|From left Dixon, Newgarden and Pagenaud|
1st – Josef Newgarden
2nd – Scott Dixon
3rd – Simon Pagenaud
THE MODERATOR: We are joined now by the winner of today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Josef Newgarden.
Josef, take us through especially the last laps.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, it's not easy to win this one. I mean, obviously, we got a little bit of help there at the end with Will. I don't think I now how it would have played out. Will had a great shot, was in a great position to win this race. To see him have an issue is always tough to see. I know that goes both ways in racing. I've had certainly days where it's not worked out for me like that.
Whenever you get opportunities, I think you got to seize it. We were in a great position to do it. We had a great car this weekend. Torn up a little bit yesterday with how qualifying worked out. Tried to get a little bit too sneaky, and it didn't work. Knew we had a fast car and happy we were able tot to get at least one Team Penske car up. All four of them were awesome. Happy for Roger and the group. Be able to check that off in the box, being able to contribute, I'm really happy for the team and happy to get this result for everybody.
THE MODERATOR: Is it important as a racer to win on all surfaces?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it's important in the IndyCar Series. You have to be good everywhere you can. You can't have any weak spots. If you do you're going to struggle throughout the year. You definitely have to have a skill set at the road courses, street courses and short ovals, superspeedways. I haven't personally ticked off a superspeedway. I guess that would be the next thing to try to conquer.
I think we'll get there. I think with Team Penske, they have such great strength and depth within their organization, we should be able to be pretty diverse on our skill sets throughout the whole calendar.
Absolutely. It means a lot. I think it's really important in the IndyCar Series, it's the only way to survive, make something of a championship in this sort of category.
Yeah, it's critical that you're good everywhere.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Do you think you or your teammates impressed Alonso today?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don't know. I'd be interested to see what he thought. I thought it was an awesome race. I didn't get to see it from the outside. From my seat it was pretty entertaining, there was a lot going on. It was fast, fuel saving, what tires were going to do, in and out laps, the whole thing. There was a lot going on inside the car on my side.
But I'm sure it was an entertaining race. If it wasn't, I'd be surprised. Normally the last couple years we've always had a pretty good race here.
Q. Your goal when you joined Team Penske was to win early and win often.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don't know if that was my goal. You certainly hope you can win early and win often. I think my goal was to maximize our potential, my potential in the team as early as that could be.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]It's not easy, you know, integrating into a new group. It's been pretty fluid for me just because Team Penske is a very easy group to join, I find. They're very open, welcoming, there's so much information to look at, the teammates are so good, it helps you kind of get on pace pretty quick.
There are a lot of differences I've noticed coming from ECR. The cars are very, very different. The car I drove today from a fuel standpoint was complete opposite of what I'm used to in the past. There's definitely things I've had to get used to.
As far as the group being what it needs to be to integrate well, you couldn't ask for a better team. They really know how to welcome you and give you everything you need to try and be successful and help contribute to the group.
Q. Your sponsor has been in the news a lot this week. Are you concerned they're going to have high expectations for you to win all the time that you have to wear their colors?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I told them, I don't know how rare this is. This is their first race with IndyCar, and they get a win. It's been very cool to have Fitzgerald on with us. They build some awesome trucks. If you need trucks, these are the guys to go to. What's even cooler, these are Tennessee guys. I'm from Nashville. They're not far away from me. They're like an hour east.
It's great to have those guys come down to Alabama and see a race and get a victory just kind of caps it off. I don't know what they're going to expect now when they come to the Indy 500 with Juan Pablo, but I think it's going to be a victory. They told me before I rolled out, We'll see you in victory lane. Okay, I know where to find you then.
I don't know what their thought process is going to be going forward. But it's been cool to have them on Team Penske.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Probably, yeah, you're going to see me cruising from Charlotte to California in my semi, look out. Fitzgerald is bringing it.
I don't know, these guys told me they were going to give me a Hellcat because I won the race. I was like, Are you serious? I don't know if I should tell that to people. No one's ever told me that, that they will give me an item for winning a race.
These guys are awesome. They're a great partner for Team Penske. I think they get the whole process of what racing is all about, trying to maximize what you can do in the racing world.
Hopefully we can bring them a little more success. Today was a great day. You don't get that all the time. I'm sure they're going to enjoy today and hopefully we'll give them a little bit more in the future.
Q. How good does it feel to win so close to home, winning so early in your career at Penske, only your third race, was does that do for your confidence?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, it's nice to get it out of the way. Look, there's always expectations in racing. It's not like I felt any more pressure. I think I felt the same pressure you always feel, Hey, look, if you're not getting it done, what are you doing in the race seat?
