Chevrolet Indycar at St. Petersburg: Team Chevy Qualifying Report

Josef Newgarden, driver of the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, captured the season-opening NTT P1 Pole Award, the 17th of his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career, with his fastest lap of 59.5714 seconds on the Streets of St. Petersburg.
Newgarden’s NTT P1 Pole Award is Chevrolet’s 128th in the 2.2-liter twin turbo direct-injected V6 era since 2012, the ninth at St. Petersburg, and Newgarden’s first at this track.
Showcasing how tight the NTT INDYCAR SERIES field is, Newgarden’s NTT P1 Pole Award is the closest front row in the V6 era since 2012.
Chevrolet was represented by three drivers in the Firestone Fast Six, with Newgarden, Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward, and Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Romain Grosjean.
Four of the six Chevrolets in Group 1 finished in the top-six, with Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward, Team Penske’s Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay, and Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin transferring to the second round of qualifying.
Grosjean and Team Penske’s Will Power transferred to Round 2 from Group 2, representing Chevrolet.
Newgarden led Team Chevy in a strong second practice session on the Streets of St. Petersburg this morning that saw six Chevrolet drivers finish in the top-10, including Power (third), O’Ward (fourth), Romain Grosjean (fifth), VeeKay (sixth), and McLaughlin (eighth).
Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race day starts with final warm up on the Streets of St. Petersburg at 9:10 a.m. ET, with the green flag dropping live on NBC at noon ET.


1st Josef Newgarden

3rd Pato O’Ward

5th Romain Grosjean

7th Rinus VeeKay

8th Will Power

9th Scott McLaughlin


Josef Newgarden, No. 2 Chevrolet at Team Penske:

“Man. I get jacked up every time I show up for an INDYCAR race. It’s an elevated level when you start out the year, because you just don’t know. You have no idea if you’re going to keep coming back in and producing results. It’s very difficult. You saw how tight it was, and I didn’t know this would come today. I just thought ‘Look, let’s get through Round 1, let’s get through Round 2, and then see what we can make happen in the Fast Six. Just really proud of this team. This is a rockstar team. I love everybody on it. I’m happy to be back. 2024, we’re starting right with Team Chevy and PPG. We’re here to go after it every weekend.”

“You have to give hats off to Team Chevy. They listen to every bit of feedback we had. They took a lot of meetings, and they delivered today. Everything we were asking for they made better all around, and it’s not easy to do that. We asked for a menu of items, and they were like ‘Okay, we’ll give you everything.’ You don’t always get that every year, and I just feel like they knew they had to do even more this offseason just like us. Chevrolet did their part, and us at Team Penske, what we needed to do with our chassis, we did the exact same thing. So us together, I think we can have a really strong year.”

Scott McLaughlin, No. 3 Chevrolet at Team Penske:

“Not a bad day for the DEX Imagine Chevy. We left a little bit out there. I think we could’ve easily made the Fast Six. We had a couple of little issues that were out of our control and held us back there. Overall, really solid start. We start P9, which it’s better than P19. We have a lot of cars to pass tomorrow. We’ll have fun. Good job to my teammate Josef (Newgarden) getting the pole. He made sure Chevy got a first pole of the year, which is really important for them, and hopefully we can add to the win tally in St. Pete tomorrow.”

Will Power, No. 12 Chevrolet at Team Penske:

“He had to back up and so I had to finish that second lap just to be eighth and then started my third lap kind of hurting, so I aborted it. Still, top-12 and P8. We can definitely race from there. The car has been really good all weekend and man you have to dig deep in these qualifying sessions. We will see what we can do tomorrow. I am very, very determined to have a good year and a good race, so it’s a good start. Anytime you are top-10 in this series, it’s pretty good, or top-12. We would have loved to get in the top six, but it’s so tight.”

How is it physically behind the wheel?

“Ah, brutal. Brutal honestly. It’s like a bloody sauna or a steam room. You are struggling in the car, but it is always like that in the first race. In the last race you are so race fit. That is the first time in the weekend when you have been digging deep for hundredths and you feel it coming in and I am like, ‘get the air on me’. Great series man. So, so tight. I really, really enjoy it.”

Pato O’Ward, No. 5 Chevrolet at Arrow McLaren:

“We’re rolling off P3 tomorrow. Inside Row 2 was exactly where we were last year, so it is a great spot to have many options in the race. I’m pretty stoked about that. I think we will be in good shape to do some good things tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it.”

Callum Ilott, No. 6 Chevrolet at Arrow McLaren:

Walk us around that first round of qualifying…

“Yeah, obviously not easy because its super tight here in INDYCAR. Arrow McLaren did a great job with this car and it’s a shame we didn’t transfer. We were very close, but looking up there early in the session, we just didn’t quite get there on the greens. It is what it is and we got to work it out for the race.”

