Chevrolet Indycar at St. Petersburg: Team Chevy Race Report

Josef Newgarden and his No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet team captured Chevrolet’s 112th victory of the V6 era since 2012 in dominating fashion, Team Chevy’s ninth in St. Petersburg.
Leading 92 of the 100 laps in St. Petersburg, Newgarden showcased Chevrolet’s performance both on and off-track, and earned his 30th career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory.
Joining Newgarden on the podium, Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward (second), and Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin (third), allowed for a sweep of the podium in St. Petersburg, as well as the top-four finishing positions with Team Penske’s Will Power (fourth).
With the podium sweep, Chevrolet earned their 311th podium finish in the V6 era since 2012.
Saturday’s qualifying session saw Newgarden topping the charts with his fastest lap of 59.5714 seconds, earning Chevrolet’s ninth NTT P1 Pole Award on the Streets of St. Petersburg since 2012, the 129th in the V6 era, and Newgarden’s 17th career pole award.
Race day started with a 30-minute warm-up session, with Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin (fourth) and Josef Newgarden (fifth), Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward (seventh), and Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Romain Grosjean (ninth) representing Chevrolet in the top-10.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 10, 2024) – Josef Newgarden, in his No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, showcased a strong performance in the 20th Firestone Grand Prix of St. Peterburg, racing to Chevrolet’s 112th win in the 2.2-liter twin turbo direct injected V6 era since 2012, and ninth at St. Petersburg.

After capturing the NTT P1 Pole Award Saturday for Team Penske and Team Chevy, Newgarden led 92 laps of the 100 laps in a relatively clean, green flag race to take the checkered flag in exciting fashion.

“I had a lot of fun today. Roger (Penske) was telling me, ‘You have a big lead. You better hold on to it and not throw it into the wall.’ I think it’s so deserving for the work (Team Penske) put in. I know intimately what’s been put into this program in the offseason. It’s Team Chevy, everything they brought this weekend, and then our team specifically, we worked really hard to close the gap. We didn’t have the speed we needed on road and street courses last year and I think, at least on a consistency basis, and today we brought that speed. We had the execution, as always, exactly what you expect from Team Penske.”

“Congratulations to Josef Newgarden and the No. 2 PPG Chevrolet team on their win in St. Petersburg, said Jim Campbell, General Motors U.S. Vice President of Performance and Motorsports. “We’re really proud of the teamwork by Team Penske in the offseason, along with our Chevrolet engineers. It’s great to see Chevrolet drivers Pato O’Ward from Arrow McLaren and Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske sweep the podium with Josef.”

Also showcasing his talent and the strength of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet team, as well as teamwork with Chevrolet, Pato O’Ward joined Newgarden on the podium in St. Petersburg finishing second.

“It’s always good to be here in St. Pete,” said O’Ward. “I think it’s a phenomenal place to start the season, and we’ve laid ourselves a pretty strong foundation for the rest of the year, so super stoked for that. Super proud of our friends at Team Chevy, Arrow McLaren. They went to work this offseason, and it’s been fantastic to see the gains we’ve made. We’re just going to keep on pushing.”

“Team Penske were just really, really strong today,” continued O’Ward. “They were obviously the guys to beat. They ended first, third, and fourth. I’m happy that we could maintain ourselves there. I wouldn’t say it was the easiest of laps keeping (Scott) McLaughlin and (Will) Power behind me. It’s such a tough track to pass where I just knew if I didn’t make mistakes, I’d be alright.”

Making moves as the laps wound down, Newgarden’s Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin showcased his race craft to navigate traffic, claiming the third step on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg podium. With the sweep, Chevrolet now has 311 podium finishes in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES since 2012.

“Great day for the DEX Imaging Chevy,” said McLaughlin. “We were really super strong, but I’m really proud of the whole team. The 2 getting the win (Josef Newgarden). Well done to those guys and girls on the team. And then you’ve got with us in third and (Will in) fourth. Me and Will (Power) were pretty bummed after qualifying yesterday. We really had cars to put in the Fast Six. Glad we were able to bring it up to the front and get both podiums. We’re getting close to one-two-three podium for the Penske team, so we’re strong for that.”

“We asked a lot (from Chevrolet) from day one last year, and they’ve come back with something really, really strong,” continued McLaughlin. “Really proud of them. Proud to get a really strong result for them. I think it was one to four. Super strong. That’s great to work with a manufacturer who wants to listen to you and keep working, wants to keep developing, and that’s exactly what we need.”

Adding to the strong performance in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Chevrolet finished with six cars in the top-10, including Will Power with Team Penske in fourth, Alexander Rossi with Arrow McLaren in eighth, and Rinus VeeKay with Ed Carpenter Racing (10th).

