever they’re going to do with Travis and Alex.
By the next hour and a half we shook on a deal what it was announced at. I was like, Wow, that was the craziest thing.
After that I went back and shouted at Travis and Alex, my friends, I think I’m employed. We had an incredible next two days.
Ed, I texted Ed that night. It was obviously — he’s on east coast time. It was very late for me by the time the meeting was done. Ed called me at like 5 a.m. Vegas time. I think I just did this deal. I was obviously still awake because we were celebrating.
I said, Hey, man, how is it going?
He was like, Is that legit?
I said, I think so.
He said obviously, Call me when you wake up.
I obviously went to sleep for a while and called him. Yeah, incredible story. It was a wild. People always say, Conor, you spend too much time in Vegas.
I was like, Guess what, got me a job this time, you losers.
It was great. Worked out well.
THE MODERATOR: Multi-year?
CONOR DALY: Yeah. It was an incredible deal. Todd at BitNile, the holding company, they want to do an incredible amount in INDYCAR. They love INDYCAR. Todd has been an INDYCAR fan for a long time, which is really, really cool.
Obviously we love the people that support our sport, right, which is really cool. Now he wants to get directly involved. He’s big on undervalued assets. He thought I was an undervalued asset, which I appreciate. That’s great.
We’re going to try to really blow this program up, have an incredible time with it, make sure we do the business that we can do for him, give the support that he’s given us for him and his companies.
THE MODERATOR: Somehow I’m not surprised.
CONOR DALY: Yeah, me either. Travis, I tell you what, the look on his face when I told him.
He’s like, Man, that’s awesome.
It was great people to celebrate with. Alex Rossi, Travis Pastrana. Mount that on a wall somewhere.
THE MODERATOR: You’re going to be in the 20 car all year, which means Ed is not.
CONOR DALY: Yeah. Since the announcement people every day are asking, Are you doing Indy?
I’m like, What part of the full season is not the Indy 500?
It’s really funny to see. It’s just hard for people to disassociate Ed. Even me, Yes, I think I’m doing the full season.
What is Ed doing?
I haven’t asked him yet, to be honest.
Actually I have to thank Ed in a very large way because, I mean, he did step aside for me to drive the 20, which is really cool.
He’s always been a great owner. He loves the team. He does a great job with who works with us. This was obviously a very business-driven move. It’s hard to jump out of the seat. I mean, I’m a race car driver. Ed is a race car driver. You know what I mean?
Yeah, it will still be great to work with him at Indy. He’s the boss so he can do whatever races he wants, I’m sure. Who knows. All I know is I’m in for the season, which is great.
THE MODERATOR: Amazing stuff.
We’ll go to questions.
Q. Had this deal not worked out, what were you going to do?
CONOR DALY: Great question. I considered a lot of things. But I really don’t know. Anything that I had planned in the background, like a B plan, still obviously had to have some sponsorship, whether that was NASCAR truck racing or whatever it was. All of those deals were kind of not falling away but being subtracted from the numbers that we needed.
I really don’t know. Doesn’t matter now, I guess (smiling).
Q. A full season with the same team. How good will that continuity be for you?
CONOR DALY: Well, honestly it’s awesome. I have not had that since 2017. That’s a long time ago. I feel like I was a child back then. Didn’t even have a mullet, didn’t even have a beard. That was my second year in INDYCAR at the time. A lot has changed since then.
I was speaking to my engineer Pete yesterday. He’s like, I’m really pumped to do the whole season with you. That’s going to be great.
Yeah, it will be nice just to kind of have that relationship.
It is awkward going from team to team. There’s no doubt about that. It’s just an odd thing. In racing you’re very much in-house, you know what I mean? You don’t want to share information with anybody else because you got to keep it in-house, keep your stuff going on. Everybody is a little bit like, Great to see you, where you going now? Someone else that we want to beat?
Kind of an awkward situation. It will be something that I’ve craved for a long time just to get back to. It will be nice not taking stuff from one locker to another.
