IndyCar Champion Newgarden Shakes Down the ROVAL™
Josef Newgarden took off his helmet and balaclava, wiped the sweat off his face and managed a smile after becoming the first NTT IndyCar Series driver to shake down the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL™ on Friday.
Newgarden - a two-time IndyCar champion - lapped the 17-turn, 2.28-mile ROVAL™ for six laps as a prize of sorts for making team owner Roger Penske and sponsor Pennzoil the reigning champion car owner and sponsor in IndyCar and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He took advantage of the opportunity, too.
"It honestly felt really good," Newgarden said. "I didn't know what it was going to feel like. Everything was pretty smooth for the most part. I was most interested in the tire difference. When you run a weekend with multiple series that have multiple tire makes and different cars, normally when you go out after another session you have to have (other cars) clean the track up and I was only one car, so I can't clean the track for myself really fast. I thought there was no issue.
"It felt good. The banking was really neat because the wheel was really, really heavy. We don't have power steering in these vehicles, so it was pretty loaded up for a long time through the banking but there were no problems. I wanted to go fast but not too fast. I think there might've been another second or two in it, but it was one run, so we wanted to take it a little easy."
Following the run, Newgarden met with two of his Team Penske NASCAR counterparts, Joey Logano - the defending champion - and Ryan Blaney, the defending Bank of America ROVAL™ 400 winner, for a quick debrief. Newgarden told media that the ROVAL™ was unlike any track he'd ever driven.
"It's for sure different than anywhere we go," he added. "I wouldn't say it's similar to anything. It's clearly a road course, but it's got some street-course sections to it. Turns 1 and 2 remind me of a street course. You've got the oval, which reminds me a little bit of the Indy GP that we run and then everything else is something new. It didn't remind me of anything as a whole, but it had some characteristics of some places we go.
"It was a blast. The whole point of this was to celebrate with Pennzoil. It's been such a great year for them. … It's really been a cool opportunity they provided. It all originated just to showcase the partnership and the performance they give us, but I think it ended up turning into a really cool discussion point."
INDYCAR President Jay Frye agreed with Newgarden's sentiments about the track's potential for competitive Indy car racing.
"It was cool to see how the car reacted," Frye said. "This is a great facility. Greg (Walter, the speedway's executive vice president and general manager) does a great job and so does Marcus (Smith, Speedway Motorsports' President and CEO). We do lots of business with them. They're first-class and they do everything right. Even today, the way this was operated and worked, was seamless. The Penske guys did a great job. Josef did a great job. We'll see.
"We were going to come down and check (the ROVAL™) out. We had not been to see the facility in this configuration, so that was one of the reasons and then this opportunity came into play. Today would be the day to come check it out. Our guys are here and the car was on the track. Obviously today seemed like it was pretty successful, so who knows? All of the Cup guys were out watching the big board. There's interest from the media. There's interest from us. What's next for all of us is something that we're working on. It's great to feel welcomed and wanted here. This is a great facility. Who knows? Lots of things are possible. … There's interest on both sides for what we both do."