When did the decision come to go with the greens? What is the difference in the hard primaries and the greens?

“They have more grip, and they are softer, and I think that is kind of the plan for everyone. A couple of the guys in the first group went with the greens to start with and did two sets. Obviously, the difference in the blacks and greens is you get more grip and a little more speed out of it.”

Alexander Rossi, No. 7 Chevrolet at Arrow McLaren:

“That was very disappointing, because we had a pretty strong car. I was happy with the changes that we’ve made from yesterday and through the day today. We didn’t get a clear run on the Firestone Alternates, and it is so close that you can’t afford that. So, it is very unfortunate that we are so far back, but I do think the car is pretty strong. We’ll see what we can make of it tomorrow.”

Christian Rasmussen, No. 20 Chevrolet at Ed Carpenter Racing:

“I’m happy with the progress we’re making over the weekend. There are a lot of firsts and it’s no easy task to step up into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES! First time with the green Firestone tires, it just takes some learning. Rinus (VeeKay) did an amazing job in qualifying, into the Fast 12 and almost the Fast 6! We have a good car and should be able to move forward in the race tomorrow. I’m just excited for my first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race! It’s something I’ve been working towards for many years now and it’s going to be very cool!”

Rinus VeeKay, No. 21 Chevrolet at Ed Carpenter Racing:

Was that a product of offseason work?

“It definitely was. The team put in a lot of effort, we’ve got new people on the team, and the group has become stronger. I know Team Chevy put a lot of effort in giving us more power and I feel like that definitely helped. I also looked in the mirror and looked at myself and tried to find weak spots and things to get better at. I think all those boxes have been checked of course. We felt like we made it into the Fast Six, but we did not again. Pretty close, but I feel like I was happy with my lap and have the whole weekend so far. The only race I won was from P7, so that is a good omen.”

You have been strong all weekend long. Where does this put your confidence going into tomorrow?

“It makes me very confident. I think I am a better racer than a qualifier, so as long as we can understand the tires and keep the tires underneath us, then I think we are going to have a great race. At least I have a lot less cars to pass and it’s nice to be ahead of the mess once in a while.”

Santino Ferrucci, No. 14 Chevrolet at AJ Foyt Racing:

“Honestly, our Sexton Chevrolet was on rails. We had more in it, but not being able to be in Practice 2, it’s no one’s fault. That’s the thing. It’s just some things that are unfortunate, but honestly, my boss Larry (Foyt) said go out and put it seventh, so we have all the tires in the world for strategy for the race tomorrow. Ask and you shall receive. We’re sitting pretty. Our car has a ton of pace. I’m looking forward to getting after it tomorrow.”

“From when we rolled out to now, we haven’t changed anything. I mean this is the exact same car that came out of the trailer. That is what we did at Indianapolis, and we fought to win. That is the goal this year and to start out this year like this, I am very, very confident.”

Sting Ray Robb, No. 41 Chevrolet at AJ Foyt Racing:

“Qualifying was okay. I’m disappointed in myself. I think there was a lot of time left in my driving. We kind of got kind of hurt by some other cars backing up into us on our second push. Unfortunately, we are not starting where I think we are capable of going. The car was really good. I’m really happy with the team, but we’re still going to bulid. I think there is a lot to learn. Everyone’s new on the team including myself. That communication and relationship is going to get better as the year goes on.”

Romain Grosjean, No. 77 Chevrolet at Juncos Hollinger Racing:

“It is very satisfying. Last year, one (pole) was very special, and this year, I was hoping we could get into the Fast Six after P1, but I wasn’t quite sure about it. We made it in the Fast Six. We didn’t have the speed for the guys in the front, but anyway, I’m very proud of everything that’s been done. Chevy has been helping us a lot with data and on-track. Our team has worked a long way since Sebring where I wasn’t sure we’d be top-10 in qualifying, and here we are. I’m very happy with that. We have a good baseline.”

“It’s a very, very good qualifying. I still think we have some work to be done, but I think the guys have a very clear idea of where I think I want the improvement to be made, and that’s where we’re going to try.”

Agustin Canapino, No. 78 Chevrolet at Juncos Hollinger Racing:

“We had a good qualifying session. P20 isn’t really the reality of the car. I’m really happy with the time; only one-tenth off from the Fast 12, and three-and-a-half tenths with the leaders, so I’m really happy with the performance of the car with the team. Thank you to Team Chevy and to our team. I’m really confident we will have a good race tomorrow.”