Q. We’ve only got a real direct front view of you. How is that mullet doing?
CONOR DALY: We went a little bit more less. I don’t know what someone called it today.
Josef said, That’s hot.
I said if Josef is saying that, that’s good. Josef is a beautiful man. It’s important that he respects it right out the gate. That’s good. I’m going to write that down in my notebook later, my journal.
Q. As one of the most popular drivers in the series, what do you think INDYCAR could do in order to grow the fan base?
CONOR DALY: Great question. Wow.
I mean, every sport is looking to grow their fan base, right? It’s a power play all across the board. The more people that support it, the more your sport as you said, the people in the sport are succeeding.
There’s a lot that people are doing all across the board. You’re seeing different entities with television programs, with different social strategies.
I don’t have the answer for that. Everyone has their own opinion on that. I mean, I think for us as drivers, we have to do a lot more. I think it takes more work than it used to.
Our goal as a kid, you were to be the best driver you could be. I think a lot of what we have to do now is be the best brand that you can be. The driving is obviously the most important part. If you’re winning races, doing things, that’s great. If there’s no one watching those races, that’s also a problem because then you need to be able to race more and win more. There’s also a lot of work you have to do to make sure there are races to win.
I think there’s a lot that we have to do as personalities. I think there’s a lot of drivers in this series that are awesome, awesome talents, but also awesome personalities. I just think we have to work harder to do that. It’s not necessarily one person or the other. A lot of it comes from us, too.
Would I love to see us have a Netflix show? Yeah, for sure. But I’d also like to go to the moon. I don’t know which one of those things is going to come first but it’s hard to do both of those things.
There’s a lot of people that want to see our drivers and the series go to a very, very high level. Everyone is working to do that. It’s not like everyone is here sitting around hoping that it’s going to happen. Everyone is working towards that goal of seeing INDYCAR grow and succeed and have people get there. I have faith in those people that are working there.
Hope is not a strategy. As long as we’re doing things, eventually that goal will be reached where our fans are continuing to grow. Hopefully see us all do cool things on the racetrack.
Q. Do you think, talking about the Netflix stuff, will be cool that you have some camera behind you? How do you think will be the dynamic if you have someone looking for you in every place that you go?
CONOR DALY: I think it’s awesome. I think that’s the way to really bring people into what we are doing. I think there’s so much that we do that is not — when you watch the TV broadcast, we put on our helmet, we get in the car and we try to do things that not many other human beings can do on the planet, which is really cool. There’s also a lot that goes on to get there.
I think that’s a massive step that could be discovered and will be shown for sure, so… There it is.
Q. On the media side, we’ve lost some really big names, full-time driver-wise, in the series from Hinchcliffe to Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais. We’re seeing a lot of maybe unfamiliar faces to a lot of INDYCAR fans. I know part of growing this fan base is getting the 14 races on network TV. Another part has to be having drivers build brands to make a lot of these young drivers be more familiar faces to a casual INDYCAR fan. What do you feel either drivers as individuals or the series can do to help build some bigger brands, bigger names?
CONOR DALY: Well, I mean, the guys that you said that we lost, I could immediately tell you guys that we just gained. You know what I mean? There’s guys like Kyle Kirkwood. We know Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean are full-time. They’re superstars, take a lot of attention. Kyle Kirkwood is an electric personality. I’ve hung out with him. I like that guy. He’s very, very talented.
But as the previous question, we got to make sure that we make sure that people know that those guys are there, you know what I mean?
I think there’s always a changing of the guard. There’s always people I’ve seen in the sport, out of the sport. It’s weird to think I’ve seen that, you know what I mean? Devlin deFrancesco that was coached when I was in INDYCAR. It’s wild. Devlin’s dad used to sponsor me when I was in F3. It’s crazy. It’s an awesome position to be in, see all these young guys like Callum, the rookie class is really cool, strong, you know what I mean?
There’s a lot that is going on but there’s always going to be new people in and some people out, some people that come back, some people that go away. It’s kind of part of the game, right?
