- CHEVROLET RACING IN NTT INDYCAR SERIES
- FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF MONTEREY
- WEATERTECH RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA IN SALINAS, CALIFORNIA
- POST-RACE REPORT AND QUOTES
- SEPT. 11, 2022
Power earns second INDYCAR driver championship
Three Team Chevy drivers finish in top four of standings; Team Penske claims 17th title
MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 11, 2022) – Will Power entered the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season with a mindset of “playing the long game.”
“Not necessarily going for the big wins and all that,” said Power, who rang up one win, 12 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes to complement five pole starts in the 17 races.
The solid results ultimately rewarded the veteran driver of the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet with his second NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship after he finished third in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. He also won the driver title in 2014 with Chevrolet power.
“You’ve accumulated so much experience, you understand how races go and you understand that you can never give up no matter what it seems like, so you just keep digging and it just kept unfolding,” said Power, 41, who a day earlier broke a tie with Mario Andretti with his 68th career pole to set the all-time INDYCAR record.
Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, who won a field-high five races, finished 16 points off the pace in second. Second-year Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin placed fourth in the championship. Team Penske extended its INDYCAR record with its 17th team championship.
Other Chevrolet-powered driver champions since the Bowtie brand returned to INDYCAR manufacturer competition in 2012 include Ryan Hunter-Reay (2012), Scott Dixon (2015), Simon Pagenaud (2016) and Newgarden (2017, 2019).
Said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet vice president of Performance and Motorsports: “It’s always exciting to watch Will Power behind the wheel of an INDYCAR. Will started on the pole, led the first lap and managed this race with the No. 12 team to clinch the 2022 championship. It’s been so special to work with Will, Ron Ruzewski, David Faustino and the No.12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet team all season long. We’re proud that both of Will’s championships have been powered by Chevrolet’s 2.2-liter V6.”
In the 11 seasons of the Chevrolet 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged, direct-injected V6 I INDYCAR engine, Team Chevy drivers have amassed 106 wins of the 182 races. This season, Chevrolet drivers claimed 13 NTT P1 Award honors and 11 wins in the 17 races, leading to Chevrolet earning its seventh Manufacturer Championship since 2012.
“This has been an incredible INDYCAR season for our Chevrolet teams” said Mark Stielow, Director Motorsports Competition and Engineering. “To get 11 wins, claim the seventh Manufacturer Championship for Chevrolet and Will Power capturing his second INDYCAR Driver Championship, are milestones for this program, and set a mark we will enjoy for a short time and then go back to work to improve next season.
“I am very proud of the strong effort by our Chevrolet engineers, the Propulsion group, Ilmor Engineering, our engine partners and especially our teams. Congratulations to Will on his title. It was hard fought and exciting to watch.”
Power entered the 95-lap race on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn natural-terrain road course with a 21-point lead over Newgarden and Scott Dixon. He led twice for 17 laps and knew his position in the championship standings as the race unfolded.
“I just knew I had to get the most out of those stints and not lose any more positions,” said Power, who was overtaken by Newgarden on fresher tires on Lap 46. “I had to drive the thing today. It was on the edge, very loose. What a relief to get that done.”
Newgarden, driving the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, finished second to Alex Palou after starting 25th in the 26-car field. Felix Rosenqvist finished fourth in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
“I’m proud of the team. This is a big day for everybody,” Newgarden said. “Huge congrats to Will and the entire team. This is an effort by everybody, whether it’s the 2 car or the 12 or the 3. The ultimate goal is to win a championship for Team Penske. We did that, so there’s a ton to be proud of. From a personal side of the 2 car, I’m really thankful to my team.”
Previously, Chevrolet competed in Indy-style racing as a manufacturer of V8 engines from 1986-93 and 2002-05, powering 111 wins, one manufacturer championship in 2002, seven Indianapolis 500 wins and six driver championships.
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER QUOTES:
JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO. 2 HITACHI TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, FINISHED 2ND:
HOW DO YOU PROCESS THIS ON A DAY WHERE YOU FOUGHT SO HARD AND DID EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER ALMOST TO GET IT DONE AND STILL FALL SHORT IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
“You know, I hate to say it but in a lot of ways this has been a really tough year. So its going to be a welcome offseason. It has been a taxing, taxing season. We have had a lot of highs, but a lot of lows. And just riding the roller coaster this year has brought me to a breaking point a couple of points in the year. But I am ultimately just proud in the team because this is a big day for everybody to win the championship. Huge congrats to Will (Power) and the entire team because this is an effort by everybody. Whether it was the two car, or the 12 or the three, we all take a lot of pride in it. All these crew members, they work on every single car. The ultimate goal is to win a championship for Team Penske. We did that, so there is a ton to be proud of and for a personal stand point I am really proud of the two car team because they stuck with it day after day. Even yesterday, with the heartache there, we fought back and we nearly got there. So I am just proud of the effort and proud to be supported by Hitachi and Team Chevy. We are going to come back stronger next year and we have to be in a better position and I know we can do better than we did this year.”
HOW OPTOMISTIC ARE YOU TO BEING OVER THERE NEXT YEAR INSTEAD OF YOUR TEAMMATE?
“I am very optimistic. I am going to go back and recharge and come back and hit all these people harder. Believe me, I will be ready to go by the time we get to St. Pete, and I will look forward to it.”
WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON 5G TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, FINSHED 3RD AND CHAMPIONSHIP WINNER:
COULD YOU HAVE PLANNED A MORE PERFECT WEEKEND?