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES next heads west to Thermal Club near Palm Springs, Calif. for the $1 Million Challenge March 22-24, 2024. A new and unique non-championship points All-Star event, the race airs live on NBC Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET.


1st Josef Newgarden

2nd Pato O’Ward

3rd Scott McLaughlin

4th Will Power

8th Alexander Rossi

10th Rinus VeeKay


Will Power, No. 12 Chevrolet at Team Penske:


“We kind of expected it. Lot of improvements in the offseason, the Chevy engine is really good and there was a lot of work also on the car. So, it was fun at the end and obviously we could push him. A lot of fuel save there at the beginning and the yellow fell at an unfortunate time which made it a bit more of a follow the leader sort of race. If it was extended by 10 laps like it used to be, then you would have a very big fuel window for the race.”


“Yeah, massively. Like as soon as I got in line at the start, I just tuned it down and sat back and saved fuel. I was just expecting it to go long and that was the only way you were going to pass, After about 10 laps you are like, ‘come on, something happen’. It’s good stuff and it’s a competitive field, no one makes mistakes, it’s a competitive field, and it’s an ultra-competitive situation and hard to pass.”

Callum Ilott, No. 6 Chevrolet at Arrow McLaren:

“It wasn’t a bad race. Starting 16th, we chipped away a little bit. I think we struggled a little bit in the first stint, everyone was quite processional, but we had a good car. Once we put the Firestone Alternate tires on, we definitely had a bit more pace and it was a shame we couldn’t quite unlock it with the way traffic worked out. Then we tried to gamble pitting earlier for the final stint, and it almost paid off but didn’t quite get through. There was a lot of fuel save at the end. Arrow McLaren did a great job with the car; it was fast.”

“Honestly, it’s a shame we didn’t get a bit more out of it. Pato in P2 and Alexander in P8, so I think it was good that we could all move forward, and the No. 6 NTT DATA Arrow McLaren Chevrolet was quick this weekend and we can all come away happy with some points.”

Alexander Rossi, No. 7 Chevrolet at Arrow McLaren:

“It’s always going to be very hard from 15th, but I think the team did a great job maximizing what we could. We knew we had a fast car all weekend, and that was the case in the race. We had a good strategy, great pit stops. That’s really all you can do on days like this, kind of damage control. Obviously, it was a good day for the team with Pato on the podium, and we will learn from our mistakes this weekend and look forward to the next one.”

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

“First NTT INDYCAR SERIES race under my belt. It was a long race, definitely one of harder ones I have done in my career I will say! With this being the first race of the season, I think it’s known as being one of the hardest for everyone. I hung in there, it was tough with the clutch issues but we just tried to do the best we could. We went a lap down but tried to maximize it, I worked hard to be the first car one lap down. Obviously not where we want to be, but considering the issues we worked through, it’s an okay result!”

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

“I am pretty happy with today’s race, but it is a bit unfortunate to finish lower than where to started! We fought hard out there, and I think I drove a smart race. I am pretty happy with everything, with my car and the performance. Unfortunately, we couldn’t really hang on with the green Firestone Firehawks and had quite a bit of drop off at the end. We have some work to do, but we got a top-10 to start the season! It was tough to get top-10s last year and now we’ve started 2024 with one! A good start to the year, I am proud of my guys. Ready to go win a million dollars at The Thermal Club in a few weeks!”

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

“Obviously a fantastic race day for us. You know, this event was a little bit more of a qualifying race than it was anything else and starting 14th, we avoided some good carnage early, and moved up a couple of positions. First stop, there was a little bit of a hiccup, lost a couple there, but we made them back. And we just kind of did our own thing. We were in a big fuel save like everybody else. You know, we made it work. We stayed clean. We didn’t touch another car. We didn’t touch the walls all day. And we had a really clean green flag stop. Had a solid restart and we picked up a couple more positions. It was solid way to start the season with the Sexton Properties Chevrolet!”

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

“It was a tough day today. The start was not great, but once we settled in, I think that we had better pace than the guys in front of us. And on the first pitstop we made up a couple of spots, which was really good by the crew. We went on a different strategy from the guys in front of us so I think that we were just going to keep moving forward. After the restart, we gained a position, but then we had a brake failure. It’s something I think we’ve been struggling with through the year so far, just getting the brakes too hot. So it’s something to look at. I think that’ll be a little project that we get to do before the next race but for the most part, I think that we’re still heads up. We have a good car and I think that Santino’s performance today showed that we’re capable of doing a lot better than what we did and we’re looking forward to the next one with the Chevrolet.”