I’m excited about the talent that we have. Obviously the full-time drivers right now, I mean, it’s probably the most full-time drivers we’ve had for a long time. It’s very, very exciting. Everything about it is really cool.
You have Patricio O’Ward testing in Formula 1. People are saying, Is he going to Formula 1? Is he going to Formula 1? He’s in INDYCAR right now. That’s really cool. You know what I mean?
THE MODERATOR: With the rookie class, Tatiana, you have worked with.
CONOR DALY: Yeah.
THE MODERATOR: In Star Mazda?
CONOR DALY: Tatiana was my teammate in 2010. It’s crazy to see. She’s been awesome. Her family is great, great people all across the board. I’ve obviously followed her journey since we were teammates. I keep up with her every now and then, talk to her every now and then. It’s cool to see what’s going on. It’s great. Have another female in the series, awesome. Great stuff.
Q. You seem like no matter what interviews, being on track, on Twitter, you seem like you’re a person who is always just yourself. You don’t ever seem like you have a façade or anything like that. I don’t know that you agree with this, but I know some fans feel maybe it’s because so many of these driver deals run year to year, sponsors are so important, some drivers maybe hold back or don’t show their true selves in front of the camera. Is that something you feel like would go a long way helping build some of these driver brands or get fans to know more about a driver? I as a person who follows the series know all those drivers, but maybe the casual fan might not know who Kyle Kirkwood is off the track, something like that. Is that something you feel would be important?
CONOR DALY: I mean, I think a lot of people agree with how I do things. A lot don’t obviously.
I think I would love for everyone to be able to see these guys how I see them sometimes. You know what I mean? That’s never going to happen. We’re never going to see certain people in the lights. They don’t want them to see theirselves, right? Everyone is going to do what they want to do.
Teams are going to have certain policies as well, right? There’s a team effort that goes around with their drivers.
I mean, I can only say what I can say, right? We have incredible people here. We have incredible people that want to see this series succeed. I think in general who doesn’t in this paddock want us to grow, right?
Again, the common goal for everyone is to, like, be better, be more successful. Everyone wants to win races. Everyone wants to succeed. Everyone wants to make more money. By doing that all together, we can all hopefully attain that common goal.
I would love to see a lot of us work together to do that I think better. There’s a little bit more we probably can all do together.
Do I have the answers? No. I’m not the INDYCAR wizard of success obviously. I think there’s a lot of cool people that we have in the series that are working to make that happen and I trust those people.
Q. What does the continuity of the deal with ECR do for your confidence?
CONOR DALY: I think it takes confidence to be at a very, very high level. I’ve been a guy that’s there to do a certain amount of races. Now I’m the guy that’s doing all the races, which is really cool.
I know that us as a team, we have done so much together already. I think from year to year we’ve shown that we’ve improved for sure in a lot of different areas. I’m excited for what’s ahead. I think when I listen to my engineer say, Hey, we’re going to test here, here, here and here.
I’m like, That’s a lot of places, which is great. If I get to Texas, wow, haven’t done that in a long time. If I get to test at Iowa, haven’t done that in a long time. That will be really, really cool. I can’t wait for those types of things. It builds the confidence.
Confidence right now is at an absolute massively high level. I can’t wait.
THE MODERATOR: Appreciate your time. Congratulations on your Vegas trip.
CONOR DALY: Thank you. Yeah, Vegas, you always hope is successful for many, many different reasons. This one was extremely successful.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.
THE MODERATOR: In the room now, right on schedule, in fact ahead of schedule, Josef Newgarden.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Hi, everybody. A little Zoom going there? I didn’t know what type of kerfuffle I was walking into.
THE MODERATOR: Bamboozled and kerfuffled. Both from Team Penske.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, you know, we’re very broad with our words.
