One of Newgarden’s ace cards this season was having Tim Cindric atop the pit box.
The Team Penske president moved over to the young American’s team this season after winning a championship with Will Power in 2014, and said Sunday he wasn’t sure what he’d gotten himself into at first before the cards started coming together for the No. 2 team.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” admitted Cindric. “I knew he was going to be competitive, but I felt it would take a little longer … honestly, before he were sitting here as a champion. He proved me wrong in a big way.”
Cindric added that he was equally as grateful for the respect shown between Newgarden and Pagenaud in their battle for the win Sunday, with concerns having risen before the start due to the duo’s run-in at Gateway last month.
“These guys had a lot on the line, a lot to lose and a lot to gain. They showed each other that they could race each other clean, and fortunately we came out with a one-two (in the race and the championship) at the end of the day,” Cindric said. “It’s a great effort, not only by our team, but by everyone in the organization. It’s truly a team effort.”
Newgarden agreed with that assessment of the now-15-time Indy car championship-winning organization.
“These guys are rock stars, every single one of them. It’s not just the (No.) 2 car guys, it’s every single car that we put on the race track and every single crew (member) that comes to Team Penske. They work on all these cars. It’s just a different way of operating at Team Penske … but it works for us time and time again.”
As Pagenaud passed the championship torch to his teammate, he gave words of encouragement to his young charge about the responsibility of being a champion.
“We defended really well and I feel that we represented the (champion’s) No. 1 really well, but Josef is going to be a great champion,” Pagenaud said. “He’s an American; that’s going to be great for the sport.”
“(It’s also good that) he’s a kid, and I’ll tell you what, he’s pretty smart already. That’s what it takes and I know he’ll represent the sport well. That’s what being a champion is all about.”
Appropriately, Newgarden’s first proclamation as series champion was in appreciation to all the IndyCar faithful for their support of the series.
“Thank you so much to all the IndyCar fans,” he said. “We have the best racing in the world and it’s only getting better, I swear. The series is growing, people know we have great motorsports here … and man, I hope they come out to some races next year. They will not be disappointed, I promise.”
But in spite of the professionalism he showed, there was one moment during the celebration when Newgarden showed ultimate emotion, talking about how his parents launched his career and made it possible for him to achieve his dreams.
“My parents have done so much for me,” Newgarden said, voice cracking as he broke down in tears. “They put it all on the line. Like I said, this (championship) is a dream come true.”
And for a young American from small-town Tennessee, Sunday marked the realization of that dream, as well as the start of another one.
“We’ll be ready to chase another (title) next year. You can count on that,” he affirmed. “But first, we’re going to enjoy this one tonight, without a doubt.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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