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

“First race of the season done. I think there’s a lot of positives from the weekend. Our race pace was really strong, so I’m excited about it. We had to retire the car for a mechanical issue, but really good job from all the team, Chevy, everyone, and I’m excited for the future.”

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

“We finished in St. Pete P18. We were battling for top-14, top-15, but unfortunately I made a mistake trying to overtake. I went wide a little bit, and I lost four or five positions. It’s part of the racing, but the good thing is we were competitive. We were on a good pace. We need to continue our improvement with pit stops, the fuel numbers, everything with the team. We’re still new, still growing, but I’m happy with our pace this weekend. It’s a good way to start, we’ll take some points, and focus on the next.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO 2 PPG TEAM PENSKE – Winner Press Conference Transcript:

THE MODERATOR: Joined by Josef Newgarden, now a three-time winner here on the streets of St. Petersburg who led 92 of the 100 laps driving the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, giving Roger Penske, Team Penske, their 12th win here on the streets of St. Pete; 30th career win, as mentioned, third here. 30 by the way, you break a tie with the great Rick Mears, the longtime Penske legend for 13th place all time, 53rd career podium for Josef now. You’ve made it look easy but I know it wasn’t.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It never is. It did feel — I don’t want to say it felt easy. It felt comfortable today. Really, really comfortable. I had a lot of fun.

I sort of told myself before going into the race, I sort of want to let it be, not overstep, and then early on in the race, I’m like, I’m going. I’m not here to wait around. We’re going to win this race.

Just really thankful to the team for the effort they’ve put in all year. I should say the entire off-season to get to this point. It’s been a big process for us to try and come back and be better in areas that we were weak last year, and I touched on it earlier in the weekend, but Chevrolet has done a tremendous job for us. They’re a huge part of the equation.

They’re a big lift for us coming into this weekend, and I think on the team side, we’ve also lifted our game and cleaned up a lot of areas where we were maybe not at the level we needed to be.

It all just came together today. Great start of the year. Obviously we had strength because looking at my teammates, we’re sitting first, third and fourth. I think that’s really encouraging for the rest of the season. It doesn’t tell the whole picture, but I think it’s encouraging.

Q. There was a lot of talk today of how you turned off social media and you’ve been prepping really hard for this year. I know it’s the first race of the year, but do you consider this a championship or season or a busted season if you don’t win the championship?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I’ve had to let go of that mentality. I think it’s too — there’s no sustainability in my perfection. I’m definitely a perfectionist. I’m an introvert, but I get hyper fixated on just trying to maximize everything.

I think my mentality was in a lot of ways win or nothing all the way throughout my career. That’s just — even today it was creeping in. I’m like, we’re winning this race today or we’re not winning it. I was going to go for it or nothing. It is my mentality.

But from a bigger picture standpoint, I just don’t think that’s sustainable. I’m not going away from my passion and my desire, but I’m trying to recenter my enjoyment in what I do.

I enjoy working with a race team so much. It’s more than just driving the car really well on any given day. I mean, it is an entire process, stepping into a group with many different people coming together and trying to figure out a problem. That problem is different every single weekend, and it’s just so much fun to go through that with a team.

We did that this weekend. It was a little different than what it was last year, and we found new solutions and we executed in the moment and made it happen on race day. I’m getting back to the basics of loving that.

I really felt that today. I enjoyed driving. I really had a good time, and it all worked out, too, so that makes it a little bit more enjoyable.

I think the centerment is where it needs to be.

Q. Following up on that, I didn’t hear the pre-race interview, but I heard you said something to the effect of I’m enjoying my job once again. Last year did this feel like work? Did you hate this job for the first time in your life? Have you ever felt that way before last year?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, I don’t want to dive into it too aggressively, but yeah, it did start becoming a job. This is how I make my living, and it’s how I provide for my family, and I’m showing up — it’s not a grueling job. Anyone would be lucky to be in the position that I’m in.

But if you’re fortunate enough to be here and do this, you should enjoy it. It’s a very difficult job at the end of the day, too, because it’s purely results based. It’s hard to be in this type of job or position and know that you’re either here or not here based on your results. You’re either winning or you don’t have your seat. That’s literally how it works. It’s kind of hard to find that enjoyment factor.

I’d always had it. I’d learned how to thrive in the pressure and still enjoy the job, and I think it just slipped away at one point. I was buried with a lot of other things, and I just tried to simplify my life and get back to happiness, and I think I’ve done that in a lot of ways. I feel really happy. I feel motivated.