It always feels good when you get a win out of the way early. Whatever team you're with, it's nice to get it out of the way early, you feel like you've accomplished something, then you can focus on the next accomplishment for the season.
I feel good about it. I feel like it's gone pretty well so far. I only think it's going to get better. I feel the more time I have with the entire team, working with the teammates, working with my new engineer Brian, I think it's going to get stronger.
We need some time to understand what I need out of this team, and that unfortunately just takes experience together. You have to run race weekends, run at the track. The more you do that, the more you build up a rapport. To me I'm happy we were able to get something pretty big out of the way at the start and hopefully now we can continue to try to repeat it.
Q. Talk a little bit about how you passed Scott Dixon. It was like in the last turn or so.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, it was into turn 16. I think it's actually a great spot to pass people. I've always liked passing people around there. I think I got Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) there early in the race, too.
You know, I think I snuck up on him is what helped get it done. It was early on the restart. He was focused forward on the traffic in front of him. So was I. But I think I was able to capitalize on him when he wasn't looking, just got a nose in the door.
I tried to push him offline so he didn't have any grip. That seemed to work out. I got him offline and out of position enough to where I could take advantage.
I think to me it was a deciding factor of trying to win the race because then I could just focus on Will. It turned into a fuel battle at the end. We all had to save a little bit of fuel. I knew what Will had to save. It's unfortunate that Will wasn't able to see that to completion. He had an opportunity to win the race, too, it would have been a great fight.
That move with Dixon, it put me in position to try to win the race. We were able to seal that off. I think that move is really what got it done for us today, with everything else. That was the final blow to put us in position.
But it was everything. I think our first stop was really good and got us up to second place. The boys in the pits were awesome. Our strategy was awesome. Tire selection was awesome. When we pitted, how we did our out laps. That was good, too. That was kind of the final blow to put us in position to hopefully win the race.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think you hope you can be good everywhere. You don't want to have too many places where, Wow, you're really good here, but not as good here. You'd like to kind of just be good everywhere.
I think this track has always suited my style, if you will. Drivers have that. They have tracks that suit their driving styles a little bit more than others. This one has always been good to me for that. It doesn't hurt you have a great car underneath you. I think all four of the Team Penske cars were lightning fast this weekend. That helps, too. That was a big deciding factor of why we were strong today.
Yeah, it's been a great place for me. I love this atmosphere. It's not just the track that I like, but it's also the atmosphere that they create for the fans, just the scenery. I mean, if you're a fan coming to an IndyCar race, this is one of the best ones to go to. Walk around, hang out, it's beautiful. It's so well-maintained. There's so much to do. Mr. Barber just does an awesome job for us. Puts a lot into this facility, keeping it up, trying to make it more fan-friendly. Regardless of how much I love the racetrack, it's almost a better place for fans.
It's nice that it's had a great race over the last three years because I think that's made it an even better place to go to. People used to think you couldn't pass here. The last three races we've had, they've been really good races. I'm happy about that because I love the track so much.
Q. How about the role that (Tim Cindric) and Brian (Campe) have played your development?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Those guys have been great. Brian, he's awesome. He's a great engineer. We work really well together. Just a great guy. Great guy in general. Great family. A lot of these boys at Team Penske, all of them are great people.
It's been nice getting close to Brian, understanding what he's done in the past, what I've done in the past. Like I said, we're going to need more time together, more experience at different racetracks to get better. But the positive thing is we are getting better, I think every weekend we are just getting better. That's good news.
Certainly with Tim, Tim is very calm. I mean, he's probably the calmest I've ever heard on the radio. Just very level. That helps me just focus on what I'm doing. He never has any highs or lows. Very steady on what we're doing, what the information is, where we need to be.
That helps me stay calm and figure out what I got to do on the racecar. It helps me transition from a racing standpoint, understanding how they run a race at Team Penske. It's not been too hard to integrate into their philosophy, if you will.
Q. Quick turnaround to the next race. How much of this momentum carries over?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think a lot of it does. IndyCar is a momentum sport. You have to be positive at all points with everybody. It's not just from the driving side, when you win a race you feel good. It's also the team. It's the 2 car guys. They feel good about it. They feel motivated. Everyone is calmer on the stand. It resonates with everybody. It kind of just brings a mentality to everybody that, you know, you got one under your belt, now we can continue to focus forward, not get too anxious during a weekend. That hopefully leads to less mistakes and more success. I think success definitely can breed success. It hopefully will help us going to Phoenix and keep the momentum rolling.
