DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It isn’t often that the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion considers himself a small part of the equation, but Josef Newgarden does.
Newgarden, who won the 107th running of the Indy 500 in May and has two IndyCar Series championships to his credit, will join Porsche Penske Motorsport next week as it expands its lineups for the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta – the season finale for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Newgarden will team with Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr in the team’s No. 7 Porsche 963. The team’s No. 6 Porsche 963, co-driven by Mathieu Jaminet, Nick Tandy and endurance driver Laurens Vanthoor, is in the middle of a close battle for the championship, just five points out of the lead in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class.
Considering what’s at stake, Newgarden understands his role.
“I just want to be a part of the team and do my part,” he said. “That’s why I’m there. It’s a small part of the equation. We’ve all got to pitch in and do our roles as best we can. I’ll try to help by being added to the program.”
This isn’t Newgarden’s first venture into the WeatherTech Championship. In January, he joined Tower Motorsports to help John Farano, Kyffin Simpson and fellow Team Penske IndyCar teammate Scott McLaughlin finish fifth in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
His desire to join the Porsche Penske foray during this first season of the WeatherTech Championship’s hybrid-based GTP class was something Newgarden had voiced previously.
“My desire to run in the sports car world has been pretty public,” Newgarden said. “That was for sure a known desire of mine. To be given the opportunity from Penske, and certainly, Porsche, is a great honor. It’s something a lot of people would want to do, so I just feel lucky to have been given the chance to try it out and compete and be part of the team.”
The No. 7 Porsche Penske entry remains in contention in the championship points standings in fifth place, 73 points behind the leading No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R and drivers Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims.
The No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 co-driven by Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor holds down second place, three points out of the lead.
Both Penske entries have been strong recently. Tandy and Jaminet teamed to win the TireRack.com Battle on the Bricks last month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with teammates Nasr and Campbell finishing second. The previous race, it was Nasr and Campbell taking the win at Road America.
“It’s certainly exciting to see the development of the team,” Newgarden said. “I’ve seen it in some capacity for a while now as they’ve been developing this program. There’s been a tremendous amount of work that’s been put into it from the Porsche group and certainly from everybody involved in the program.”
Newgarden has won 29 races during his 12-year IndyCar career, but this will be his first race on Michelin Raceway’s 12-turn, 2.54-mile layout. He tested there recently for the first time.
“It is a very wild track,” Newgarden said. “It’s old-school. I love it. I love that it requires a ton of commitment. It’s fast, it’s fun. It’s exactly what you want on a road course. It’s basically what racers drew up back in the day. It’s one of those places that everybody enjoys. I was an instant fan. It’s an easy one to like.”
For one race, an Indy 500 winner considers himself just a cog in a well-oiled machine.
“It’s very deserved, looking at the hours and commitment that everybody has put into it,” Newgarden said of Porsche Penske Motorsport’s success so far this season. “They’re seeing the benefit of their labor. The timing of it is very exciting. I know they’re very focused on finishing the year as best as possible. There’s an opportunity to win this championship, and that’s going to be key for everybody involved.”
The 26th annual Motul Petit Le Mans starts at 11:40 a.m. ET Saturday, Oct. 14. Flag-to-flag coverage streams live on Peacock, with USA Network joining at 6:30 p.m. through the race conclusion. Tickets for the Oct. 11-14 race weekend are available at roadatlanta.com.