I’m enjoying showing up and seeing everybody with smiling faces, and let’s do our best. I hope we can win today, I think we can, and if we don’t, that’s all right, we’ll figure it out the next time. I’m kind of getting back to that point.

Q. When Roger interrupted you, you told him you had been thinking of him at the end of the race and keeping it together like Roger had told you, and he said if you had a big lead you’d better hold it and not throw it into the wall. Had he said that to you before or was that just in jest?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: We joke. It’s great to have these little intimate moments with RP. Look, you just can’t find anybody more sincere and passionate and competitive than Roger.

Of course, he wants us to just go out there and crush it and be out front and leading and doing it in the right way, and when you’re doing a great job, he wants you to not throw it away, and that seems reasonable. He’s paying us to do that.

But yeah, he brought that up this weekend. I think there was another moment he was referencing that we were talking about, and we had joked back, we were like, look, you get us in the lead and we’ve got a big lead, we’ll hold on to it, we’ll do our job for you.

I was thinking about that the entire last stint, I’ve got a nice lead and I was still pushing, he could be really stupid and throw this thing in the wall and I could only imagine the look on Roger’s face if I did that. It was just a funny moment the last 10 laps in the car.

Q. The few laps that you effectively lost the lead in the race, were you 100 percent confident that you could retake the lead? Did you know it was a matter of time to get that back?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: No, definitely not. But that’s kind of what I was talking about earlier. I went into the race comfortable with the fact that let’s just have a good day. If we don’t win, that’s not the end all, be all. Let’s just get good points.

As soon as we restarted, I’m like, I’m going past these guys. I don’t care if I wreck it. I’m just going to the front.

I felt that today. So it was fun to have the killer mentality. I think you’ve got to have that in a lot of ways in any race that you’re in. It’s hard to survive without it.

But no, I had no idea that we were just going to be able to get back out front and win.

But what was really obvious to me was that we had a strong car. Just all day, it made my job so much easier. It was really easy to drive today as far as the pace out of the car and getting consistency.

I felt comfortable all day long, and it makes a big difference when you have a car like that.

Q. If I remember right, I feel like you’ve said that line of I’ve got to get back to loving this before, so that would insinuate that you’ve fallen in and out of love with the sport multiple times. What do you feel like is different about this time and the process that you’ve gone through this off-season and the mental state that you’re in starting the year?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, it’s always a combination of a lot of things, but I think just simply put, it’s just nice to — it’s just nice to feel positive.

I’m just really encouraged about everything going on in life, and I’m not overloaded. I think I overloaded myself in the past, and that comes from my desire to just excel. I want to exceed at everything that I do and excel at it.

Sometimes I’ve just got to pare it back and say, look, you just can’t do everything. I’m not saying that I was doing a great job at everything, but I think I was trying to, and I’ve had to tell myself, it’s all right, it’s not going to be perfect. You’ve got to remove that expectation.

Simply put, I just wanted to be happier again being at the track and enjoying the job and the process, and I do. I’ve let go of some of the perfectionism. It’s in there. It’s never going to fully go away. I just want to be the best you can be every single year.

I look at 17 races and I go, how do we win 17 races. You lose one race and you already are you’re mourning the one race you lost. You just can’t live on that hill for that long. It gets you a little bit lonely.

So I’m enjoying it more, simply put. There’s not much more behind it than that.

Q. Your teammates finished third and fourth for three Penske drivers in the top four today. I know with as fierce as your desire is to win this championship, I imagine — and I think you’ve told us that it was a little tough when Will goes and wins a championship in ’22 and Scott leads the team in 2023, finishing third. What is that teammate chemistry like in Team Penske with all three of you guys performing so well and also wanting fiercely to finish on top of each other?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it’s good. We obviously have strong cars across the board. We’re all capable of producing. That’s how I would want it. I would want the best teammates that I can possibly have. I don’t want people that are running a — a B team and a C team next to me. I want three A teams so that you can lean on the best.

Last year almost didn’t bug me at all just because it was so disastrous to end the year that it almost became comical by the time we got done with Laguna. There wasn’t much you could read into it. It was like, what am I going to do here. We just had like calamity after calamity, and it wasn’t really anybody’s fault. We got wiped out on two of the four final races.

That stuff doesn’t bug me. It’s more — I guess I’m speaking to the teammate side. That stuff doesn’t bug me. It’s more the internal stuff that bugs me. When we don’t reach our potential as a group, specifically on the 2 car side, that’s what bugs me the most. It’s just an internal thing. It’s never really an external thing that I’m looking at. I’m glad I have really good teammates next to me. I want that. I want the best of the best.

