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Newgarden, Diuguid Complete Rolex 24, Indy 500 Double

An unlikely scenario put Penske driver and long-time team member in position to win both major races in same year…

Photo: Porsche

The Memorial Day weekend would normally offer Jonathan Diuguid some time off from his responsibilities as the managing director of Porsche Penske Motorsport and its international sports car racing program, including the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

But Diuguid spent the month of May in Indianapolis, pressed into action as the substitute race strategist for IndyCar Series driver Josef Newgarden in the Indianapolis Grand Prix road race and the 108th Indianapolis 500.

The role was new, but Diuguid was quite familiar with Team Penske’s IndyCar operation.

He worked as a race engineer with drivers Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Scott McLaughlin between 2012 and ’21, while also serving as lead engineer for Acura Team Penske in the WeatherTech Championship from 2018-20, a program that earned IMSA DPi titles in 2019 and ’20.

At Indianapolis this year, Diuguid called a perfect race, guiding Newgarden to his second consecutive Indy 500 triumph.

It’s turning into a huge season for the 33-year-old American driver, who was also part of the overall and GTP class winning lineup for Porsche Penske in January at the Rolex 24 at Daytona along with Felipe Nasr, Dane Cameron and Matt Campbell in the No. 7 Porsche 963.

It’s also a massive achievement for Diuguid, who prior to Sunday listed his most satisfying career accomplishments as winning the 2007 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac with the Porsche RS Spyder, engineering Briscoe to pole position at Indianapolis in 2012 and winning the 2019 IMSA DPi championship.

“I think this year is probably going to go down as a dream year,” Diuguid said. “This group also was part of the Daytona 24-hour win. To be able to be a part of this group (at Indianapolis) and represent a lot of hard work from other people, I feel a little bit guilty in the sense that I kind of showed up and everything was going smoothly, and I got the opportunity to be here.

“I think Josef said the same thing after the Daytona 24 Hours. He kind of rocked up and we got the first win (for Porsche) after many, many decades.”

Indeed, Newgarden’s comments in the immediate aftermath of Porsche’s first overall win in the Rolex 24 since 2003 (and first in prototype competition since 1991) sound very similar to those from Diuguid post-Indy.

“I’ve got to be honest, it’s a little awkward for me because I feel like I’m just hanging out with this really great group of people that ended up winning a race, and I just happened to be there in a lot of ways,” Newgarden said at Daytona.

“I feel honored to just have been here. I’ve driven open-wheel cars for the last 12 years, and you’re very singularly focused in a lot of ways in that sport. Over here, I feel like I’ve got family that I’m just really proud of. Really happy for Jonathan, everybody in this room.”

At Indianapolis, Newgarden was grateful to Diuguid in a different way.

Diuguid and race engineer Raul Prados were on hand because Newgarden’s regular strategist, Team Penske President Tim Cindric, along with engineer Luke Mason, were suspended from their IndyCar responsibilities for the two races at Indianapolis in the wake of a ruling that stripped Newgarden of his win in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Cindric was on-site two weeks ago at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with Porsche Penske when Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet won the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N in the No. 6 Porsche.

“I’m thankful Jonathan was here,” Newgarden said after the Indy 500 win. “I missed Tim, I missed Luke; it was tough not having my normal reality here this weekend, but I was just as excited to have Jonathan and Raul.

“I think very highly of these two individuals, and I’ve seen them at various points in my career but we’ve all gone on different career paths. The circumstances, the camaraderie, the time that we got to spend together. … This wasn’t supposed to happen, and we got this opportunity out of chance. To be able to pull it off together, it ranks very, very high for me. It’s very cool.”

Both men will briefly return to their different individual paths before briefly converging again this weekend, where the WeatherTech Championship’s Chevrolet Detroit Sports Car Classic and the IndyCar Series’ Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix share the bill.

Newgarden faces a hectic week of Indy 500 promotion prior to Detroit, while Diuguid’s workload ramps up in the immediate aftermath as Porsche Penske’s full focus after Detroit turns to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, set for June 15-16, where the team has three entries. The whirlwind continues, with little time to reflect.

“That’s what it’s like to be part of Team Penske,” Diuguid said. “The opportunities exist on many fronts, and I think being able to be part of this today is definitely a high point in my career and look forward to more.”

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