THE MODERATOR: Conor just said you gave the stamp of approval on his haircut.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I did. I think it looks a lot better this year. I wasn’t fully truthful with him last year. It didn’t look fantastic. It was pretty high, right? Now he has it set down. It looks good. He can pull off the mullet, which is hard to do. Not many people can do that. It actually genuinely looks good on him, which is amazing. Right on. I wouldn’t look good with a mullet, I don’t think so. But he looks good with it. I’m happy for him.
THE MODERATOR: Last year we saw the great example that every lap matters. The season starts and you have the problem on lap one, you have the Road America thing. Either one of those things goes differently you’re right there in the championship hunt. Talk about how important maximizing every moment is.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I mean, it’s a collection of every race. For me, I knew immediately last year that we’d already given a Mulligan away, which you will. That was one for the year that you’re not going to get back. Now you have to be more on your game every weekend going forward.
Ideally when you start the year, you want to sort of build your bank account, build up some credit, build a little bit of a nest egg in there. If you can deplete that at certain times throughout the year, have something to fall back on. When you start the year like we did in Barber, you’re taking out credit and you have no money to pay for it.
Yeah, for me it was not a championship blow. It was just not the way you wanted to come out of the gates. It was disappointing. But I think we clawed back. Got in position in plenty good time. Unfortunately we just were short to end the season. The performance we needed at the end of the year wasn’t enough.
Some other things could have gone our way, without a doubt. Anyone can say that any year. Everyone’s going to have their story. Yeah, we were just short at the end of the day.
THE MODERATOR: I was on a call with you a couple weeks ago. You’re 30 years old now, you might be at the real prime of your career. Do you feel you’re maybe in as good a place as you’ve ever been?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think so. When I show up, I’m not there to lollygag. I’m happy to get going, give my best effort every day.
I am motivated. I’m very, very motivated to do a better job every year. I think we can elevate. Every year that we finish, I feel like we can elevate the next year and improve at our craft all around.
Yeah, I feel like I’m at my prime as a person, within my profession. I think I’ve got the best people around me. I’ve always got tremendous confidence when I show up.
THE MODERATOR: Engineering changes. How will that impact the year?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It’s going to be a new dynamic this year. We do have, yeah, quite a bit of shifting around from everybody. But I think the core nucleus of our team is solid. It doesn’t matter who you put where, there’s so much strength within the team that it can always pull through and be what you need.
I’m excited in one way because it’s a new group in some respects, brings heightened, I think, energy and alertness. You can’t get lazy. At times when you’ve been with a group a little while, you can start to get lazy. I’m talking about myself. Everyone kind of knows the routine, we don’t have to really check in as much, we don’t have to be as critical.
When you have new people onboard, you’ve got to make sure you’re really educating everyone, constantly affirming how you feel about things. I feel like you might not miss as much. In that way it could be invigorating for us to have a little change-up.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Between the inaugural event and now with the Detroit announcement going back downtown, you’ve been key factors in promotion of those. Seems like you’ve more than ever become the face of the sport, the main promoter. Are you okay with that role? Something you like?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I absolutely love INDYCAR. It is my mission to help INDYCAR grow as much as possible, especially with Roger’s leadership. I think we’re all pretty happy and fortunate to have Roger leading the charge and feel like we can take the series to new heights.
I’ve always struggled with the media aspect of the sport just because it doesn’t come natural to me. The natural thing for me is to drive the race car, give feedback, try and put together a really solid race weekend. That’s what I’m here to do.
The other components to it, trying to promote the sport, make it interesting, understand our strategies of how we’re marketing our sport, how we’re getting across to people, that’s all really, really important, right? We’re not going to go anywhere or have a sustainable future if we don’t do that stuff.
I’m happy to do my part. Nashville was a great lift for us, great market. I’ll continue to do as much as I can. From that standpoint, yeah, I’m totally fine with it.
Q. This may be a bit of an unfair question. For this year, which would you prefer if you had the choice, a hometown win in Nashville, Indy 500 win, or a third championship?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, look, if I win a race in Nashville, you can butter my backside and call me a biscuit. That’s going to be a good day.
