Newly-crowned IndyCar star, Josef Newgarden, laid down several quick laps with the fastest being about 67.2 seconds around the famed Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL during an exhibition run ahead of this weekend’s NASCAR event.
Fresh off of winning the IndyCar title last week at Laguna Seca, Newgarden, who drives for Penske Racing, was all smiles as he prepared for his revolutionary run. It was part of a celebration for the Penske camp because Joey Logano and Newgarden are reining champs in the nation’s two top racing genres. And the cross-promotion put a lot of eyes on the track as NASCAR stars and open-wheelers alike, watched the spectacle.
“I didn’t know what it was going to feel like. Everything was pretty smooth for the most part,” Newgarden said, when asked about how his car handled on the track. “I was most interested in the tire difference. When you run a weekend with multiple series that have multiple tires 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.”
Newgarden’s time was unofficial at 67.2 seconds or 122.143 mph, was roughly 13 seconds faster than NASCAR pole sitter, William Byron, laid down to start first in the 400 km race on Sunday. Byron’s average speed around the track was 103.198 mph.
“It’s for sure different than anywhere we go,” Newgarden said. “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.”
According to a statement obtained by Charlotte Motor Speedway, IndyCar boss Jay Frye, was also pleased with what he saw on the track and is interested in seeing more. His comments immediately triggered rumors on social media of IndyCar’s return to NASCAR’s backyard. The series hasn’t raced at Charlotte Motor Speedway since July 1998.
“We were going to come down and check (the ROVAL) out,” Frye said. “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.”
Strangely, the usually-vocal Marcus Smith, who serves as president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., has not yet commented on social media about his thoughts about Newgarden’s run or if this is a prelude to IndyCar’s future at the ROVAL.