Potential New Rivalry Brewing Between Newgarden, Pagenaud

IndyCar could have a new rivalry in the paddock between former teammates Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske

There just might be a new rivalry brewing in IndyCar this season, and this one doesn't involve Romain Grosjean. It is actually a pair of former teammates that now find themselves trading subtle jabs at one another through the media. Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud were teammates at Team Penske for five seasons before The Captain decided to trim his stable from four cars down to two. That meant a new home for Pagenaud, which he found at Meyer Shank Racing.

Both drivers were competing in the Rolex 24 last weekend at Daytona. Pagenaud earned his second consecutive overall victory, as one of the drivers with Shank's IMSA team. Things didn't go so well for Newgarden, as their car suffered electrical issues on the opening lap of the 24-hour endurance race, and essentially started 11 laps down.

There was a moment in the race where Pagenaud passed Newgarden’s Tower Motorsports LMP2 car on the track. Though Josef was not driving at the time, Simon and made light of the situation later during the race broadcast.

"I saw the Tower car and thought, ‘Oh, that must be Newgarden,’" Pagenaud said with a smile. "Please tell him I said that when you see him. I know I passed him earlier on the banking, and that felt really nice. My spotter said, ‘That was Newgarden,’ and I said, ‘Wooo! That felt nice!’ I’m hoping to do a lot more of that on the IndyCar side."

Newgarden didn't take kindly to that, and quickly snapped back. “He doesn’t get many opportunities to pass me these days. I’m sure he enjoyed that.”

Pagenaud touched on that whole situation this week. "I just love to press the buttons with Josef. I'm being very open about it and I think he knows it, too. It’s funny to see him unsettled a bit. I like when he gets aggressive. I don’t know why, but it’s funny. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy. Do I love the driver? Not always, but I enjoy pressing the button with him because he seems like such a confident person."

The incident at Gateway in 2017 when Newgarden moved his then teammate may have been the moment when things began to go south in their relationship. The pair had another encounter during the 2021 season, which was Simon’s last year at Penske. When battling with a teammate that has the same equipment and resources, tensions can rise even more.

In terms of on-track success, both drivers have had plenty. Newgarden has more IndyCar wins (25 to 15) and his two championships are one more than what Simon has, but Pagenaud has the distinction of being an Indianapolis 500 winner, something that Newgarden has failed to obtain in his 11 career starts. Simon also has two overall Rolex 24 victories to his name.

Potential New Rivalry Brewing Between Newgarden, Pagenaud

Pagenaud may also be upset at the fact that he finished in 2nd place in the standings the two years (2017, 2019) that Newgarden won the championship. When comparing himself to him though, Pagenaud simply said "I like my resume better than his."

Last season was frustrating for both drivers, but for different reasons. Newgarden won a series-high five races but came up short in the championship because of his poor finishes and lack of consistency. Pagenaud had a miserable first season at MSR, earning just one top-five finish and finished the entire season without leading a single lap. He vows to have a rebound this year, in his second stint with the team.

In his second full-time season, Simon won his first two races and finished third in the championship. In his second season with Penske, he won five races and the championship. He hopes to keep that trend going in 2023 in his second year with MSR, and he certainly wouldn't mind going through Newgarden to do it.

Read More