Q. (Question regarding Helio.)
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: He's going to be thrilled. These guys are awesome. Helio, he's a spring chicken still. I don't know what he is. 41? Almost 42? But he's a young guy. I mean, you look at his data, you look at the way he drives the car, the way he interacts with the team, you would not guess he's his age. He is literally still a rookie driver, with the expression of exuberance. I mean, the guy is a team player. He brings this warm atmosphere to the team.
So I guess to answer your question, he doesn't seem like an old guy to me. He might be starting to grow a little more gray hair. I think he should stop dyeing his hair. I think he should go with the Silver Fox look. He's awesome, he's a great teammate. I'm sure he's going to be getting a win before too long. He's been knocking on the door these first few races. I don't think it's going to be long before we see Helio back in Victory Lane either.
Q. How much do you credit your tire strategy with your win today?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it was a good call. We wanted to be different today. Kind of like qualifying. We wanted to do something different. It didn't work out in qualifying, but today it did. I think for us, it helped us move up actually, oddly enough in the first stint. I think the reds weren't that much of an advantage at the start of the race like they normally would be. You generally don't have as much grip in the beginning of a stint on the blacks.
Today, if you got through that first lap, the next couple laps you could actually be better. Certainly through the distance of the first stint, the blacks were much, much stronger. I think it was a good call for us. It helped us get off sequence and figure out how to race with these guys and beat them.
Going to the reds the next stint, it helped us close the gap. We came out a second behind Will. We were just racing one guy pretty much. Then Dixon obviously closed up, it turned into a three-way battle. That first stint of going blacks, getting off sequence, that's really what helped us be in a position to win the race.
It was a great strategy call I think for our team.
THE MODERATOR: Josef, congratulations. Thank you.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with our Verizon IndyCar Series post-race press conference. Joined now by our second-place finisher, Scott Dixon.
Scott, I know it wasn't the finish you quite wanted, but you had a great battle with Josef towards the end. Take us through your race.
SCOTT DIXON: All in all, it was pretty decent today. We had good pace. We struggled off the first stint. Put new left fronts from qualifying. It got pretty loose pretty quickly, which then our pace started to fall off.
Josef did a hell of a job there on the blacks. Obviously had a clean start and really had some good longevity on that stint and was able to pit short and jump on reds.
I think, you know, I feel bad for Will obviously with the flat tire issue there, but then also left the door open a little bit in 16. Josef put his nose in there. Tried to turn down, but through that whole complex, 14, 15, 16, I was just so loose. If I turned more, would have spun out.
Credit to Josef. Drove a hell of a race. Team Penske, congratulations to them. Seventh podium here at Alabama without a win. Good in a lot of ways, but unfortunately we come here to win and we came up short.
THE MODERATOR: We went through the entire array of weather conditions throughout this race. How does that affect your race?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think it makes it pretty tough, you know, for the engineers and tire choice. You know, as we came to that last pit stop with the caution, it started to drizzle. I think the red tire option might have been the best one at that point if it had picked up and started raining a bit more.
Obviously, I think a black tire was the right choice. But condition-wise, it didn't change too much. I found our biggest struggle throughout the day was trying to pick the right tire and maintain the tire.
In the past the red tire has been very good here, but the black just seemed to be a lot better. I wished we had saved a lot more black tires, you know, throughout the weekend from practice and qualifying. I think if we had run three of those, it would have been a better race for us.
The Verizon IndyCar Series, you know, is the toughest competition in the world right now. If you give an inch, someone's going to take it, you're going to come up short.
THE MODERATOR: Joined also by our third-place finisher, Simon Pagenaud.
Simon, a wonderful performance for Team Penske, a win for the team, also your third-place finish. How strong was your car coming into this race?
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]SIMON PAGENAUD: It's been a good weekend. We unfortunately carried a penalty from Long Beach. So starting every qualifying session, practice at the back of the pack puts you in a bad rhythm. So I'm very happy we were able to transform that into good qualifying results, and also a good result in the end of the race.
It was pretty eventful. At the start of the race, I feel like we were a little too aggressive with the racecar. We adjusted. At the end, I was really good. I saved quite a bit of fuel at the end to make it.
It was frustrating, I got to say. I just wanted to go. Were you saving fuel at the end?
SCOTT DIXON: No.
SIMON PAGENAUD: No? Geez, I got to figure that out.
SCOTT DIXON: You need a Honda, mate.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I couldn't go (laughter).
Probably a strategy that we had a short field. Anyway, it was the right strategy. We finished third. I wish I could have gone for it because I had some pace in the car, but just couldn't use it.
Overall a great weekend for Team Penske. A win. I feel sorry for Will. It was definitely his race to win. The 2 team did a tremendous job, it's great for them.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Simon or Scott.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Where is Fernando? He's not here. I thought he would interview us, too (laughter).