Their success, which is great for the team, if that happens and it’s at the detriment of us, I’m never mad about that. I’m more so internally mad that we didn’t reach our potential, and that’s typically what is coming out for me when you see that.

Q. I know Roger has this firm line between Team Penske and Penske Entertainment, but he sits at the middle of both of those, and this has been a tough weekend for Penske Entertainment and Roger in particular. Did it mean anything more to be able to deliver a win for him and Team Penske today?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I think they’re very separate in a lot of respects. I think from a team standpoint, we’re related. This was a great weekend. Roger is still a racer. We work hard every year to perform the best we can.

He wants to win every race, too. Of course he does. That’s why we show up every weekend. There’s nothing changing there. I think we’re super proud and happy from that standpoint.

When it comes to the series, I would let Roger, the executives, touch on that more than me, but with Penske Entertainment, I’ve seen a ton of negative noise, and I get it. Everyone wants to jump on anything. But everything I experienced this weekend was pretty incredible.

I know it’s subjective, but I’m trying to be sort of fair about this. The crowd was amazing. I’ve seen more people here that I’ve never seen at an INDYCAR races. I saw more specific current INDYCAR team jerseys. I saw more kids. I saw people referencing in TV shows. I saw people that were just fans of all sorts of drivers or all sorts of manufacturers.

It looked really good to me. I don’t know what it looked like for everybody else, but from my seat it looked amazing. I feel the momentum, I feel the growth, and I know there’s a lot more coming throughout this year, and I know the product is always going to speak for itself.

I don’t know how you can beat the INDYCAR racing product. It’s just the best on the planet. As long as we don’t mess that up in some way, we keep adding these other layers, we just can’t take — we all want to take 100 steps forward right now, and it’s really difficult to do that, and I think you’ve got to give these guys a little bit of room to continue to learn and build and move forward, and I think they’re doing that.

They’re smart enough to not make a mistake twice. Of course they’re going to make mistakes, but I don’t think you’re going to see them repeat it. They will find a good formula, and I believe they’re doing that. Let’s keep going on this year and enjoy the positive energy that’s happening because I felt it all weekend.

I’m pretty excited for this entire year after experiencing it.

Q. You were on the pole, and you chose to start on blacks. Can you explain the reason for it? Also, so many on blacks for the start today. What was the reason do you think for that?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, it was not an easy decision. I think it could have gone either way. Certainly at the end of the race, I wish I would have had new reds still. I think it ended up being the preferred tire as you built into the race.

But we didn’t know that 100 percent. We were sort of guessing in a lot of ways coming out of warmup. It’s cooler conditions, and you’ve only got one run on a set of tires and you’re sort of guesstimating what you think the dropoff and grip level is going to be.

We felt like the primary was a safer choice to start with, and we didn’t want to bank on using the red necessarily at the end. I think it was conservative to use it in the middle.

It ended up working out for us. We had enough position at the end that we weren’t under threat, but if Scott was closer or one of these other cars at the end on green tires, we could have lost the race because of that because I think it was the preferred tire in the second and third stint.

Now that we know that, we’re going to probably utilize that a little bit differently going forward. I know everybody is going to learn from it.

Q. Josef, we had a lot of fuel saving going on today throughout the race. Wasn’t always the diciest of events. Usually when we have a ton of fuel saving we don’t have a winner just run off and hide at the end. Can you talk about that, and if you did decide it’s go time to tear away from Pato, or was the car just that good and it happened naturally?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think the most enjoyable part about that last 20 laps was I never turned up. I was like, we’re hitting a number and the number is probably getting easier.

We just never adjusted it. It was like, let’s just go. By go, I mean we’re just going to keep the same program.

That was really encouraging. That’s what I spoke about earlier. My car was just so — it seemed simple today to drive it fast. It’s not always like that. Sometimes you can be really fast but you’re working overtime to produce the speed.

I wasn’t working overtime today. I was working hard but just kind of standard hard. It was just really enjoyable to be able to feel that way. I just felt in control of things in a lot of respects.

It’s not easy. There was definitely touch — at the end I think it was touch and go with the greens because they were the preferred tire for sure, but we just had enough positioning on the field that I feel like we were in a good spot and we could close it.

Q. Been talking a lot about Chevrolet, rightfully so, just Molly whopped everybody today. You’ve come here for many season openers, and we always have that question at round one. Is it going to be a Chevy year, a Honda year, who’s going to show what. Based on what you felt in past seasons, tell me about Chevy’s gains, what you felt behind the steering wheel.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think we had some deficits last year. There’s no doubt. You can’t hide from that.

