Josef Newgarden’s visit to the Penske mother ship — Penske Corporation headquarters in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan — on Tuesday brought back a flood of memories to one year ago this month when he signed on with Team Penske’s IndyCar team to replace Juan Pablo Montoya.
Of course, returning as the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion made the visit a little less unnerving.
“I feel more at home now, for sure,” Newgarden said. “When I first started out, you kind of feel like you don’t belong necessarily. I didn’t know that I belonged here or deserved to be here.
“I think you feel more validated when you have a year like we had. I’m just really proud to be a small part of this organization. You look at Penske overall and there’s thousands of employees across the world, and just to be a small part of that is a big deal.
Newgarden, 26, won his first IndyCar championship at Sonoma, California, on Sept. 17. In the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Newgarden finished second to teammate and defending series champion Simon Pagenaud to earn more than enough points for the title, becoming the first American champion in the series since Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012.
Next season, Newgarden will again fit in with Team Penske, but this time as one of three series champions on the roster, along with Pagenaud and Will Power.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” Newgarden said. “It’s kind of like my first day on the team when I was overwhelmed by the race shop. You kind of feel the same way here at Penske Corp. It’s just a lot. There’s a lot going on with Team Penske and Penske in general. I’m still trying to get my arms around everything. It’s been a blast. I’m busy all the time, which is good, and we’re having some success, which is good, too.
“I certainly dreamed — I hoped — that I’d come in, win a lot of races and that we could win the championship. I don’t think I believed that was going to happen. It’s been a pleasant surprise.”
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