CHEVROLET NTT INDYCAR SERIES – STREETS OF LONG BEACH-LONG BEACH GRAND PRIX-CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

CHEVROLET RACING IN NTT INDYCAR SERIES
ACURA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH
STREETS OF LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS PRESS CONFERENCE
SEPT. 24, 2021

PATO O’WARD, NO. 5 ARROW MCLAREN SP CHEVROLET AND JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO. 2 HITACHI TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET PARTICIPATED IN CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS PRESS CONFERENCE.
CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:

THE MODERATOR: Once again, welcome. It’s great to be back on the Streets of Long Beach and certainly the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach 2021 version here in September. Welcome to our 2021 NTT INDYCAR Series championship contender press conference.

It’s been a remarkable year certainly for the 2021 INDYCAR Series championship journey that started all the way back at Barber Motorsports Park back in April and concludes here on the historic Streets of Long Beach on Sunday. It’s the 16th consecutive season in which the NTT INDYCAR Series title will be decided in the final race. Remarkable.

Who’s ready to go? I know you guys are ready to go come Sunday and certainly when practice starts tomorrow.

Also joining us, a two-time race winner here in 2021, also a three-time pole winner this season who’s racked up five podiums. He sits second in points, the driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. We say hello to Pato O’Ward.

On the far end, he is a two-time NTT INDYCAR Series champion, a winner at Mid-Ohio and Worldwide Technology Raceway this season, racking up five podiums in 2021, driving the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. He sits third in points. Great to have Josef Newgarden with us this afternoon.

Let’s start with Alex. It’s really been a dream season for you, Alex, and really right out of the gate. You go back to Barber Motorsports Park picking up your first win back then, which seems like a long time ago but maybe it hasn’t been that long ago. How did that win set the stage for what has been a tremendous season for you here in 2021?

Pato O’Ward also picked up his first career win this season and no better place to have that than your home state of Texas to kind of kick off the month of May. It’s really been a series of top-10 finishes ever since then. How big of a step has this season been for your career?

PATO O’WARD: Yeah, I think it was really cool. I think we broke through one of the biggest walls that you go through whenever you’re not a race winner yet, I guess you could say. I feel like the team and I have grown a lot. We haven’t had the most perfect season. No season will be perfect, but I think we’ve maximized the package that we have in very multiple occasions.
Long Beach is cool, man. We’ll see what we can pull off this weekend.

THE MODERATOR: We wrap things up with the two-time NTT INDYCAR Series champion Josef Newgarden. Interesting year for you. Once you got past some of the bad luck, things picked up for you this season. The way this team and you fought out of that hole you guys were in early on, what does that say about this team?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I think there was definitely a lot of hullabaloo about our performance in the beginning of the season, just Team Penske in general, what were we doing, what were we. I felt like we had good performance throughout, but when you look at the last couple week, we definitely got ourselves in a kerfuffle with the qualifying sessions.
We’ve got to figure out how to be stronger this weekend; I think in qualifying it’s going to start. But happy to be here. It’s been a real pleasure driving with these guys. They’re incredibly talented, and I love to see that coming into the INDYCAR Series.
There’s a great deal of pride amongst all of us that we have such amazing talent in this championship. It makes it more meaningful I think when you do a good job, so these guys should be really proud of what they’ve done, and to be here at the finale and still have somehow an opportunity, I think it’s almost an impossible opportunity, but to be in the fight is really cool.

THE MODERATOR: So we’ve had hullabaloo and kerfuffle.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It may or may not be part of a game, but those got worked in.
THE MODERATOR: You take a look at the Astor Challenge Cup, and certainly Josef, you’ve been a part of that thing. Do you allow yourself to think about taking that home this weekend, any of you, Pato, Alex?

THE MODERATOR: Do you have a spot for that somewhere, Pato?
PATO O’WARD: I’d make a spot. Yeah, it’s a nice Cup. You have two at home, Josef?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I’ve got a couple of them.
PATO O’WARD: Yeah? Where are they sitting?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: They’re in my office, right above me where I sit. Just trying to feed off the energy of them. They didn’t really work this year.
PATO O’WARD: Don’t put it in your room because then the feng shui is not very good because of, what is it, iron, titanium? What is it made out of?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: They’re definitely not iron. I’m pretty positive.
PATO O’WARD: Seriously, good question. Actual question, what is it made out of?

THE MODERATOR: Silver.
PATO O’WARD: Yes. No good in your room, but in your office is okay.
THE MODERATOR: The mind games have started here, I think.
Q. Josef, on the kerfuffle and hullabaloo, you joked it’s all part of the game. I just want to clarify, what mind games are we talking about?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, a hundred percent mind games, you know, a hundred percent. There’s also $20 on the line for those two right there. Pretty happy about that.