I’m pumped to go back. We didn’t have a good first year. We got to look at it. I think that’s probably the track we can improve the most sadly enough. I really thought that was going to be a place we could shine and we just didn’t.
Yeah, I’m excited to go back there. Hopefully we can get it better than we did this last season in 2021.
Q. Can you share who your new engineer is?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don’t think we’re allocating everybody at the moment last time I spoke with the team. I think we’re still deciding some things. It’s going to be a great group, I can tell you that. I’m real, real excited.
I’ve always been proud of the groups I’ve been able to work with. I would have been just as happy to keep the group as last year, but I’m equally excited what we’re going to have for this season.
Q. Series just announced a new prize, a new sponsor for a million dollar prize for winning on road course, street course, oval. You’ve been good at different tracks. Is that something as a driver that will motivate you even more?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Definitely. I think in INDYCAR you have the opportunity to be good at all disciplines, which is what makes INDYCAR what it is. We always preach that.
I think to be the best at the championship you have to be good at all disciplines. The series just adding an extra incentive, the great initiative of what the sponsor is doing also to give half of that to a charity I think is just wonderful.
Absolutely. Puts a little bit more motivation in you to not only do that, but you want to do it first, right? You have to do it first in order to win. There’s a little bit of pressure there, too, to get on it quickly at the beginning of the season.
Q. You’ve had teammates, teammates go. You have actually changed teams in your career. Is it going to be strange seeing Simon and Helio on a different team together?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Very. It was strange seeing Simon this morning. You’re so used to seeing him in Team Penske gear, talking to him, communicating on text. We’re getting a lot of the same information from the same people. It was odd seeing him on the other side this morning.
I think to your point, him and Helio together is going to be very strange not seeing them on Penske. They’re going to be a really strong force. You can’t deny they’re going to be incredibly tough competition.
For us it really elevates the series as far as the difficulty in trying to be the best. They’re going to be people we have to watch out for. We know that. We know their strengths and they’re going to be there.
Q. How are you feeling about the total lineup of the team? You have Scott who obviously has a lot of promise, a very different point in his career. How do you feel you’re going to work together? Is it going to affect your chances at a championship this year?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, there was a lot of ruckus last year about how we were performing at the beginning of the season. Are we not gelling together? What’s happening with Team Penske?
I felt like we had great form right from the beginning of the year. Things just weren’t working out. When you have a young whippersnapper like Scott McLaughlin, he fits into the team so easily. He started to develop and contribute at the end of the year.
Because we’re going down to three cars to me is not a negative. I think we’re just going to be more focused. With Scott now being in year two, it’s really going to tighten up the way we work together, what he does to contribute.
With Will, myself and Scott, I see a really good unit there to push forward. I’m really excited about what we have to work with. I think it’s a really good situation for all of us.
Q. How are you feeling about the work you’ve done in the off-season on the 500? You had the best average finishing position of anyone in the championship last year. The 500 being double points is a big issue for that. Have you found anything to move forward?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I hope so. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t feel confident after the off-season last year. I felt like we had put as much energy and effort into the 500. It just didn’t bear fruit unfortunately.
It wasn’t from a lack of effort. Everyone did a tremendous job of trying to find solutions that we needed at the Speedway. Unfortunately they just didn’t pan out.
There’s really only one thing to do, and that’s just to keep going. I mean, us at Team Penske, there’s no other choice than to just keep going, keep finding answers, keep working hard. That’s what we’ve done again this off-season.
I think we’ve done everything in our power to try to put our best foot forward. There’s no doubt when we show up to the Speedway, there’s nothing acceptable except excellence. That’s just how it is when you’re at Team Penske. That’s what we expect of ourselves.
We’re working towards that. I think we have found good things to put forward. We’ll just have to wait and see if it’s enough. We’re going to keep working till we get to race day.
Q. You called Scott a young whippersnapper. He turns 29 in June. What does that make you?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, a couple years, it makes you a lot older, right? You age a lot in a couple years.
