Many of you may recall that prior to the first IndyCar race of the season, in St. Petersburg, Fla., I did a profile on rookie Josef Newgarden. Well, I thought it might be fun to catch up with him this week as he and his team from Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing get the No. 67 Dollar General Honda ready to qualify for his first Indy 500.
By the way, the car will be yellow for the race and not his usual blue and white.
On Wednesday via phone I spoke to Newgarden about how he was getting ready for both qualifying and the race.
JW: Talk me through your thoughts about this weekend and qualifying for the 500.
Newgarden: Qualifying for the Indy 500 brings its own unique set of challenges. My car is set up by my outstanding Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing crew to go as fast as possible. We have tested the engine, the aerodynamics, the handling; how the tires grip every possible scenario has been covered. So Saturday everything will be dialed in for qualifying.
Once you get on the track and are ready to go, it is just you and the car vs. the track. It is all about getting every last mile per hour out the engine. Unlike a race where there are other cars on the track, speed is a concern, but there are other factors to consider, such is not the case in qualifying. Your sole focus is to figure out the best line to follow on the track to end up with the fastest time.
JW: Is there a lot of talking between you and your crew chief during qualifying?
Newgarden: No, you might think that there would be conversation about split times and how the car is running. However, the focus I talked about earlier is paramount and silence is important because it is all about putting up the best time you can and any distraction from that goal could be very costly.
JW: What result do expect once the weekend is over?
Newgarden: We have been testing and really working hard to get every ounce of horsepower out of this engine. So like every other car here, we want the pole and that is attainable—for us we are looking at a top-five spot—or at the very least starting in the top 10.
JW: How about your chances in the 500?
Newgarden: I know that we have not gotten off to the start we had hoped for thus far this season, but we have had four races. We are really getting a feel for our car and the entire team thinks that we can make an impact at Indy that will set the tone for the rest of season.
*All quotes used in this story were obtained first-hand during a phone interview conducted May 16th by James Williams with Josef Newgarden.