Q. You got $20?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Potentially. Potentially, yeah.

Q. Can you give us anything more?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I’ve just got to clear the transaction and then I’ll have realized that victory.

Q. There is a mental element towards winning a championship that you have gone through many times. You’ve won two championships. Neither of you have won major championships at this level, and yet you look at other series like Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton today were playing mind games with each other. You two are not. I don’t know how serious your mind games really are, but I’m wondering what’s the difference with you guys and how are you approaching this from the mental point of approaching a championship?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: You know, I think it’s a very respectful championship when you look at it, which is I think the beauty in INDYCAR racing. You have such a fierce environment where you have the best of the best in my opinion from around the world that want to compete every weekend, want to be the best and be on top. But we do it in such a respectful way. You have great drivers that I think they push to the limit, but they don’t try and go over it, certainly not purposely.
Mind games are part of that. Obviously we’re going to try and — I always try and project my strengths, but at the same time I always want to win fairly.
I think what I’m trying to get at, though, is why you don’t see a lot of that mess in our series is just because it’s a really respectful group of people that are here to work hard and let that really shine through at the end of the day. The hardest working group and the group that gets it right is the group that’s going to be victorious, and that’s what we all focus on. It’s a really pleasant environment to be in. You can see that as evidence with Romain.
It’s one thing I love about this championship and being a part of it. It’s a real pleasure.

Q. Josef, you used to be the young guy battling the veteran for the championship; now you’re the veteran with two young guys going after you. What’s it like to see that dynamic shift?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I’ve got to tell you, I didn’t think I was going to get any questions during this press conference, so I’m happy to answer them, though, and speak about these fantastically talented guys. This is really the fight right here without a doubt. If an act of God happens and somehow we win this thing, great.
But these two — I don’t want to call them youngsters because I’m not that much older than them. I feel like I’m in the weird middle position right now in the championship where I’m not the old guy but I’m not the young guy. It’s fun competing against these two because this championship you want to compete against the best from around the world, and to see what Pato is doing with the contingent from México and to see how invigorated Spain is becoming and his fellow countrymen from Alex is just what this championship is about. You want the best from around the world competing and trying to showcase their abilities.
I’m excited to compete against them. I’m disappointed we’re not in a better position. I wish this was more of a true fight here for this final round and we could be closer, but we fought hard and I think we fought against the best this year. Whoever comes out on top I think is a very deserving winner between those guys.

Q. For Pato, it’s Pato’s second year that he’s been involved in the late stage championship fight, it’s your first, but in a lot of ways when you’re that young and you’re in a fight for a championship, is it new, fresh, exciting, and it’s almost like you don’t know what you don’t know so you just have at it?
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, it’s a really cool opportunity, I guess, that we have, and yeah, last time in the position to fight for a championship was in 2018, but nowhere near the magnitude of what this championship would mean to me, the team and my family and everybody around.
Yeah, like I said, it would be cool if it was maybe a little bit tighter, kind of in the same boat where Josef is at. I know he’s a little further. But yeah, all I can do is just try and maximize what I can out of the car that I’m given and then see where everything else falls, I guess.

Q. Could you talk about the mental approach, Pato?
PATO O’WARD: For me, I’m just really trying to enjoy it because I feel like I’m up against very — these guys have a good head on their shoulders, and I wish I could say that from everyone, but some guys just don’t.
It’s nice to fight against people that you can respect and that you can — you can really trust whenever you’re racing at 100 something miles an hour heading into a corner where things can go sideways very badly. But you can just compete against them fairly.
I feel like it’s a little bit of what Josef said. I just think the respect, at least from all of us that have been in the fight all year, is strong. I hope they feel the same from me because I always try and be fair.
It’s a lot more enjoyable when you can actually compete against someone and not always have to give in because you know that they’re just going to stick their nose in and ship you into the wall if you don’t give them their way.

Q. Josef, two years ago you mentioned after winning the second championship you mentioned it was probably toughest and most draining race you ever won. Should you be in a situation Sunday where you pull off this title, number three in five years, would it be probably the most fulfilling in that regard?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I think they’re all special. I don’t know that it would be — it’s hard to say. I don’t know how I’d feel about it. I think I’d be in shock if we won it. Like I say, that would be the most shocking without a doubt.
After that, I don’t know. I’d probably have to sit on it a little bit and see how it feels, but yeah, they’re all difficult. They’re all difficult to win. Something as improbable as this one would be very shocking. That’s the only way I can put it.
I don’t think we’re in the best position, but just to even be in the conversation still is still a task in itself. It’s very hard to get to this point in the year and still be in the fight. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re in the fight nonetheless.
But yeah, I don’t know, the second one was very, very fulfilling. Very, very fulfilling. I don’t know that that would be the same answer for this one. This would be just shocking.