But we also had some tremendous strengths. We leaned on a huge win at the Indy 500, we were very strong on ovals. I think you’re seeing a good ebb and flow between the manufacturers, which you want to see, I think, as a competitor and as a fan.

For us, we would love to have it easy, but we want a strong competition between the manufacturers, and I think you had that last year. Maybe we were a little bit weak in some parts that we needed to bring up, and I think today, as I assess the race and as I assess the weekend, I think you see a lot of parity.

You look at what more — I would say there was more parity than last year here. I think Honda looked pretty strong at this event for the opener. I think this weekend we looked even in a lot of respects, but we certainly have strength on our side that we can lean on now.

That’s great. That’s only going to be good for the year. Every track is going to be a little bit different. We’ve got to see. This is one example right now, one data point. Let’s keep going a couple more rounds.

I’ve got to say, Chevrolet, they work hard every off-season. They worked really hard this off-season. We were hard on ourselves. It’s not just them. We had to really improve our side and the chassis, and we were hard on them, too. We said, we’ve got to make all of these things better, and they delivered in spades.

You rarely give someone — you ask for the menu, and you don’t get the whole menu, and they somehow I feel like gave us the whole menu. It’s pretty cool. They did a great job, and it makes me very encouraged for 2024.

Q. If I figure it out correctly, mathematically you were more than 90 percent leading the race —

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: 92 out of 100. That checks to me, too. I agree with that. Just quick math, but it sounds right.

Q. I figured out more than 90 percent. Nevertheless, before you come to a race circuit like here and also to Long Beach, I would say as a non-technician the unknown factor or the unknown point is the traffic situation. Can you simulate or can your team simulate the behavior of your car in traffic before you arrive at a street circuit like here and Long Beach and know what the car will behave like in traffic?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It’s a good question. I mean, we don’t simulate that a lot. I guess what we’re simulating and probably the positive about an INDYCAR is it’s not super affected by traffic.

Of course you’re losing a bit of downforce, you’re losing a balance. The balance is shifting more rearward when you’re behind a car. But it’s minimal compared to other race cars.

We work on just the overall balance of our car, and then we sort of have a rough idea of how much that’s going to shift within traffic. But we don’t practice it a ton. We’re just kind of practicing with single car running and accounting for what we think we’re going to lose in traffic.

But again, the great thing about INDYCAR racing is you’re not really affected too dramatically. You can race people straight up and not lose a ton of grip. I think that’s the good thing about this place.

The great thing also today is I didn’t have a lot of traffic. The way the yellows fell I never sort of ran into the back of the field, which was sorta easy for me to manage.

Q. (No microphone.)

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, and we do. I think the tire was the bigger difference than anything, so you can’t rely on just last year’s data. We had to look at more historical stuff.

But I think a lot of today was a mystery because of how different the tire was. It was a new challenge for everybody that we’re all kind of figuring out to start the year.


THE MODERATOR: Celebrating 20 years here for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, wrapping up with today’s podium finishers, Josef Newgarden continues to celebrate in Victory Lane. He’ll join us momentarily. Pato O’Ward is also on his way.

Joined now by the third-place finishing driver Scott McLaughlin, driver of the No. 3 Dex Imaging Penske Chevrolet, 13th career podium, bouncing back from a 13th last year to come home third here this afternoon. Your thoughts on a hot day out there, not a lot of caution flags, very difficult to get caught up, but obviously a very nice afternoon for Team Penske and Chevrolet, as well.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, really stoked. For us to start ninth and move our way through to third, for us, it’s a win in some ways. I tried to get Pato there, but I had Will sort of breathing down my neck, and it was sort of a championship game in some ways thinking of the points in some ways. You just take what you can get. It’s so tight this year in INDYCAR, so you just need to get what you can and get out of here.

Really proud of the Dex Imaging Chevy, particularly Team Chevy. They’ve come with some goods this year and really worked with us over the off-season to be strong and to get four in the top 5 is huge, and yeah, pumped.

THE MODERATOR: Think about the restart, I believe it was lap 72, you restarted fourth got around Herta to get to the podium position. Tell me about that pass a little bit.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, I felt really strong into Turn 10 all day and I knew I had green tires so I had to make them work. Wish I could have got past him on the first lap. I got past him on the second restart lap and maybe then I could have attacked Pato a little bit better when the tires were a little bit fresher.

But yeah, Colton made it hard, but that’s part of it, and just sort of threw the Dr. Divebomb cap on and just threw it in there. Yeah, it worked out good, and I was more pumped with my start. I think I made it four wide and got through it, so that was a blast.

