Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

IndyCar Has New Hopes for 2018; by Jenna Fryer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

IndyCar Has New Hopes for 2018; by Jenna Fryer

Article excerpt

Byline: The Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG - IndyCar heads into the season with a new American champion, a new car and hopes for a momentum-building year.

Josef Newgarden arrives for the season-opening race this weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg as the reigning champion. He won the title in his first season with Team Penske, a breakout year in which the 27-year-old won a career-best four races.

Penske drivers won 10 of 17 races last year and all four of its drivers finished in the top five of the final standings.

"Any driver that gets an opportunity like the one I got with Team Penske will tell you they expect to win right away," Newgarden said. "I certainly did as well, but I think we were all surprised at how quickly we gelled together and made it happen. But that is last year. The drive for the 2018 championship starts at St. Pete, and it's a track where I've never won before. That is our only thought this weekend going to victory lane."

Newgarden and the entire field will be in a redesigned and universal Dallara chassis.

The 2018 car was overhauled and completed with input from drivers and teams, who objected to the many pieces on the previous aerokits that created debris fields during crashes. Drivers wanted reduced downforce

and got their wish. They also wanted faster tire degradation and what ultimately was developed could force drivers to change their racing style.

The car has a sleek and clean look, and IndyCar is hopeful tweaks have made it safer for drivers and cheaper for teams to field.

It also could help the small teams close the gap on Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport, winner of three of the last four Indianapolis 500s.

"I do think it will equalize things," said Graham Rahal, who this year at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is joined by 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato. …

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