Q. As far as Pato, of course in 2019 both of you had different career trajectories. Did you ever think you would now be in this position fighting for a championship?
PATO O’WARD: Not at all, no. If you told me in 2019 I’d be fighting for the INDYCAR championship in 2021 I’d probably tell you, wow. Yeah, probably not.
PATO O’WARD: Yeah.

Q. Pato, you’ve been on both sides of a championship battle before. In 2016 Indy Pro 2000 you were on the losing side and then in Indy Lights and in IMSA WeatherTech you were on the winning side. Is it difficult to be on the bottom half trying to get on top this time, or are you just looking at it like you did a few years ago in Indy Pro?
PATO O’WARD: I feel like all you can do is just try and maximize what you can control because I can’t control where Josef finishes, I can’t control where Alex finishes, I can’t control anything else that’s kind of out of my hands. I can just try and maximize what I can do and then let everything else fall where it will fall.
But yeah, I don’t know, man. Obviously it’s better to be on the other end of it because you’ve got some breathing room, but I’m not angry about the position that I’m in. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish as a team this year. So yeah, we’re just treating it as another weekend and trying to maximize and end the year in a strong note.

Q. There are several drivers here that are trying to secure their seats for 2022 and a good finish would really help them out. When you’re battling with those drivers, is there any additional worry that they might try and do something crazy to try and improve their position for next year, or do you race everyone the same?
PATO O’WARD: I feel like it’s best to just kind of know who you’re racing against. I feel like by now we know who — at least I do. I know who I can get close with or who it’s just like, oh, this is just going to be hell. Yeah, just be mindful of who you’re fighting against, I guess.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I think it’s always good to have just awareness. All of us need to have awareness as drivers on the track for what’s taking place around you. Putting it simply, we should race each other the same at all points, with just enough respect and fairness, racing hard, but to where there’s never an issue that comes up. Of course it’s impossible in racing. Sometimes you make a mistake or you miscalculate something or you just get something wrong.
But if I was on the other end of it, it’s easy to say beforehand, but I would be aware of what people in a championship that are fighting in a final round, I would be aware of what they’re doing on the day. Not that I have to completely compromise my day for those people, but I think just being aware of how you race them or what you’re doing around them is important.
That’s what I would do as a competitor. I can’t speak for everybody. But you should always, I think, race everybody with enough respect to keep it clean.

Q. Pato, you guys were talking a few minutes ago about the couple races where your paths in racing crossed in 2019 in Super Formula. Can you maybe — if you can remember, can you guys give us an idea of maybe your first impression of each other as a driver out on track when you guys first got to know each other a little bit?
PATO O’WARD: Well, I wasn’t near Alex, honestly. He was usually near the front. I was more struggling in the middle of the pack. Yeah, I felt like my life in Japan was like getting thrown into like a platoon of crocodiles, and it was like, okay, survive, not knowing anyone, no car, no test, no nothing. I barely knew the team. For me I didn’t really have as many encounters with Alex on the track. Just a little bit outside of the car because we were the both that spoke Spanish.
I think I went to him and asked, what do you have for breakfast, because — I loved the food in Japan, but the breakfasts are horrendous. I went, man, what do you do. So he told me a tip: Go to a grocery store, get some cereal.

Q. Josef, how have you seen these kind of situations with them but also with Takuma sometimes and with the Brazilian drivers? How do you feel about that?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: This? I love it, actually it’s beautiful. I was thinking while watching them, I’m like, man, I really should just take Spanish again because it’s so cool to be able to know that. I wish I was bilingual or something, but I’m not.
PATO O’WARD: Josef is that guy that comes up to you and be like, I took Spanish in high school. Do you know any Spanish? Eh, poquito.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don’t know none of it, but I wish I did. I love it. I think it’s great. Obviously we’re a domestic championship, but I always tell people because I’ve always had the question how do you feel about being American in the championship and succeeding, but I’ve always loved that — and I harp on this a lot, but I love that we have the best talent from around the world, and I’d love to see more of it.
Certainly interacting with the fans from different areas of the world, like the Japanese fans are some of the coolest fans I’ve ever met in my life, and the Mexican fans actually seem incredible now, having witnessed them from Pato. I think we should welcome it and we should do more for sure.
PATO O’WARD: We need to go to México in a race. We need to go.

Q. Josef, have you located which Port-a-Potty you’re going to put Palou in so that he doesn’t actually start because I think that’s the only way you’re going to win this, right? Where are you going to put Alex so that he can’t start the race to give you a chance to win?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Are you guys staying at the Hyatt?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: What hotel are you at?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, we’re talking about it. I’m going to stop before I get in trouble.
I don’t know, it’s going to take a crazy act for sure.
PATO O’WARD: I’m at the Hyatt; do you want to come join?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It’s getting weird now.