Honestly, I had so much fun out there today. It was just proper racing, thinking on your feet with fuel strategy and where you put the car and how aggressive you were, and that’s what INDYCAR is all about. There’s no prediction, it’s just a wild card, and I enjoy it.

THE MODERATOR: Joined by Pato O’Ward who comes home second, driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, 21st career podium in your young NTT INDYCAR Series career. Your thoughts on the day?

PATO O’WARD: Yeah, really strong day for us today. I think it’s a very solid foundation to what is going to be a very tight, very competitive rest of the year. I think the Penskes were just too strong for us today. I think we were all kind of playing the fuel game a little bit, and got to give it to everybody at Chevrolet, my guys over at Arrow McLaren.

We got down to work in the off-season and we’ve made some gains and really cool to see the top 4 was all Chevrolet. I’m pretty pleased to see that.

Q. Scott, I don’t know how insulated you are from this, but Roger and Penske leadership have taken a beating this weekend from some other team owners. How important do you think it was for Penske to come out with one, three, four and show your dominance on the track?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Look, I think for Roger, Team Penske and the Penske Entertainment thing I think is very separate, and for him, he’s got to put those hats on and see the good of the sport.

I think everyone from Ron Ruzewski and all those people are really proud of how we ran today. It was a lot of hard work.

But look, I was trying very hard to get Pato there to make it a one-two for Penske. There’s a lot of people that come here from our leadership and our sponsors and whatnot, and you just want to do the best job you can for them.

Look, that’s part of owning the series. You’re go going to cop left, right and center, people upset with your adjustments or what you want for the series. You’re never going to have it all fine and dandy.

I think obviously Roger — I try and stay out of it and just drive the car. The more I keep coming in the podium and whatnot, it’s good job security for me, and that’s all I’m worried about.

Q. Pato, you got off to a similar start last year, you were in this race and it started off a streak of nice finishes for you. How do you tail off from here and not have a repeat of last year?

PATO O’WARD: Well, stay cool, I guess. That usually works out. It’s tough. It really is tough.

As we saw today, mistakes will — you’re going to have to pay some if you’re going to be making mistakes, and that’s what you don’t want to be doing.

With the hybrid coming in halfway through the season, you’ve got to be on it. There’s no room for error because you need to leave those Joker cards for mishaps that could happen when you introduce something new.

I think there’s no room for error anymore because the guys that you’re competing against are also winning races, and when they’re not winning races, they’re on the podium. This is where we have to be, and this is where we have to maintain ourselves.

I think we just keep approaching it like we have and be aware of who we’re racing and what we can accomplish each and every weekend.

Q. Scotty, I don’t know how aware you guys were of this internally, but Roger now has won IMSA opener, WEC opener, INDYCAR opener. He didn’t get Daytona, but to maintain that streak, is that pretty cool for you guys?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, it’s — I didn’t even know that. Well, I did know that, but that’s nice, reminded of that, except I didn’t do it today.

Look, as a team, stoked.

I just think we’ve put a lot of work hard this season. I think me, Will and Josef, it’s just a good team. We get along really well. It’s just a great business relationship, and I feel like it just really pushes the team forward in all facets. I’m really enjoying that.

Yeah, we’ve just got to keep winning. Captain loves winning. He’s not going to get over it, so we’ll just keep doing it.

Q. When Josef was in here yesterday he was telling us that Chevrolet took all these meetings during the off-season and he made and Penske made a ton of asks and Chevrolet answered all of them. Can you give your perspective on that for McLaren? Did Chevrolet go above and beyond to put you guys in position to take the four top?

PATO O’WARD: Absolutely. We all met at the MTC in London. It was like 25, 20 of us at a massive table, and we just hammered down on everything that we wanted to see improvements on, everything that we thought that we did well, and just having an honest, open conversation of what’s going on because it just — whenever you’re at the end of basically life of an engine like this, a lot of the massive gains have been gained.

When you gain little bits and pieces here and there, they’re usually pretty substantial. I was super, super happy to see just how receptive they were of it and how they were just — yeah, we’re going to get to work, and they brought us a very strong package, and super happy with that.

It was Chevrolet and McLaren, so it was me, Rossi, David was in the meeting but he was still in America. But Rossi and I were in person.

Q. A lot of the off-season has been spent with a lot of talk about a lot of things that went wrong for INDYCAR. Is today an example of everything that INDYCAR does right because it was a big crowd, the racing was clean, it was fast, it was the real pros out there racing. How important was it to get this type of race to silence some of the stuff that’s been talked about all season?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Look, I think any press is good press, but you’ve just got to — unfortunately you’ve just got to cop the good with the bad, like everything. But yeah, I’ve made a prediction pretty heavily. I’m a pretty big supporter of INDYCAR on my Twitter account, but we have the greatest series in the world, and I’ll stand by that.