“No. It’s so surreal. In the offseason my wife said to me I believe you’re going to beat Mario’s record and you’re going to win the championship. It actually gave me confidence that I could do it. That’s how much confidence I have in her gut feel. I just couldn’t believe that they came true.”
YOU PLAYED THE LONG GAME BY STAYING CALM. WHAT WERE YOU THIKING WHEN YOU SAW JOSEF NEWGARDEN GO PAST YOU?
“I just knew I had to get the most out of those stints and not lose any more positions. I had to drive the thing today. It was on the edge, very loose. What a relief to get that done. I can’t thank Verizon enough. They’ve been with me for close to 12 years now and without them I would never have had this career and obviously Roger Penske and the whole team and Chevrolet.”
HOW MUCH OF YOUR OFFSEASON MENTAL ADJUSTMENT HAS LED TO THIS MOMENT?
“From the beginning it was just playing the long game, not necessarily going for the big wins and all that. As I’ve gotten older, I have a lot more gratitude for my life and what I get to do. Not everyone gets to do this and I’m lucky and I appreciate it a lot.”
HOW MUCH DID YOU RELY ON EXPERIENCE THIS WEEKEND?
“That’s exactly it; you’ve accumulated so much experience, you understand how races go and you understand that you can never give up no matter what it seems like, so you just keep digging and it just kept unfolding. A solid day.”
FELIX ROSENQIST, NO. 7 ARROW MCLAREN SP CHEVROLET, FINISHED 4TH:
We raced it today. We started on the black Firestones. It was a bit hard to fend off the guys on the reds at the beginning. After that long first stint, we kind of got back in the game, and it was really strong on that stint. A really good job by the team to have the guts to stick it out that late, longer than anyone else, and I think from there on we were really good in the race. We were good on fuel; we were good on tires. After that yellow flag, we should have been more aggressive. It maybe lost us the podium, but it was a strong car. A few cars were a bit stronger, like Josef (Newgarden) was phenomenal. A big congrats to Will (Power). Hopefully next year we can give him a run for his money
SCOTT MCLAUGHLIN, NO. 3 XPEL TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, FINISHED 6TH:
“We were doing our best for the team there and just covering Dixon. Covering our bases just so we wouldn’t get jumped by Ganssi and stuff. Once we got clear of him for the last stop it was just all about passing cars and using our speed. The XPEL car was so good, and the Chevy power was awesome. Great car — fantastic and we just picked them up one at a time and got to fourth in the points on the last lap. Really awesome!
PATO O’WARD, MO.5 ARROW MCLAREN SP CHEVROLET, FINISHED 8TH:
I thought we had a great start. It was a great first stint. For some reason, everything went south from there. We have to look into it and really see why. I don’t have the answer for it right now. It was just extremely hard out there. We’ll look toward 2023.”
RINIS VEEKAY, NO, 21 BITCOIN RACING TEAM WITH BITNILE ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET, FINISH 14TH:
“I am sad the season is over! We had a pretty good last race of the year. We were really fast, but the tire deg was just a bit too much in the last few laps of a stint. I am proud of the BitNile team! We made the right calls, had good pit stops and fought hard. 14th was the best we could do today. I am 12th in the championship, just like last year, but I am proud. We had many ups and many downs, but we learned a lot. For next year, we can definitely get higher in the championship and filter out those little mistakes and have more ups! I am also proud of Chevy for winning the manufacturer championship this year and finishing 1-2 in the driver championship!”
KYLE KIRKWOOD, NO.14 SEXTON PROPERTIES AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET, FINISHED 21ST:
“So last race done here in Laguna Seca, not the race that we that we really wanted. We were actually on for a pretty decent finish — it seemed like probably I think p 14 or p 15. And then I drove off going down the pit lane exit and then ultimately, we got a drive through [penalty] so that’s super unfortunate, but we didn’t have the pace to do what Alex Palou and Power did on a similar strategy to me, so that wasn’t absolutely perfect. But overall, it’s been a huge learning curve for me throughout the season. We’ve had a ton of fun. The team’s learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot. So hopefully we can just take everything that we’ve done this season and even this race weekend and transfer it into something for next year even though I won’t be part of the team. The team will be able to do it and I’ll be able to do it as well.”
CONOR DALY, NO. 20 BITNILE ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET,FINISHED 24TH:
“We had a really great start and a great first stint. I really enjoyed battling with Marcus Ericsson, Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist. I am not entirely sure what happened after that, we have some research to do because it felt like there was something that was affecting the way the car drove the rest of the race. I just kind of had to hold on to get to the finish. It’s a real shame, these last three races were really tough and it’s hard to end the year this way. There are a lot of great things to look back on though, we had some great moments. Just not the way we wanted to finish it! Super clean year, didn’t hit anything, ever. The BitNile guys did a great job. We’ll be back and be better next year.”
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO, NO. 16 TURNONGREEN PARETTA AUTOSPORT CHEVROLET, FINISHED 22ND: “The race was not too bad. We did three stops, which I think four might have been a bit better in the long run. I felt we had really good pace and were able to pass people, which was positive. For the whole weekend, we had good pace. For today’s race we had a few things happen in the pits, so if we cleaned a couple little things, and even myself with the few mistakes here and there, we can be really competitive.
We had a new sponsor with TurnOnGreen, and it was cool to have all the sponsors and guests of Paretta Autosport here this weekend. I feel like our team is growing from that point of view so that’s really positive and hope to do more of it.”
