IndyCar Demo At Roval Fires Up Teams, Fans

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 28 2019
Josef Newgarden, who won this year’s IndyCar Series championship, drive his Team Penske Chevrolet in a demonstration at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL over the weekend. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Jim Fluharty)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – If you thought Charlotte Motor Speedway’s ROVAL would be used only once a year for NASCAR events, think again, especially after the excitement 2019 IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden exhibited Friday following his six-lap run on the 2.28-mile, 17-turn course.

NTT IndyCar Series President Jay Frye was impressed by the demonstration that commanded the attention of NASCAR competitors as well as fans. He said it was “pretty cool” to watch, he thought the Indy Car looked “very natural” on the course and lap times were “within reason of what everyone thought they would be.”

“It was cool to see how the car reacted and it was actually cool to see the fans’ and the teams’ perspective,” Frye said. “Today (Friday) seemed pretty successful, so who knows?”

Newgarden, the first to drive an Indy Car on the ROVAL, piloted the same championship contending Chevrolet Indy Car that Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud drove last weekend at Laguna Seca. He said the ROVAL wasn’t similar to any track currently on the IndyCar Series 17-race schedule. 

“It’s clearly a road course, but it’s got some street course sections to it,” Newgarden said. “Like turn one and turn two remind me of a street course. Then you’ve got the oval, which reminds me a little of the Indy GP that we run. Then everything else is kinda something new.”  

Originally billed as a demonstration to showcase Newgarden’s sponsor Shell-Pennzoil, the two-time IndyCar champion noted it quickly turned into a “really cool discussion point.”

“I was most interested in the tire difference,” said Newgarden, who uses Firestone tires in the IndyCar Series.

Josef Newgarden in the cockpit of his Team Penske Indy car in Charlotte. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

NASCAR uses tires manufactured by Goodyear.

“I didn’t think there was an issue having two different makes (of rubber on the track),” Newgarden said. “That was my big concern going into it.”

Newgarden noted the banking was “really neat.”

“The wheel was really, really heavy. We don’t have power steering in these vehicles so it was pretty loaded up for a long period of time through the banking,” he continued. 

The Nashville, Tenn., driver said he needed to think about changes that might be needed to the course before an IndyCar race could occur at the track. 

“There wasn’t anything that jumped out to me that was bad,” said Newgarden, who noted he would be happy to provide feedback to IndyCar executives if asked.

  “I would like to see more Indy Cars on the track because you would have a better idea of how we would race. I think we would have a pretty good ability to race off of the infield all the way down to the backstretch chicane. I think we probably would get a lot of drafting there and probably see some guys make some moves going into that chicane, which would be a good passing zone; probably, the same thing again going into turn one, two.  I think it has the potential to race really well here.”

Frye doesn’t see any hurdles in bringing an IndyCar race to Charlotte, but noted the primary issue was scheduling.  

Charlotte Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter noted some changes in the course would be needed for Indy Cars, such as the curbing. Currently, the course’s curbing is metal and that would need to be changed. 

Recently, there has been talk of having a NASCAR Cup/IndyCar double-header weekend and Newgarden likes the idea.

IndyCar’s Josef Newgarden talks with Cup Series drivers Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

“I think it would be really cool for the fans,” Newgarden said. “Why would you not want to have that doubled up on a weekend?  I respect these guys (NASCAR) so much and I love keeping in touch with what they’re doing. So having a little closer access to them and vice versa for us, I think it would be a win-win for everybody.” 

Frye is open to a double-header weekend with NASCAR, but says it doesn’t have to be that way on the schedule for the IndyCar Series to visit Charlotte.

Walter said Charlotte would not only consider hosting an IndyCar race, but an IMSA event as well. 

“I think we would consider anything as long as it makes physical sense and financial sense,” Walter said.  

So even if Charlotte doesn’t make it a double-header weekend, returning IndyCar and IMSA to the facility via the ROVAL is definitely a step that needs to be taken. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 28 2019
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