Josef Newgarden achieved his best qualifying performance at St. Petersburg on Saturday, and the highly rated American will start on the outside of row two.
In his first appearance with Team Penske following his off-season move from Ed Carpenter Racing, Newgarden made it through to the Firestone Fast Six, and although he could not match the pace of team-mate Will Power at the very front of the grid, he was happy with the outcome of qualifying.
“Fourth place, it’s the best that I’ve started around St. Pete here, so I think our guys did a great job,” said Newgarden. “I feel like I didn’t maximize that final Firestone Fast Six as much as I could have, but I also don’t think I would have gotten Will (Power).
“I think Will put a really good lap together. He did an awesome job. We’ve had good cars. I think our race cars off the truck have actually been pretty good, and we haven’t had to do much. We’ve been able to stay inside of our window for the most part this weekend.”
Juan Pablo Montoya has taken victory in the #2 Team Penske machine in the past two years, but Newgarden now sits in the car, and he admits that there is a little bit more pressure on his shoulders in order to get the job done.
“I have been told numerous times that this car has been victorious twice in the last two years here,” said Newgarden. “So no pressure, right? Hopefully go get it done. But I think we have a good start.
“I’m excited. You know, the next thing for us now and certainly for me is to learn the race car, how it’s going to perform over a tyre stint. We haven’t done much of that, at least I haven’t, with the team here at Team Penske, so I’m excited to figure out that portion.
“As you said, they’ve had luck with this car in the past, so hopefully it’s going to be a strong race car, and I think we can do a good job with the Verizon No. 2 car this weekend, and hopefully we can seal it up for tomorrow.”