Ricardo Juncos, Team Owner and Lead Strategist at Juncos Hollinger Racing:

“I think now he is in P2 (in regards to Romain Grosjean in Group 2 of qualifying). Amazing job. We are all really happy to have someone like Romain Grosjean with us. I think he brings to the teams a lot of experience, and he’s been great for us, for the whole team. I think we have also Agustin (Canapino) in the top-six (of Round 1), but he missed a little bit of the last two corners. Until then, we were also in the top-six, so I think big improvement for the whole team.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO. 2 PPG TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET – NTT P1 Pole Award Winner Press Conference Transcript:

THE MODERATOR: Wrapping up NTT P1 qualifying for tomorrow’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. Joined now by Josef Newgarden, two-time champion here on the Streets of St. Pete. Today driving the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet with the 17th career NTT P1 award. First here at St. Pete.

Pretty tight. 58/10000th of a second between first and second. You talked on the broadcast about how one of the goals this year to get back to some NTT P1 awards and did it right out of the gate. How proud are you of this team right now for you?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Crazy proud. I’m always proud of my team and even more so today. They deserve it. They’ve done a great job all off season. They’ve done a great job in 2023, and I feel like we fell short in a lot of areas that we didn’t need to.

I don’t want to get too excited about this. We should enjoy it. It felt very good. I can’t tell you how good it felt, but it’s only day one. We have to get through tomorrow. Tomorrow is what pays the bills and gets us up the road in the championship.

So let’s see how we continue the weekend, but just to start out I couldn’t have asked for something better. The team is just on it. Team Chevy absolutely crushed it in this offseason, so I couldn’t feel more positive.

THE MODERATOR: You have engineering meetings and what not after this. We’ll get right to the questions.

Q. Just a short question. From practice to qualifying, did your team or your crew do any significant technical changes of the car?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: No, nothing big. Really tiny stuff, which is always fun when it’s that way.

Q. Josef, the first practice kind of seemed a little out of sorts. Maybe tough to gauge seeing where you guys were until second practice. What clicked? What did you all find to fall like this in qualifying?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think some was just timing. Obviously we had that experimental first session, which I think is great. We all agreed that we wanted to try something. I’m not going to say it’s going to stick, but we were trying something.

We were in the earlier part of the group. I think what I took from that it was undeniable how quick Felix was. He was like a stand-out.

Everybody else was maybe a little bit jumbled up just because of timing and traffic and reds. So I think you got more of a true indicator where the majority of the field was in session two. Obviously there was carry-over from session one.

We didn’t do a lot. I’m telling you all this because we didn’t make a lot of changes from practice one to practice two. We were sort of same car. Just really putting it together better, and I think P2 was representative more so for where we were as a team.

Q. Josef, some new faces up there in the Fast Six, including the guy sitting right next to you on new teams, teams we’re not used to seeing up there like that. I know you talk about the competitive nature of INDYCAR, but is this something that we can expect to see all season like this?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Absolutely. I mean, we get the question every offseason. Who is your main threat? You can’t answer that clearly ever in INDYCAR. You just don’t know who is going to sort of rise to the occasion and improve.

I think Felix is a great example of this. I’ve always thought the world of Felix. He’s a top-level driver. He’s one of the best drivers in the world.

You get a little different environment. 12 months makes a big difference. Just things change all the time. This is the most difficult series in the world I think to put it all together, so you get people coming up and down the grid all the time. I just don’t think you can bank on any one individual being the class of the field.

You have to beat everybody, and it’s moving all the time. The challenge always is changing. I applaud everybody that’s in this championship and is continuing to find pace.

Q. Josef, when you talk about coming up short last year, obviously that wasn’t on ovals. Four wins on ovals. How much of your enthusiasm today is sort of rooted in the fact that it seems like street and road courses were your weakness last year. Now you start on the pole here.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, it’s what we need. We haven’t gotten an oval yet, so I hope we still have that form, but I think that comes back to what I just said about the quality of the field.

Just because we were strong on ovals last year doesn’t guarantee that we will be strong on ovals again this year. I’ve made that mistake many times where you think you can just go with the same recipe that worked the year before, and it doesn’t always transfer.

I think we’ve made the necessary steps to be better on a street course. I think we can get there in a road course too. We just have to make sure we preserve that excellent oval package that we’ve had, but if we can get all of them, then that’s what we were lacking last year. We just did not have the consistency across the board.

I think today is very encouraging. It definitely makes me feel more positive about what we can bring for the entire championship.

Q. I asked Will about this yesterday. I’ll get your take on it. The mood at Team Penske, obviously you won the Indy 500 last year, but Will went winless. Scotty won once. You were obviously frustrated. Coming into this season and coming off the NASCAR Championship for Penske, coming off Rolex 24, WEC win, I know the benchmark is always high for you guys, but is there more motivation with everything that’s going on within the organization and the way you guys ended last year to come up stronger this season?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I’m not trying to avoid the question, but it never really changes. What I mean by that is Penske, we definitely have an operating standard where excellence is what we aim for all the time. Whether we had a bad year or we had an excellent year, we’re still going for excellence the next season. That never drops.