Q. Josef, do you feel any obligation to kind of help Pato a little bit out of loyalty to Team Chevy?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: No. No. Unless — well, seriously, we’re not in a position where we can help Pato. We’re in the fight ourselves, so we have to look out for our own position. I would love to see it in the Chevy camp this championship, whether it’s me or Pato. But we’re not in a position, I think, to say — I don’t even know how we would help him, to be quite honest with you. I’m not sure that we would do anything that would be overt to clearly help him somehow win the championship. So no.
be P1 with 35 points lead after those three weekends? Probably not.

Q. Just wondered if you’d considered the implications of double points at the Indy 500 on the championship for the second year in a row, given it’s kind of cost you a lot of points.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, it has, but you know, we know the rules and the points table going into the season. We have to account for the fact that Indy is double points. We know qualifying is important there. Both of those went against us for sure. We’d be in a different position if we had a better event, but that’s something that we’ve got to control.
Yeah, I’m still not a fan of it. Even if this was a different situation — I think it’s good we’ve dropped the double points in the finale. I was never a fan of that, and I’m still not quite a fan of the double points at Indy. But like I said, we know the rules, we know the landscape going in, so I don’t think we can fall back on that. It would be an endless discussion of saying if this went different or that went different, I could go down the road and cite a lot of examples, but we always end up where we are, and unfortunately we’re a little bit short this year.

Q. Pato, just wondered if you felt you’re kind of at a disadvantage this weekend given the fact you’re going up against two bigger teams with more teammates to hold you up over the course of the weekend?
PATO O’WARD: I mean, yeah, they have more cars, I guess, but at the end of the day I feel like we’re racing against — I think the bigger thing is that we’re racing against teams that have won multiple championships, talking about Ganassi and Penske, and yeah, I think that’s our biggest battle right now. I think the guys in the series are respectful and they know — at least kind of what Josef said, if I was in a position to screw someone up that’s fighting for a championship, I would get out of the way because I wouldn’t because fighting for a championship is pretty big, and if I was in that position I wouldn’t want someone to get in the way forcefully. I hope everybody plays clean, I guess. I don’t know what to expect.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys, for your time this afternoon. So many storylines coming into this finale. Best of luck in this championship race, the 2021 NTT INDYCAR Series championship.

Chevrolet IndyCar V6 Year-By-Year Results since 2012
2021 ­– 6 wins, 7 poles in 15 races
Wins – Pato O’Ward (Texas2, Detroit2); Rinus VeeKay (Indy RC1); Josef Newgarden (Mid-Ohio, St. Louis); Will Power (Indy RC2). Pole – Pato O’Ward (Barber Motorsports Park, Detroit1, Indy RC2); Josef Newgarden (Detroit2, Road America, Mid-Ohio); Will Power (St. Louis).
2020 – 7 wins, 11 poles in 14 races
Wins – Simon Pagenaud (Iowa1); Josef Newgarden (Iowa2, St. Louis2, Indy RC2, St. Petersburg); Will Power (Mid-Ohio1, Indy RC3, St. Petersburg). Poles – Josef Newgarden (Texas, Road America1, Iowa2), Will Power (Indianapolis road course, St. Louis1, Mid-Ohio1, Indy RC3; St. Petersburg), Pato O’Ward (Road America2), Conor Daly (Iowa1), Rinus VeeKay (Indy road course October)
2019 – 9 wins, 9 poles in 17 races
Driver/owner championship (Josef Newgarden/Roger Penske); Indianapolis 500 win (Simon Pagenaud)
2018 – 6 wins, 9 poles in 17 races
Indianapolis 500 win (Will Power)
2017 – 10 wins, 11 poles in 17 races
Engine Manufacturer Championship; driver/owner titles (Josef Newgarden/Roger Penske)
2016 – 14 wins, 13 poles in 16 races
Engine Manufacturer Championship; driver/owner titles (Simon Pagenaud/Roger Penske)
2015 – 10 wins, 16 poles in 16 races
Engine Manufacturer Championship; driver/owner titles (Scott Dixon/Chip Ganassi);
Indianapolis 500 win (Juan Pablo Montoya). First manufacturer to capture all titles since Chevrolet returned to INDYCAR in 2012
2014 – 12 wins, 14 poles in 18 races
Engine Manufacturer Championship; driver/owner titles (Will Power/Roger Penske)
2013 – 10 wins, 11 poles in 19 races
Engine Manufacturer Championship; Indianapolis 500 win (Tony Kanaan)
2012 – 11 wins, 10 poles in 15 races
Engine Manufacturer Championship; driver/owner titles (Ryan Hunter-Reay/Michael Andretti)
Total – 95 wins, 106 earned poles in 164 races

About Chevrolet
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, available in 79 countries with more than 3.2 million cars and trucks sold in 2020. Chevrolet models include electric and fuel-efficient vehicles that feature engaging performance, design that makes the heart beat, passive and active safety features and easy-to-use technology, all at a value. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.



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