Nature of Laguna Seca already evolving, says Newgarden

Josef Newgarden says that the track surface at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca has already degraded notably since its resurface in 2023, becoming more demanding on tires and trickier to handle.

In its jet black state for the NTT IndyCar Series finale last September, the track offered a lot of lateral grip, and that grip was evenly spread across the width. Now, after less than a year, this busy track has been thoroughly worn in, with the open aggregate stressing the tires under load, and less grip on the preferred racing line.

Newgarden’s Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet finished the session in fourth place, a quarter second off pacesetting teammate Scott McLaughlin, and said he was at least content that the basic setups from the team are strong.


“The good thing we learned was that our car was in a nice window right away,” said the two-time champion and two-time Indy 500 winner. “That’s always a great thing to find out when you roll off.

“I was pretty happy with things. We didn’t make a ton of adjustments. Just getting a read between the different compounds, trying to understand how to strategize for tomorrow, which you always have to do in qualifying.”

Asked about varying levels of grip in certain corners, he replied: “I think Turn 2 was like that. Probably the worst corner for it. It seems a bit patchy in Turn 2. You have some on-and-off grip through the corner that’s changing.

“In general around the track, it seems a little bit more particular for line and car placement than last year. I think you really have to be on the rubber.

“But it’s very fast still. It’s high grip. I feel like you’re tiptoeing a little bit more than last year, but the speed isn’t down very much. Maybe half a second slower to what last year’s time was, six-tenths, something like that. It’s still pretty quick.”

Newgarden also praised the venue in general, saying “This is a real racer’s track. I think that’s part of the reason people that come out here, they enjoy the history of motorsport, they understand IndyCar racing really well. It’s a legendary track. We all enjoy being here. We’re finding a lot of fans. You move the date, they’re still going to show up.

“We love being out here. It’s noticeable that fans like being out here too. Like we talked about before, it’s nice to have this break in the middle of the summer, to be honest.”

Story originally appeared on Racer