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Newgarden plans to “make some magic” in Nashville IndyCar race

Team Penske’s IndyCar title-chaser Josef Newgarden says he needs to “make some magic” in the Nashville race today to keep closing on points dominator Alex Palou.

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet

Photo by: Gavin Baker / Motorsport Images

Newgarden starts ninth on his hometown track – with Chip Ganassi Racing rival Palou going from fourth – as he bids to reduce the 80-point deficit in the season's closing stages.

“Not a great qualifying session for us,” Newgarden admitted to NBC Peacock after qualifying was topped by his team-mate Scott McLaughlin.

“We’ll work from the top 10 there and make some magic in the race, that’s the best thing we can do.

“It’s Nashville, so you never know what can happen. You can have a nightmare day and still win this race.

“That’s what’s happened the last two years. I think as soon as you predict that, it doesn’t go that way, but you just never know.

“You’ve gotta go in with a good attitude and I think we’ve got the team to do it every time, so let’s see what happens.”

Palou and Newgarden have each won four races this year, but all of Newgarden’s success has come on ovals, whereas Palou’s victories have come on road and street courses.

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The Spaniard used a reverse strategy to his rivals in the Firestone Fast Six shootout, opting for fresh primary tyres rather than running again on used, softer alternate rubber.

“We thought it was the way to go for our car and our strategy,” said Palou. “We tried it at Road America as well and it didn’t work. Someday it will work!

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

“Honestly, we had a good car, a fast car, I’m happy to be up there to fight for pole. Did a small mistake on my second lap, but happy with P4 for an entertaining race for sure.

“We don’t really know [about the tire degradation] on the long run, but we didn’t have the opportunity to find out with the weather. We’ve been pretty good all year.”

Newgarden’s chances of making the Fast Six were hampered when Palou’s team-mate Scott Dixon caused a late red flag by crashing in Q2.

Dixon will start 12th, having come through the field to win from 23rd position in a dramatic race last year.

“The grip level did feel high, I clipped the inside wall there and it just put us into the outside [barrier],” said Dixon.

“I feel bad for the other drivers too who were on a lap. The front just turned a lot better than I thought it was going to.”

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Of his approach to the race, he added: “Hopefully just trying to stay out of the mess, but the past two winners here have been involved in a lot of mess. That seems to be the theme.

“We’ll just try and stay out of it, keep the car one piece and get into a spot to race to the end.”

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

Newgarden’s team-mate Will Power, who will start seventh, thinks this year’s Nashville race could go the other way.

He said: “You don’t know, it could be like Toronto and go pretty green – Toronto is just like this race.

“It’s so easy to make mistakes, and sometimes it doesn’t matter where you qualify but, for us, we need to be in the top six if you want to try and win the race on a road or street course.

“Even top four, otherwise you’re not going to have a chance.”

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