He is so young to me. He has this childlike exuberance which is rare to see in a 28, 29-year-old. He’s been so fun to have on the team because INDYCAR is so different to him from anything he’s ever done in his young career.
It was really to me exciting to have him part of the team. It’s starting to wear off a little bit, right? He’s not as much of a puppy. He’s almost getting to his twos and threes, to compare it to a dog. He’s kind of mellowed out. He’s still got a very big fire burning to do well.
He’s here for one reason, too, and that’s to succeed. I can tell you he’s going to be pushing very hard which is good for all of us. If he’s fast and pushing, it’s going to be good for all of us at our team.
Q. You’re 30. You talked about getting older. You’re expecting your first child. How are you feeling about that? How might that change your life?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I’m so excited. I think it’s funny to see the dynamic shift. I was the one that wasn’t as excited to start the family. Not as much as Ashley. Now that we’re doing it, now that we’re close, I’m the one that’s like more excited. Ashley is the one that gets a little bit more nervous.
It’s so funny to see the dynamic shift. I’m elated. I can’t wait. I’m really proud of her. She’s going to be a great mom in my opinion. It’s one of the reasons I love her, because I think she’s going to be such a great mom. It’s going to be cool, I’m excited for that.
As far as the year and how I manage that, I don’t know how that’s going to completely change. It seems like the years I’ve had in INDYCAR, the ones that have had more chaos in my life are the ones that tend to go better. I hope that leads to good things for us this season.
Q. When is the baby due?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: April.
Q. A race weekend or…
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It’s off right now. Hopefully we can hit the gap right (smiling).
Q. You competed in Europe long time ago. You were close to Formula 1 when you went back to the U.S., sometime after your INDYCAR championship there were rumors of Formula 1. What are your F1 ambitions and do you still have them?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: For me the allure of F1 I think is the gravity of the cars. When I think about F1, I think about a manufacturers championship, trying to build the quickest cars that you can within — I should say within an unreasonable budget. That’s what was exciting about it.
The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve been in racing and watched Formula 1, I don’t know it’s somewhere I really want to race. It doesn’t look as much of a driver’s championship to me. It’s a very impressive championship, it always has been. It’s something I would certainly like to do. I’d like to drive everything that I could to have the experience. Then I’d have more firsthand knowledge to really speak on it.
I think INDYCAR is really where you’re going to get the most competitive product as a racing driver. When you’re a driver at the top level, you want to have an opportunity to compete, to win the championship, to win big races regardless of your situation.
I think unfortunately that’s not present in Formula 1. So from that standpoint, it’s not as appealing. But I’d never say never on anything. You just never know how this stuff shifts.
For me INDYCAR is my life. It’s a championship I care about more than any in the world. I want to see it flourish because it really deserves a lot of recognition I think for the incredible championship it is.
Q. Have you nailed down what the issue was in the 500?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don’t know if you can. For me it’s going to be a dollop of this, a dollop of that. It’s a million areas, right?
I don’t think we can pin our hat on one thing. There was no smoking gun. There usually isn’t. With Indianapolis, we just have to double down. We had to look at everything and hopefully it turns out to be 10 to 20 little things we found. We put all those together and it makes the difference for us.
We certainly aren’t looking at one thing from last year that we felt like was deficient and we think that’s 80% or 90% of the problem. I don’t know that we can do that.
That wasn’t the case. We looked at every area. We certainly saw some deficiencies in certain parts of the car. There were things found, but I don’t think it’s one thing or another. It’s going to be multiple things.
Q. Oval performance in general, the fact that we’re going to have a doubleheader at Iowa means that you can put a hundred points in the bank already.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think is hard to say that. Past performance doesn’t necessarily transfer to future performance. I want to be very careful that we don’t ever feel that way going to Iowa.
Obviously we had tremendous success there and we normally have good cars. It’s a couple years up the road. We haven’t been there. We weren’t there last year. We need to go testing I think and potentially see where we’re at, make sure we stay ahead there. It’s an important weekend because it’s a hundred points.
I’m hoping we can repeat our past performance, but I’m not resting on it.
Q. Obviously Detroit is only going to be one race this year. Is that a disappointment to you because you generally perform pretty well there?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I guess I’m indifferent to it. I didn’t even realize it was one race until very recent.
I’m just as excited to go there. I think we’ll still have a great show. If anything, I think it helps the burden of the team a little bit more. I feel really positive for our crew members because they’re going to be feeling it as they always do after May. I think that will be nice for everybody.
Yeah, one show, two shows, I don’t know that I feel too different about it. We’re still going to have a great race. Love that track and hope we can still perform there like you said we have.
Q. You talked about media in the series, growing the sport. From your perspective as the series is trying to build off of the momentum of last year, from a driver’s standpoint, how do you weigh the job or the task of building your brand, being as personable as possible to fans on and off the track while also juggling the sponsors, everyone that you have to promote whenever you’re in front of a camera?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I try to keep it simple. For me you have to be authentic. I try to be exactly who I am and let people see that.
You know what, that’s not always going to be the most popular thing. There are always going to be drivers that are more interesting, naturally more popular. I think that’s okay.
The growth of this series is going to take the collection of all of us. It’s not going to be one person, one group. All of us have to be doing our job. There’s enough interesting personalities for everybody in this series. There’s going to be someone that you like to follow. That’s what sports is all about. You want people to root for, you want people to root against.
I guess the burden of trying to grow the sport, it’s simplified for me. I’m just myself. I’m a competitor first and foremost. I love to compete. I want to be the best of the field. That’s kind of my shtick. You have everyone else that’s filtered in there. They have their storylines, too.
I think there’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of opportunity here in our sport, which people recognize. There’s an incredible amount of parity. There’s a tremendous platform to show up, if you’re a good competitor, put in the work, you can succeed. We’ve got to push that with everybody, keep trying to find new ways to reach people and tell our story. That’s as simply as I can say it.
Q. You were somewhat outspoken earlier this off-season about the weight of the car, the development of it moving forward. Is that something you feel like has been addressed in talks with Jay Frye, other folks, as far as the development of new car coming in 2023?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, definitely. I mean, Jay and his team are extremely receptive to the feedback. There’s no animosity that I want to go or the other drivers want something from the series, we want something different. I think we’re all pushing in a common direction. It’s just a matter of how we get there, what the timeline is.
That’s more the details of the new engine coming onboard, what are the components that come with that, when is there a new car that comes online with it, as well.
I was vocal about the weight. I think it’s important that we keep the weight relatively low, low for an INDYCAR. In this series I think it’s good for multiple reasons. It’s good for performance. It’s good for safety.
We don’t have to make the cars (indiscernible), but I think we have to keep them relatively light, that they’re not too heavy that it starts to impact safety or features like we have no power steering.
There’s a balance like everything. I think INDYCAR is very receptive to that. They’re working on it. I think they will continue to try to find solutions to keep us in a good window, which is what I’ve been really asking for, just keep us in a good window.
Q. I know right now Team Penske is probably focusing on what they do more so than looking at the competition. In addition to the rookie class, you have two guys that have experience in other forms of racing that are going to be full-timers, Romain Grosjean with Andretti Autosport, that looks like it has potential to be a pretty good combination, and Jimmie Johnson running the full season. What do you expect to see out of those two running full-time deals?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think with Grosjean, for sure he’s going to have a good step forward. He already started his journey on a pretty solid footing, right? He was already very good at Coyne. I think he’ll be the same at Andretti, potentially even better. They’re going to be strong competition for us.
Jimmie is going to have some continuity there, which is great. He’s going to have the full schedule like you said. I’m really interested to see how he does on the ovals. That’s going to be more akin to what he’s used to. I would expect him to be a little elevated there. We’ll continue to see how he does in year two. Great brand for our series, good to have those guys there.
I’ll leave you with one thing. If you’re not supposed to eat food at night, why do they have a light bulb in the fridge? I can’t put my finger on that. I don’t know about you guys, but it’s strange to me.