DALTON KELLETT, NO. 4 K-LINE AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET, FINISHED 25TH:
“Not exactly how we wanted to wrap up the 2022 IndyCar season, a tough day out there for the No. 4 crew. I got spun early after a good start where we made some good positions. But I don’t feel like we really had the pace to hang on to those gains on the reds, we just seemed to really struggle there. So I was driving pretty defensively. And Jimmie got into the back of me, and when I looped around and just lit the tires up trying to get it turned back the right way and just roasted the rear tire. That was like lap three or four. So for the remainder of that red stint, the rears were just gone. And that pretty much put us a lap down right away. And then there was kind of no recovering from that. We were okay on blacks. I thought our pace was acceptable. But just on reds we really were lacking. And yeah, I think a big factor was just cooking the rears on that spin. In just lost track position which took us out of contention for any possible gain. So not how we wanted it to end but just I can thank AJ Foyt crew enough for this year. You know, it was up and down. We definitely had some great highlights and lots of stuff that we would have liked to have gone better and done better. Like from my side and the team side, just a little bit of a lack of consistency. I think overall we’re probably not satisfied with how things ended up this year. But definitely lots to learn and lots of information for everyone to digest and use to improve going forward.”
CALLUM ILOTT, NO. 77 JUNCOS HOLLINGER RACING CHEVROLET, FINISHED 26TH:
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
THE MODERATOR: Obviously joined by the 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series champion in Will Power, now a two-time champion in INDYCAR with the win. Nine podiums here in 2022, and of course five NTT P1 awards, snapping Mario Andretti’s all-time pole record yesterday.
That seemed like a long time ago compared to what you just did today. Congratulations. Third-place finish.
It’s Will’s ninth podium of the season, 94th of your career. I know it’s been a long day for you. How satisfying, where do you start when you try to describe something like this, what happened today?
WILL POWER: Yeah, what a great weekend all around. I couldn’t really enjoy the pole yesterday because I was so focused on the race.
A lot of stress. A lot of stress this weekend. Not really any other — I was pretty calm all year. Once I got in the car and we started rolling, it was fine. A bit sketchy in the middle of the race. I was digging —
THE MODERATOR: How nerve-racking?
WILL POWER: Deep, just I’ve got to give everything I can. I can’t lose any position here, and the car was — the tires, yeah, it was interesting. Some sets of tires were really good, and some were not quite so good. A bit of a difference there.
But yep, mentally drained. Couldn’t show the sort of emotion that I showed when I won the 500.
But it’s been like a long journey over the year. I think it’s pretty fitting that we just did another solid day, just a sort of long-game day like today. That’s just been the story of our year.
Q. Coming in, you knew if I finish on the podium, we’ve got the championship. Palou goes by you, Josef goes by you, you’re sitting on the bubble right there. Is that where the nerves started to kick in?
WILL POWER: That was the nerves coming in because Josef and I were on the same tires and he pulled a 12-second gap which just blew my mind. Then the next set of tires, suddenly I was actually quicker than him. It was a bit confusing to me because I just figured he was on reds but he wasn’t.
Yeah, car came alive in the last stint and no problem.
Q. I saw a banner afterwards, 42nd championship for Team Penske. You’re a part of that, obviously. You join a list of multiple championship winners from the team, guys like Rick Mears, who won three INDYCAR Series championships, Tom Sneva won a couple, Al Unser won a couple, Gil de Ferran, your teammate Josef Newgarden. That’s an elite racing team.
WILL POWER: It is, yeah, all very elite, and just so fortunate to drive for such a team, being given the chance to do this. A lot of gratitude. A lot of gratitude to the team and the sponsors, Verizon. Very lucky.
Q. We saw you making quite a few changes to your car in warmup. Did they make the car better, or did they make it worse, and that’s why the car’s handling was so tricky?
WILL POWER: The car was actually really good in the last stint. Just went back to last year’s setup with a little bit of a change. Yeah, a bit of — we just went from what we ran in qualifying to what we ran in the race last year, which seemed pretty strong. Yeah, it was tough, man. Those two black stints, I just touched the throttle and the thing was sliding. It was really on top of the road. I took some front wing out, and that second stint, then you just didn’t have front and you didn’t have rear, but as the stint went on, it got a bit better.
But then the last stint, the car came on. We put the front wing back in.
Yeah, it was interesting. I was surprised how much better the tire was in the last stint for me.
Q. Were the team constantly warning you what the gap was back to Grosjean or back to Rosenqvist?
WILL POWER: I was watching on my dash. I got it on my dash so I could tell how fast someone is, and once that sort of stabilized with Grosjean, I thought, okay, I’m looking not bad here.
And the fact that they said that Palou is 20 seconds up the road, I was like, well, if something doesn’t happen to him, you still have to try and maintain our position if it goes yellow or there’s a restart or any of that because it just can mix it all up.
Yeah, it’s just — I have to say, I dug deep all year, fought hard all year, and that was the case today again.
Q. Where is it that you pinpoint during the season that you thought this was going to happen, or was it just today’s race? Was it just a consistency between Team Penske and Team Chevy, as well, throughout the year?
WILL POWER: Yeah, we definitely took a big jump on drivability with the engine. That really, really helped this year, put our cars in a different window.
As far as knowing when I had the championship? About two to go, one to go. That’s about how it felt. I’ve been in positions where I’ve had races won and then something has happened.
