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New-Winner Newgarden Not Changing His Approach

Ed Carpenter glanced at CFH Racing teammate Josef Newgarden, who was sporting a gregarious grin and anticipating an answer that would qualify as tough-love needling.

How much had Newgarden changed after winning the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama two weeks ago for his first career Verizon IndyCar Series victory?

“He doesn’t seem to have changed,” Carpenter said, with a long pause, then the finishing addendum, “as of yet.”

Newgarden rolled his eyes and laughed. 

“Ed does like to say ‘yet,’” said the 24-year-old driver from Hendersonville, Tennessee. “It is funny to me. That’s Ed being sly. Ed is a very sly character. Ed likes to keep me in check, which is good.”

Newgarden doesn’t think one win has changed his racing approach. It took 56 races to get to this point. He won’t soon forget what was required to finally achieve victory.

“I’m just the same kid,” he said Friday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “That’s kind of silly to me. I’m just lucky to be doing this. Every weekend, you’ve got to prove yourself. That’s why the Barber thing is over for me.”

It helps to have Ed in his head as a voice of experience. Carpenter doesn’t do road courses, so the team co-owner helps on the technical side. A three-time winner in 145 series races, the 34-year-old Carpenter grew up in Indianapolis and is a Butler University graduate. He won the pole for the last two Indy 500s.

“Ed’s been in this sport a lot longer than me,” Newgarden said, “so I guess he knows the profession of people.”

Carpenter’s merger with former series fan favorite Sarah (Fisher) O’Gara and Willis E. Hartman brought Newgarden and him together. J.R. Hildebrand and 29-year-old Italian Luca Filippi will join Newgarden as CFH Racing entries in Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Filippi qualified ninth, Newgarden will start 12th and Hildebrand 15th for the 82-lap race on the 2.439-mile IMS road course.

“I’m not really thinking about stringing anything together,” Newgarden said when asked about possibly winning two races in a row. “When we’re good, we’re good. When we can capitalize on getting victories, that’s what we’re going to do. At Barber (Alabama), we had a good car and we did a great job as a team to capitalize and get a win. Whenever we can do that again, we’ll do it.”

Given his starting point on the outside of Row 4, with Penske and Ganassi cars claiming the top six spots, Newgarden knows this race will be a challenge. 

“We need a little more work here on the GP track,” he said. “We’re not as sorted as I thought we would be. We’re a little farther back.”

But what if he could win the next race?

“To win back-to-back races would solidify just how good the kid is and the fact that he’s going to be here for years to come,” said CFH Racing team manager/co-owner Andy O’Gara. “To do it in Indianapolis would make it ever so special. Everyone wants to win here, no matter what race you’re running.”

Newgarden’s win should translate to a measure of respect from competitors, not that he  concerns himself much with what other drivers think of him.

“Everyone has a got a different level of respect,” he said. “Whether you deserve respect or not, some people don’t get it and some people do, from what you’d call the hierarchy of drivers. Whether that matters or not is kind of irrelevant. I think it’s good if the other guys respect you as far as your talent and what you’re able to do.

“Even if you don’t win, people know if you’re capable of winning or you’re not. The good drivers know where it’s at. By that, they know who’s good, they know who’s not good, they know who’s capable of winning, they know who can’t win.”

No doubt Newgarden can win. He’s coming off his best race — yet.

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