PATO O’WARD: I mean, just look at the amount of people that showed up today, yesterday, Friday. People want to be here. People want to see INDYCARs go racing. Like I really don’t know what more we can ask for from the fans. I think it’s time to turbo charge it and just really make it what its potential is because it’s so big. This series is so freaking hard. Like it’s a big deal when you win an INDYCAR race.

I think every single race should really be a big deal.

Q. Also some drivers had some issues with marbles out there. Did you guys experience any slipperiness?

PATO O’WARD: I tried staying right behind the car in front. I didn’t want to experiment.


Q. Obviously Chevrolet did bring you great gains this weekend. From both of your perspectives, what was your favorite part of it? Was it fuel save number, drivability, top end power? What’s your favorite gain?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: All of it. It’s been a big chance for us to rethink the process and how everything goes about, and it was going to take time. Unfortunately we couldn’t do it last year, but from this time last year to the end of the season we made a gain. Still wasn’t enough. They went to work over the off-season, like Pato, they had a similar meeting with us, and we’ve got to appreciate that.

Yeah, they’ve come back with a whole range of things that have helped us today and certainly helped us today in the type of race that we ran.

PATO O’WARD: Yeah, all of it. Give me all of it.

Q. Did anybody have anything to beat Josef today?

PATO O’WARD: I think his teammates did, but I think he was lucky that I was holding them up.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I think if we started a little bit further up the front. We had an unfortunate circumstance yesterday in qualifying that sort of held us from making the Fast Six, but that’s just how it is. It was so tight.

It’s unfortunate, but it’s the first race of the season. It swings around with us.

Q. When did you decide to use the green tires at the end of the race instead of the middle of the race?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: We started on the front row seven times last year and started with the green tires seven times, and we didn’t win a race. We were going to run blacks as long as we can and see what happens at the end, and thankfully a yellow fell our way, we restarted with those new greens.

I think we were maybe thinking just depending on how the race was going maybe running it in the second stint, but it was just where the yellows fell and stuff, the blacks worked out good, felt the primaries, and we focused on what we needed to do and we put the greens on at the end, which when the yellow came, I was very excited.

Q. Turn 10 was a bit more trouble than I think recent years. Was it the track, the tire, something in the brakes? Some people were having trouble locking rears randomly?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I think today was hard because the wind did a complete 180. Yeah, 180.

We had a headwind. I don’t know what you think, but we had a headwind all run, basically kind of a headwind, and then we had a full-off tailwind today. I think that’s what made it probably more treacherous than anything.

PATO O’WARD: The wind.

Q. Scott, I know you prided yourself a lot in being able to finish as the top Team Penske driver last year, finishing third in the championship. You mentioned that the relationship between you and Josef and Will continues to be really strong, having three guys in the top 4 today. As that battle intensifies in that team, how do you guys just continue to maintain that closeness and make sure you guys are performing as well as you can on and off the track?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: It’s no different. I think it’s been intensified for the last three years. When Will was winning the championship, we were still fighting to get to the end. We all had a shot at winning it.

We’ve worked really well, and I think the engineers and management do a really good job at making that work, and I think we’re all at different kind of parts of our careers in some ways. I’m relatively new to INDYCAR, not so much, but Josef is obviously a veteran, and then Will is seeing the sort of end of his career in some ways. He’s still got a number of years left, but he’s been around a long time.

We just gel. There’s no angst, there’s no nothing. It’s just pure business. It’s the only way we’re going to get through to the front because it’s so tight here.

Q. Was it very hot out in the car today or did you cope with it well?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I think the fuel saving helped a lot. Probably less of an intensity in some ways. But I think we both work pretty hard on our fitness and feel really good.

Q. Looking after today and how the racing stuff played itself out and the performance from Chevy, does this give both of you as Chevy drivers a reasonable amount of confidence heading towards, say, Long Beach, which is the next type of circus that you’ll hit that’s similar to St. Pete?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, I think just every track from here on in, it’s just nice to feel the gain and see the gain. Things can change in terms of just performance and where we put everything. Some tracks work for Honda, sometimes some tracks work for Chevy, and Long Beach was probably one last year where the Honda was quite strong. But hopefully if we see a gain there, that’s going to bode well for the rest of the year.

Q. How good does it feel to kick the series off again and know you’re back into it after what seems like a forever break during the off-season?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, awesome, man. It’s so good INDYCAR is back, the amount of people that were there the last three days. This is such a cool place to kick it off, as well. Hopefully the race looked good on TV and we put on a good show.