Yeah, never — started to look good with 10 to go, but yeah, we turned up the last three races on our game in every respect. Getting the pole at Gateway, leading the most laps, but then obviously a wrong strategy call there, otherwise I feel like we would have won that race.
Then Portland on the front row, and then on the podium and then here again. Definitely turned up in the last three ready to go, not leaving anything on the table, not having to claw from the back or anything. Yeah, that was my mindset going into it.
Q. Will, this championship you didn’t put the top of the trophy on your head like you did in 2014. Are you learning how to celebrate championships a little differently now than that first one?
WILL POWER: I’m much older. I’m much older. That was Cindric’s fault. He told me to do that.
Q. But I know that that championship was the release of a lot of torment that you felt inside because you’d never won a championship before. You’d come close. We never really know who would have won the 2011 championship because of the way the season ended. 2012 you weren’t — you lost it, 2013 you were out of it, and then 2014 you were able to seal it. Were there any moments today where there was any reflections of, I can’t let one wheel get turned the wrong way today?
WILL POWER: Hmm, that’s kind of been all year. You’ve done it for long enough, you just iron out all those little stupid mistakes that potentially — that you have made over your career. Everyone does.
That’s what I did, I have done all year. It’s been a really focused, solid year all around. Great crew, finished every lap of every race.
We look back at a couple of these years and some of the mechanical failures, some of the things that have gone wrong, it just shows when you’ve got the whole combination together, we’re going to be there fighting for the championship.
Q. When Newgarden came all the way from the back to the front and then got ahead of you, was there any moment where you wondered, like, how did he do that?
WILL POWER: No, I knew he was going to be there. I knew it. It’s pretty crazy, though, I actually put him a lap down, right? Was that right? He had pit — no, that’s wrong. I pitted and came out in front of him, so I actually got a whole pit stop on him but then that yellow would have closed him up significantly and would have helped him. But after that, I was like, ooh, we’ve got to dig deep here, just keep digging, and that’s what I did.
Q. You didn’t have Beau when you won in ’14 and he got to celebrate with you today. How special was that?
WILL POWER: It’s special every time I see the little guy. Doesn’t matter if it’s a championship or just getting up in the morning. Just, yeah, God, it’s the best.
Q. How do you and Faustino keep things as fresh as you have for all these years? That’s not a common thing.
WILL POWER: Yeah, no, I want to say that we just know each other well. We actually worked better this year together than ever, really. We really did.
I think he’s seen me mature. Think about it, he’s been with me since ’07, so I think he’s probably seen a slow progression of maturity, and this year he’s seen absolutely top level of that because he’s obviously heard me on the radio for years, he’s heard me — he’s been in that engineering office for years.
Yeah, and I think we both have together — we’ve got a lot of respect for each other. It’s just, you cannot beat experience. You cannot beat experience. That’s all I’ll say. Every scenario that can happen to you to make a race go wrong has happened to me and him, and it happens to everyone, and just at this stage of your career, you just know the game so well.
Yeah, and you just play on that experience.
Q. Can you also share some thoughts about your crew chief Trevor, just a big bear of a guy, smile from ear to ear. Today was a big achievement for him in his career, as well.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I’ve had a few different crew chiefs, but I would say that he is the most positive, lighthearted guy I’ve had and very nurturing just with the guys. I think everyone is happy on the crew.
I’ve had crew chiefs that were really tough on the guys. They demand everyone to really do their job properly. But Trev is just — he’s a great guy, a great human, and very good at his job, and he keeps everyone calm, including me. He just says, just do what you do, man; nothing special. I’ve been saying that, too, on the radio. We come in for a stop, nothing special, boys, just do what you know.
My outside rear guy it was his first year and they were the quickest on pit lane, I believe. I think they won the pit stop competition. That’s a first-year guy. He’s a good friend of mine, Adam Jarrett. They’re all good friends of mine, but that’s impressive.
Q. I know Team Penske obviously doesn’t play favorites. That’s been evident in all the discussions that have been had over the last week, especially since Portland. But when you have one win and Newgarden has got five and McLaughlin has got three, does it make you anxious at all? Does it feel awkward that you’re leading the points and you’re the guy who’s going to win the championship, but would you like to have more wins to kind of show — I know there’s no No. 1 driver, but how does that feel?
WILL POWER: Nine podiums, that’s pretty strong. Definitely gave up some wins just for consistency. Definitely could have attacked harder when I was on really good tires.
I know the races — St. Pete was won on the restart. I actually just underdrove like you wouldn’t believe to make sure that I finished that stint in a good position instead of — I could have easily attacked and passed McLaughlin. Instead I actually lost a position on reds.
The other one was Mid-Ohio, restart on reds and just attack here or I can end up — I think I’ll take third. Same with the second race at Iowa. I’ll take second. Make sure the tires last, make sure I finish second. There’s definitely some wins left on the table if you were going for that.
But I’ve said it from the beginning of the year, I said, I’m playing the long game all year. I’ve never done that, and I’m doing it this year. I don’t really care about the wins; I just want to win another championship, and I played that game. Maybe I go out next year and try to win races.
You know, yeah. If you want to win a championship, you’ve got to play a long game.
Q. You said on the NBC interview with Marty that Liz had told you you were going to break Mario’s record and you were going to win the championship.
WILL POWER: She said that. She said, I believe — because there’s probably a time where I was disappointed in something or just saying like — talking about my career or something. She goes, I believe you’re going to beat Mario’s record this year and win another championship. That’s what she said. Legit, she said that. She said that a couple times in the year, and it actually gave me confidence. It actually like — that’s how much faith I have in her gut feel. It kind of made me feel, okay, yeah, she’s said things like this before. Like the 500, she said, I believe you’re going to win one. I think you’re going to win one.