Certainly we lose form. The challenge changes like I was talking about, and we have to find a new way of doing things. That happens often.

I don’t feel any different as far as pressure internally. We are the same all the time. We are expected to show up and do a great job, and we feel that internally. That’s not an external pressure. It’s not like Roger is over us demanding that.

Others may tell you differently, but I just feel there’s a very internal drive of every individual within Penske just to be the best version of themselves. I don’t notice anything different.

The only thing I would say is it’s been a great start to the year, as you said. We started out right, and now we just have to figure out how we can hopefully hold onto that throughout the entire season.

I didn’t change last year’s glove, so…

Q. Josef, I know the past couple of years you’ve come into the season opener. You’ve had some personnel moving around on the team, and things have been happening quite close to the start of the season. Have you felt any benefit from having things a little bit more solid and having an easier lead into the season, if you like, this weekend?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don’t think it hurts. I mean, I don’t want to lean too aggressively into the consistency side. I think we’ve had, in general, a lot of consistency in our team.

So even when I have new personnel on the 2 car, these are individuals that I know very well. The way we operate at Team Penske is I think a little bit unique. In a lot of ways you’re working with everybody on all cars.

Yeah, I don’t think there’s a huge change from that standpoint, but we do have more consistency than last year. It’s Luke’s second year with me. We’re together. We’re not changing that role. We didn’t change much on the car.

Yeah, there’s some positivity too it. I don’t know that I want to read too much into it.

Q. You praised Team Chevy at the start of the call. Is there anything specific that they’ve given to you to start the season that you’ve been particularly impressed with? You sounded really kind of buoyant about what they’ve done in the offseason there.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think it was a huge difference-maker today was just Chevrolet. I’m not going to put everything on them because it’s always a package. We always have to work together in conjunction.

I think there was things we fell short on last year from a chassis standpoint. You know where we weren’t strong just as a team and what we needed to do, road and street course-wise. I think we’ve elevated our game, and Chevrolet has absolutely elevated their side.

They took a lot of meetings with us in the offseason. They work hard every offseason, but I think they just went that from a extra mile this go-around. It’s still early days, but I’ll really encouraged by what they brought here and what we can see for the rest of the year.

Q. Just quickly, Josef, this is something that got mentioned with Will yesterday, and you touched on it before, how good the oval package was for Team Penske last year. Considering the last few races this season are all predominantly on ovals, does that give the team a bit of confidence knowing you have a good package going into what could be a championship decider?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Not to me. I’ll repeat from earlier, but just because we had a strong year on ovals last year doesn’t guarantee we’re going to have an identical result this year.

It very well could be that we show up and we’ve fixed a lot of our street and road course performance and then all of a sudden we take a step back on the ovals. I just think you have to be vigilant.

I’m not going to rest on anything from prior seasons. I think the balance is still pretty mixed, as it should be. We’ve got a nice split between road, street, and oval.

I don’t think you can hide behind the fact that you have to be good across the board. You can’t be weak anywhere. I’m not going to lean on a couple of new oval additions. I don’t think any of us can do that.

Q. Can you talk about the durability of those softer green tires, please?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I was curious what Felix thought. Yeah, it is going to be interesting. I don’t know that anyone has a great read yet. It’s impossible to know right now. We’re sort of getting an idea through qualifying. You’re starting to guess.

I think they are more durable than last year, no doubt. Just to what level. I don’t know how much more durable they are. That’s everybody’s guessing game right now, but I do think they will come into play more so than what they did last year.

Last year no one wanted to be on them very long, and I think this year it’s opened back up again where there could be some split strategies.

Q. Josef, you have Luke Mason with you for the second year in a row. You shouted his name out right after you were told you had pole. Can you talk to the relationship the two of you developed because in year one Indy 500, four wins. Tell me about the chemistry of two of you have developed to make you even stronger.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, he’s great. I’ve been fortunate in my career. I’ve got to work with just tremendous talent every single year. I’ve really had no weak points.

Luke just has been an addition to that. He’s another person that to me is an absolute rock star race engineer. Anybody that knows what a race engineer really is would understand the significance of that.

You can be a technically savvy individual. You can be a good engineer, but a race engineer requires something just a little different. I think Luke excels at it.

I just think of world of him. He’s in a great spot. He’s certainly bringing a great dynamic to our team in a lot more ways than just one. Yeah, it’s good.

I want the best for him. I want to see him win a bunch of races, and I want to do that together with him.

THE MODERATOR: 58/10000th of a second was the difference. Crazy, crazy close. Front row for tomorrow’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding.