Team Penske’s two-time IndyCar champion made his top-class debut in IMSA SportsCar Championship competition at Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, partnering Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr in the factory Porsche entry which finished fourth.
When asked to explain how driving the 963 compared to an IndyCar, he replied: “It’s all pretty challenging compared to where I’ve come from. The IndyCar is very mechanical in that there’s not many systems that you’re changing on the fly, whereas this car is very technologically advanced.
“It’s an impressive race car that demands a lot of the driver, so learning all of the systems and potential requests that the team has at any given time, that’s the challenge I’ve had to go through.
“In this car, you have to respect the limit more than an IndyCar. An IndyCar allows you to attack constantly at 100 percent, with minimal loss. If I overdrive a corner [in IndyCar] I can maybe lose a tenth. In this car, I can lose half a second.
“It demands a bit more respect. There’s a high level of capability but you can overstep it easier. It’s hard to find that point initially. I can still attack in this car, but you do so with a little more discretion. Finding that balance was the most difficult part at the beginning.
“Then there’s small things like [the potential for a] red light at pit exit, we don’t get that in IndyCar. That’s just one example, but the procedural differences you have to get right, and that’s where my mind has been focused too.”
Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images
#7 Team Penske Porsche 963: Matt Campbell, Felipe Nasr, Josef Newgarden, #24 BMW Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8: Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus, Marco Wittmann, #74 Riley Ligier JS P320: Gar Robinson, Felipe Fraga, Josh Burdon
Newgarden made his top flight IMSA series debut in the season-opening Daytona 24 Hours in a Tower Motorsports LMP2 car, and says he enjoys the multi-class racing aspect of sportscar competition.
“It’s fun, it’s totally different from what I’m used to,” he added. “You’ve got to be very heads up because there’s so much going on.
“In IndyCar, everyone runs a very similar pace but here, [the speed differences] can be very drastic. Especially on this track [Road Atlanta], I think it’s the most concentration [of cars] you’ll see with over 50 cars on a two and half mile track.
“It’s a different style of racing, a different demand, but I think that’s what I’m enjoying the most. It’s entertaining.”