Q. You don’t remember where you were?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I do. We were standing in the kitchen. I remember it exactly.
Q. Just some point during the off-season? Was it in December or January —
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was — she had said it a couple times, but I know it was before the season, and she said it again during the season. Even before this weekend, she said, I know you’re going to do it. She said that. I know you’re going to do it. Man, it’s so much pressure — not pressure, but everything has got to go right. But deep down, I was like, I know how life flows at times, and I kind of thought that this could happen.
But yeah, she said that. Yeah, she has a good gut feel, a good gut feel for things.
Q. You’ve said a couple of times here, you said yesterday, you haven’t really been able to fully show your emotions because you’ve been in locked-in serious mode all week. When do you get to let loose?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I don’t know. Just a great feeling of satisfaction. Yeah, I don’t really drink or anything. I’ll have some green teas tonight and enjoy it. I got in the ocean for 30 minutes. That was cold. I think it’s 50 degrees. I stayed in for 30. My dad is like, don’t get in for more than 15.
Q. Earlier in the race, I believe you exited one of your pit stops behind Kellett and then you had Daly a couple seconds in front of you; you were worried about getting help, getting by them. How worried were you something was going to happen at that point that maybe things were going to go haywire completely?
WILL POWER: My worry was I had a two-second gap on Grosjean and I wanted to make sure I jumped him in the stop. That was my worry. I was like, this second-second gap, I don’t want to get held up. That was really my only worry.
Q. Looking at the whole season, what was the thing that surprised you the most about everything? Was it Scott and what he did or was there something else that happened that surprised you most of all?
WILL POWER: I think based — I actually felt like we didn’t have a bad car last year, it just seemed like bad luck as a team. This year everything just seemed to click. I don’t know whether that surprises me or not.
I would say the most — not even surprising this year. The competition is just insane.
But what’s maybe surprising is the gap we had to the field as a team. We just seemed to execute in every way. Not necessarily faster — well, we were faster in some respects, some races, but just getting it right, pit lane and on track.
Q. Will, I know they showed some clips on the pre-race show on the grid, and at least to us it looked like you were very nervous, very focused. Can you kind of describe what the emotions were like leading up to the start of today’s race?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was waking up at 3:00 a.m. a couple times over the weekend, and you can always relax yourself back to sleep, but it’s obviously a big day. Everyone has put a ton of effort in, and you don’t want to let it go. Those nerves make you perform at a high level.
I had those nerves going into qualifying. It just pumps you up to another level. That’s what it does for me.
A couple of times in my career I’ve actually gotten in the car too relaxed, and it just doesn’t work. I’ve been around long enough to understand the perfect amount of sort of nervousness you’ve got to have. You’ve got to have it. You’ve got to have it. Your subconscious won’t perform to what you want it to if you don’t. Your subconscious needs to understand the importance of what you’re doing and then you can put yourself at another level.
Q. Talk about the faith that you put in Liz and her gut feelings; they talked in the pre race today about very early in your career, Liz talked you out of taking other jobs and to stick around and wait for an opportunity in INDYCAR.
WILL POWER: Yeah, that was true, too.
Q. So you believed her long before she was your wife or even your girlfriend. What is it that has made you believe in her gut feelings?
WILL POWER: Well, things like that. I mean, legitimately told me to sign the contract for A1 GP, didn’t have anything else, and she told me to get out of that contract because Penske or Ganassi might call you. I was just like, there’s no way, but I did it anyway. I don’t know, I just did it. Then sure enough, she goes, yeah, Helio just got arrested. I’m like, what? What? Derek is down there, he’s talking to Roger — no, it was uncanny. Unbelievable. She actually talked me out of that contract. Yeah, I did end up with Penske. It just blew my mind. How could she know that? She didn’t know, she just felt that.
Q. What else has she felt? What else has she predicted?
WILL POWER: She has good intuition.
Q. You being you and you allowed yourself to get nervous this weekend; was there any point knowing you just needed to finish a certain place? Did you relax at any point during the race?
WILL POWER: I did not relax at any point. I knew I had to keep digging, and yeah, I went hard the whole race.
In that restart, Josef is P5 already, I’m like, ooh. Then he had to go another stop, but yeah, it was high stress the whole race, but remained extremely focused on it. Yeah, extracted the most out of it, and yep, it was very like our whole season. It was a very solid, consistent, no-mistake day.
Q. Do you think you’ve done enough to earn another contract?
WILL POWER: You would hope so. If not, there’s plenty of teams to —
Q. Yeah? Tell us about it.
WILL POWER: McLaren, I signed with them, so…
Q. But then you’ll have to deny it on Twitter like 10 minutes later.
WILL POWER: Yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. Yeah, you would hope so.
Q. It’s been in the media here a lot recently about Formula 1 things, but INDYCAR can hold its head high when it has a champion like you and you’re consistent across all the disciplines of circuits that you go to. You have to be consistent across the lot, don’t you.
WILL POWER: Yeah, you do. You can’t leave anything on the table. That’s what makes this series so tough and unique is that you’ve got all these disciplines. Even the difference between a road course and a street course is quite significant in our series because the street course is extremely rough and bumpy and tight. There’s not a series like it.
I’m going to say it’s the toughest series in the world because of what you’ve got to master to win it and the competition level. You don’t even have to take my word for it; just do the math on lap times, and you’ll see that we’re the toughest, the most competitive series in the world.
Q. When you look at it today and just using Dixon as the example as someone who qualifies midfield and you’re just further up the road, again, it’s that same thing, the series is so equal, people look at it and go, he’s midfield but it’s thousands of seconds separating you guys in qualifying.
WILL POWER: It is. When we were at Portland, I was like seven tenths covered 20 cars. Seven tenths covering 20 cars. You’re never going to see that in something like Formula 1. Never. It’s the ultimate driver’s series. It’s the ultimate driver’s series.
Q. Will, you mentioned a couple of times through the year the mental approach changing, something that you learnt in the off-season or figured out in the off-season. You said that you might tell us at the end of the season if you won the series. Are you able to share that with us now, what the secret was?
WILL POWER: No, I will only say it when I retire. But yeah, definitely — I’m older, more experienced, just know the game so well, know the correct mental approach to get the most out of myself and know when to go, when not to go, and just all those little details that you can only get by experience.
Yeah, it’s a solid year all around as a group, not just me. I mean, the team have done a great job, the group that I’ve had on my car, the pit stops, the strategies, everything. Total team effort.
Yeah, that’s the only way you’ll win in this series is absolutely a group effort.
Q. How excited do you feel having in mind the strength you showed us on the last round, knowing that you have a lot of pace in qually and race for the next season?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, very encouraging for next year. I’ve learnt a lot this year, as well. You never stop learning. Having two really good teammates helps.
Yeah, look forward to some time off, to be honest. I haven’t seen my parents in three years. I want to get back over to Australia and relax and then I’ll start thinking about what happens next year.
Q. What do you think was the most satisfying moment of the whole season, not including this one?
WILL POWER: Yeah, the most satisfying race was definitely Detroit. I wanted to win that one. And winning the championship, extremely satisfying. You think about it this weekend, winning the championship and surpassing Mario Andretti in poles, very satisfying. Very satisfying.
Q. Going along that satisfying thing, we spoke at Nashville after the race, and you said, I can’t wait to fight Scott Dixon for a championship. How much more satisfying is this championship knowing that you fought Scott through the rest of the way he was tied for second in points and now the title is yours?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was a hard fight to the end. You’re fighting Dixon and Newgarden, like two of the best guys in the series. It’s very satisfying. Very satisfying.
That matters. It’s not fun — it’s fun at the time when you win with ease, but it’s way better when it was a difficult fight to the end, which it was. It adds to the satisfaction.
Q. Did you ever think it was you against everyone else at Penske this year?
WILL POWER: Me against everyone else? Well, the two boys — well, I guess they’re younger and similar in age and enjoying having fun. But no. Look, I find Scott, I find McLaughlin a great guy, easy to get along with, and Josef is, as well. They’re good guys. Fiercely competitive, and I expect Scott to be a legit championship contender next year.
Yeah, I said it a couple weeks ago; I’m going to say this is the strongest combination that Penske has ever had as far as driver, speed, ability. A tough group. Tough, tough trio.
Q. What about winning it with Ron Ruzewski. How big of a combination is that because for the longest time you were paired with Tim Cindric, but to be able to get Ron as the guy that works with you, and how special is it to give him this championship?
WILL POWER: It’s great. It’s great. Ron has been fantastic, very calm on the radio, never, ever loses his cool, puts things in perspective. Him and Dave, they’re just a great group. The whole group, and Dave in particular, man. I just feel — I really wanted to win it for him and Robby Atkinson, two guys that have been with me — Dave has been with me the whole time but Robby since 2010. They deserved another championship. They did. These guys are extremely good at their jobs, and I didn’t want to ruin it for them.
Q. I wanted to ask when you decided to go to this playing the long game thing, were they fully behind you doing that, or were there days when Dave or Robby or Ron were like, s— we could have won that race?
WILL POWER: Look, you’re never disappointed. Looking from a championship perspective, every time you get a podium, that’s not the day you’re looking back on it. You’re looking back on the day you finished 19th like at Road America. They’re the days that lose championships. Top threes don’t. We got a lot of them this year. Anytime I got a top four, I was pretty happy.
But in the past I would have been really pissed off. When your teammates are winning, that was a big change. It’s like, I don’t care. I’m going to weather their storm while they’re having a good run, and just — that in itself was a mental change. It’s like, I’m not getting pissed off with a top four, where before I would have been, just after the race, just seething.
THE MODERATOR: We continue to wrap up the 2022 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Josef Newgarden, from 25th to second on a four-stop strategy today. It was an incredible show, first runner-up finish of the season, sixth podium of the season, 47th of Josef’s career. Also joined by today’s winner, Alex Palou in the NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 32nd advantage when it was all said and done at the end of the race, picking up his first win and only win of the season, fourth of his career, sixth podium of the season and 15th of his career.
Q. Josef, you’ve talked about what a struggle this year has been for you personally, and also one of the first things you said on the broadcast. How are you feeling right now?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Ooh. You know, in a lot of ways, proud. I think I’m overwhelmingly proud of our team. We came up short in the 2 car, but at the end of the day, the team excelled tremendously this year. Outside of Indianapolis, I don’t think there’s a team that was in touching distance to Team Penske.
I’m filled with a lot of pride because I think the world of everybody on this team, not just the 2 car, but everyone on the 12, everyone on the 3. We’re all very close.
I’m sad for the 2 car crew, but I’m also elated for the 12 car crew because there’s a lot of really good people there, and really a win for one car is a win for all of us.
Obviously we’re all competitive, and we want to personally be the winners, but when we win as a team, it is big for everybody. I’m filled with a lot of pride.
But I’m also filled with a little bit of a relief. I’m kind of happy to come into this off-season reset, recharge, and then figure out a way to just hit everybody harder next year, and I know we can do that.
The other overwhelming positive in my mind is I know we can do better than this year. I just know we can. When we put it together, I’m just telling you, just watch out, because when we put it together, it’s going to be big.
Q. You sound a lot like “Perfectionist Josef” which you seem to think is a little bit of a problem. How do you balance it?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I can be, but I’ve been that way my whole life and I’ve figured out how to manage it up to this point.
I think it probably needs a little bit of tuning this off-season, but we know how to do that.
Q. For Josef, looking back at the spin in qualifying, you have this great comeback, but Will finishes 3rd and Palou seemed like he was kind of untouchable. Did that ultimately not matter as much as it might have? You guys did everything you possibly could to maximize what you had and it still might not have been enough?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it’s a different day if you start on pole for sure. That gives us a very different picture. We’re going to run a different race and we’re going to run it from no deficit. We started this race last, so we started at a big deficit.
You know, it’s hard to predict. If we didn’t have the deficit, I don’t know if we would have had enough to beat this guy today. I mean, he was stellar, and there’s no doubt about it, so I don’t want to marginalize what he did.
But it’s a different day when you start first. We wouldn’t have had that deficit to make up.
I don’t know how that would have turned out. I don’t know if it would have kind of changed the 12 car’s program. Really we win the pole, we win the day, all I need is for Power to finish fourth, and that seems pretty doable, right.
Ultimately the spin was almost the nail in the coffin this weekend. It just was — we didn’t need that to happen. It was such a silly thing to happen, too. It wasn’t some grandiose problem. There’s one curb you don’t want to touch and I accidentally touched it, and it created a big issue.
Yeah, hard to say how it would have come out if we had put the thing on pole yesterday, but I would have rather have done that and seen what happened than have to come from the back today.
Q. Josef, did you have anything left? You looked like you gave everything you had just to get back up to the front.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, that was everything I had today. I think we were going to be — we were short ultimately to Alex, no doubt. We’re going to have to reassess and figure out how we make ourselves a little bit better to the deficit that we had to Alex in those last couple stints. I’ve got some ideas already, and I think if we were going to run this race again, I already know what we’d try, and if we start up further then that changes the game, too. I’m hopeful for another shot.
As far as what we put together today, that was everything we had, no doubt.
Q. At the start of the race when you were back there, you were passing guys like it was a video game. Did it feel that way, as fast as you were picking them off?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I was just old-school driving. I was going back to junior days. What happens happens. I’m just going as hard as I can.
Q. Josef, what made the corkscrew your preferred place to pass today, and did the team remind you at all that hey, teammate passing here when you’re going after Will in the corkscrew, as well?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I was just so good off 6. I think this whole weekend, just been able to get big runs on people. So it made it kind of an opportune spot to pass.
I think that’s why it was one of the best places to get a pass done was just the strength of our car in that particular corner.
I think it swings around this track. Some people are really good on the mid speeds, some people are extremely good off low speeds. I think you’ve got to play to your strengths, and our car in the mid speed was really phenomenal all weekend, so I think that’s why we were able to capitalize on that area.
Q. Any extra care going after Will in that area, or was it just like anybody else?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, just normal racing like anybody else.
Q. Josef, I wanted to ask, you said it’s been a very taxing year. I wonder if you could be a bit more specific. Is it because when you got what seemed to be knocked back, and where do you feel you could possibly improve? You said you would come back even harder in 2023. I just wondered if you saw anything within yourself that you needed to get better at.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Look, if I can figure out how to predict yellows, that would be a magical find in the off-season. That’s the number one thing I want to figure out is how do you predict these things.
If we had that figured out, this year would be very different.
A lot of times that’s how it goes. It’s INDYCAR racing. They’re hard to predict. Things go your way one moment and they go against you the next, and you just kind of ride the waves. But some years in particular just seem to be bad stretches, and this year was most taxing because of the roller coaster. It was one weekend we’d be winning the race, next weekend it was going sideways for one reason or another. I wouldn’t put any negative or problem on anyone within the team. I don’t think we’re going to go into the off-season and say, hey, we’ve got to change a bunch of stuff. Timing-wise it was just a really tough year timing-wise, so mentally it was a little bit of a drain because the more success you find, the more you demand perfection from each race, so the more taxing it is when it’s not going correct.
But I don’t think it’s anything that we could predict or really alter. I think we just need a little better timing here.
But everyone did their job this season. I’m really proud of everybody. It’s not like we need a lot of changes. I think we called good races. We pitted the car well. It’s reliable, as reliable as you can expect. There’s always one or two things that are going to happen, but I think we have really reliable cars, so I’m not going to be demanding a lot of changes. It’s just need a little bit of momentum to roll our way consistently next year.
Q. Josef, sort of big picture as the veteran, this season had the fifth tightest — five of you made it the tightest championship race since 2003, this crazy silly season going on. All these things have happened, and the product is so good and the competition is so good and Bus Bros is good.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I thought you didn’t like Bus Bros? In the early days you weren’t a fan.