Q. (Question regarding move Josef made.)
SCOTT DIXON: I don't want to talk about it, man (laughter).
No, I saw him come. I was so loose at that point, I tried turning down. The car was so loose. I thought he was going to give me a little bit more room on the edge, but he did a hell of a job. Yeah, it was just bad placement on my behalf. You know, I'll be thinking about that one for a little while.
Q. Along the same lines about that pass, was that coming up over the hill? Is that where the pass was, up on the hill?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, on the flat just by pit entry.
Q. Close to the front straightaway?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, I typically hold a fairly tight line there. But, yeah, he dove it in there, with some speed. He couldn't make the corner at the appropriate time, so we kind of both ran wide there. But, you know, it was a great move.
Q. Did you touch?
SCOTT DIXON: Maybe just. I don't know. I think we had another moment earlier on, too, Josef and I, where we kind of ran out of track for a moment.
Q. Simon, what was it about Penske dominating Friday and Saturday? Did you really just have the better book at Barber than the other teams?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, I guess, you know, these guys have Watkins Glen, and we have this track.
I guess, you know, yeah, our car suits this track really well. Chevy has also made a lot of improvements themselves. They've been searching for speed, searching for every little bit they could get to, you know, compensate for the gain Honda had got this winter. Chevy's definitely on the up. So it's great to see.
I mean, our team is just, you know, all about damper package, making the damper as good as possible. Contact package is really good. The Chevy aero package works really well. Typically, we run pretty loose cars again. Around these long corners, I think it helps. I think those are the reasons.
He was right there, too. So, you know, yeah, I think it's a good track for us, for sure.
Q. Can you talk about how the weather conditions changed. It possibly could rain. I don't think wind was involved. But definitely was cool. I don't know if it made a difference in whether you chose red or black tires.
SIMON PAGENAUD: The rain was the biggest effect last night. It really cleaned off the track. The first stint personally was very difficult for us, quite a bit of tire wear. Balance wasn't what we expected. Then the track got better toward the end, and the tires hung on better, I think.
Yeah, it was different to yesterday, for sure. A lot of less tire degradation. Last year felt like we had a lot more tire degradation, too.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I was kind of shocked the reds weren't any better than what they were. The black tire was definitely the pick for today, which in the past I think it's kind of been the opposite. The red always does fall off, but generally just has a really good pace. But the black tire was strong. You could push on it. It really held up well.
But I think, you know, with the cooler conditions maybe helped us a little bit. The aero kit for the Chevy is quite strong in the configuration that it runs here. So we knew we were going to struggle with that coming to this track.
Q. (Question about Fernando Alonso)
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, no, like we talked about, it's fantastic. It's fantastic news. Personally reminds me of Nigel Mansell coming to IndyCar. It's definitely an interesting era for IndyCar because he's the worldwide known driver with two World Championships. It's pretty cool to see him come. I wish we had (Lewis) Hamilton coming as well, it would be really cool. Maybe next year, who knows.
It's really cool to see his interest for the sport. It shows that it attracts even drivers from Formula One. So that's cool to see personally.
Q. (No microphone.)
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, Indy doesn't need advertising. It's the best race in the world. It's the biggest spectacle in racing. I think, you know, he was attracted by that.
You know, I think it's going to be a great show, awesome for the fans, too.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think, you know, it's huge. You know, as Simon mentioned, it is as big if not bigger than what happened with Mansell.
I think the interest here for drivers is that you have equal equipment. Right now in Formula One, unless you're with one or two teams, you don't really have a shot. If you're a driver and come here, you have a great shot at winning. And the equipment is very equal.
I think it's fantastic. I think it's fantastic for IndyCar. I think it's fantastic for the motor racing worldwide because it also opens up these ideas to team owners, to allow this to happen because, you know, most of the time that's the biggest penalty. A lot of kudos to Zak, as well, for somewhat engineering this idea, I think a few months back. It's just great to see it finally come true. Obviously, a huge help from Honda and McLaren to make this possible.
Yes, it's a big deal. Very cool to see a driver of his caliber and world championship come try out the Indy 500.
Q. Of all the permanent road courses that the series races on, is this the most high contact? Really seems like you don't see this kind of contact at Road America or even Watkins Glen.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Contact like bumping? Yes, there are a lot of contacts, indeed (laughter).
I think it depends on who gives you room or not.
SCOTT DIXON: I think, you know, it's quite a confined space here, so you got to make that happen. I think maybe Watkins Glen or Road America, you set up the move a little bit from the back. You just do it differently.
Yeah, this place is fantastic. You know, Mr. Barber and the facility they have here is world class. We're very lucky to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. Thank you very much.