Q. Listen, I’m a creative contributor, Brian will tell you, to Bus Bros for an upcoming idea. Anyway, just what kind of season do you think this was? Penske dominated but yet it was all over the place.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, look, it’s an exciting product. It really is. Of course I want to sit here and sell the sport and say how great it is. It’s the most competitive, compelling product you’re going to find in motorsports, but I think that’s all true.
When you tune in and you really watch and you get engaged, it’s extra exciting. I mean, it’s hella exciting for a motorsports fan.
I just don’t know that you can match it. I really don’t. That’s not to discredit other forms. I’m a racer. I love watching Formula 1, I love watching NASCAR, sports cars. It’s not to try and reduce others to try and build ourselves up, but when I just speak about our product, I really think it’s the most compelling product out there.
If anything we’ve just got to keep continuing to amplify the product because the more people that really get engaged and understand the personalities and understand how INDYCAR racing works and what makes it interesting and fun, the more we educate people and show them, I think the bigger it’s going to get. I truly believe that. We don’t have to have a better product, we just have to keep selling it, figure out ways to do that better and better.
So I think we’re learning. This year has been a big learning year for Penske Entertainment and I think they’re on it and I think they’re committed, and there’s no one better to be backing you than Roger Penske, and I think he’s absolutely committed to the sport. We just need to make sure we don’t flatten out here. Whatever we learned this year, whatever was positive, we just need to double down and keep growing it, because it is the best damned product on the planet. There’s no doubt. I have no doubt about it.
Q. You had an interesting start to your year with a brand new race engineer. You guys won a whole bunch of races together, which isn’t the norm for a brand new driver and engineer combo, especially Eric first time as a race engineer in INDYCAR. Can you talk about the season with him because this doesn’t happen very often.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, it’s been a tremendous year for our group. I think Eric did a really stellar job. I think the strength of our team was that we had no egos. Everybody contributed, and we were all team players. Especially Eric. Eric leaned on everybody as much as he needed to and we leaned on him.
I think that’s what made us strong this year. We didn’t have any aggressive personalities where one person was trying to lead over the other. We were just trying to maximize each other and support each other, and so whether that’s Eric Leichtle or it was Luke Mason or James Schnabel, a lot of people, the core people on the 2 car, or you look at Chad or Travis, everybody was working together as a unit.
I think that makes a big difference when you have as many new people as we had, because the pitfalls when you have as many new people as we did on our team, when you have someone that’s just trying to overly aggressively trying to take the charge, sometimes it can go sideways with inexperience. Because we had so much inexperience on the car, the way we leaned on each other and utilized each other is what made us strong.
I’m very proud of the effort. I think we maximized the performance side of what we were doing. I don’t think there was any deficiencies there whatsoever. Obviously timing wasn’t kind to us for the most part this year, but when it came to excelling within the performance and what we could control, I think we nailed it, so I’m very proud of Eric and the entire team. I think they did a tremendous job.
But yeah, we didn’t change much. We tried a couple of stuff that worked at Portland. We struggled in practice 1, like couldn’t make the reds work. Then practice 2 was fine. Qualifying we had some up and downs all the time, like I think we went through 5, nothing, and always P6, P6.
I don’t know, something clicked this morning. We made some changes, so the car was not as the test. Obviously the test helped a ton. We were able to try some stuff, some ideas that we had that we learned from other part of the teams during the season, and some worked, some didn’t.
Yeah, I was super happy when we tested here.
But these guys still made it work without testing here, which is something we need to get there. Like we showed up in Portland and they were super strong and we said, maybe it’s because they tested here, let’s go to Laguna and show them how to go fast here, but they got the pole, they were super fast.
Yeah, I think we just need to work a bit more and make sure we can close the car.
Q. Josef, do you have something in your head like keeping the rounds to talk about what you have to change this year in order to become champion?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: You know, for sure we just needed to have a more consistent season. There’s no doubt. I think that the peak performance was there all year. We just didn’t have the consistency. That ultimately is what put us in an unfavorable position when we came here.
If we can clean that up, I have no doubt we can challenge for the championship again next year.
Q. Josef, did the race in terms of you guys’ strategy moving up the field, that first chunk of the race when you were able to jump from 25th to fifth and eventually second, did that go about you were hoping it would or how do you feel like this race could have played out differently for you?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Like we were talking earlier, the best scenario would have been to qualify on pole yesterday. If I didn’t have the error, I think it’s a different conversation when you start from the front.
It’s hard to predict. I think Alex had a superior day today. He really did. Even starting on pole, it would have been questionable could we have toppled him today.
But it’s an unknown. You’ve got to start up front to see.
But from where we started, I think it’s about as good as you can expect. I felt like we had one of the best cars in the field all weekend, and when we had the opportunity to race people, we were better than them and we were able to pass them.
So it went about as I expected, but probably a little bit better early on. I felt like we were able to make more progress than I predicted we could in the first stint, so that was probably the most surprising bit of the race.
Q. Ultimately was it just how you had to push and charge to get up through the field, is that why ultimately you ended up having to make that extra stop?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: You know, I think we were kind of committed to that strategy. We had a tire difference and we wanted to play to it. So I think that’s why we made the attempt that we did to still run a four-stop. Still wasn’t enough, and we were better earlier in the race. We were really good for the first half, and then the second half I think we got smoked a bit more by Alex, and we just could not maximize those final two stints. We really need to look at that because I think the strength in the beginning of the race was so good and we lost a bit of it towards the end, and if we didn’t lose as much of it, I think we might have been able to make more use of that fourth stop, but ultimately we were still just shy on pace to Alex, and I think that was the story at the end. We were just shy on pace.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports