Reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden has most things in his life and career figured out.
He drives for Roger Penske, the iconic motorsports team owner and legendary businessman; he is a two-time series champion, winning his first IndyCar title in 2017 for Team Penske; and recently, Newgarden married long-time girlfriend, Ashley Welch.
So, should anything be keeping the dashing 28-year-old American race driver awake at night as he prepares for the upcoming 2020 IndyCar Series season?
“Yes, I’ve got to win the Indy 500,” Newgarden said this week in Detroit as he promoted next year’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear at Belle Isle Park and talked engineering and racing with local college students. “We got to figure that one out. My primary goal in season 2020 is to win the 500. There is nothing more important to me.”
Newgarden, who has won 11 races for Team Penske in three years with the team, has gotten close in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He finished third in 2016 and fourth this year to Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud after fighting for the lead in the closing laps of the race.
It just hasn’t gone the way of arguably the fastest and most aggressive driver in the IndyCar Series.
“Obviously as a team, we have been very successful,” said Newgarden, who drives the No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet. “We have the people, the equipment to do it. We are not lacking (anything), without a doubt. Indy is just one of those places you never know if it is going to shine on you on that particular day.
“For some people, it never has. For some people, it happens many, many times. So, I think you can get it right at least once, and 2020 might be that year.”
Newgarden says winning the Indy 500 is every driver’s dream.
“It has always been No. 1 on my racing list of things to do,” said Newgarden, who started karting at age 13. “It hasn’t changed. My goal next year is to win the Indy 500 and then we will follow up with another (series) championship.”
Newgarden joked that getting married during the off-season won’t slow him down.
“Nothing has changed, which is good,” he said of the nuptials. “We have a fun relationship, so it’s great to take it to the next chapter.”
Newgarden spent part of his day Tuesday with students at the Breithaupt Career and Technical Center in Detroit, where he chatted to students about IndyCar design and also looked over a 1969 Trans Am Camaro built by the University of Pittsburgh with the help of Roger Penske and his first Indy 500 winner, Mark Donohue.
Next year’s IndyCar Series race at Belle Isle Park (May 29-31) will see the debut of the Historic Trans Am Series at the track in support of INDYCAR’s doubleheader weekend.
“Very cool car,” Newgarden told the students. “I would have loved to drive one.”
Newgarden will get to race twice on Belle Isle next summer as he participates in the series only doubleheader race stop.
“It’s a tough weekend on crews,” said Newgarden, who won the first of this year’s two races at Belle Isle Park. “Belle Isle comes on the heels of the Indy 500, but it’s a double-points weekend, and I love it. In regards to the championship, it can be a very powerful weekend.”
Newgarden promises to be just as aggressive in his driving as in previous seasons.
“I just have to control that aggression better,” he said. “I think every year, I get a little better at that.”
Newgarden knows the pressure will be on him again this year.
“In racing, you are judged by your last result,” he said. “You are always competing to get better. I think we can be better than last year. I think we can be more consistent and add to the win tally. As funny as it sounds after winning a championship, I believe we can be better in 2020.”
Newgarden will be racing next year for the new owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the NTT IndyCar Series as Penske recently acquired them in a blockbuster move.
“I don’t think you’ll find anyone disappointed with his acquisitions,” Newgarden said. “If anyone could choose a singular person to take over the reins of the Speedway and the IndyCar Series, there is not a better person than Roger Penske.
“Roger has the business acumen and passion. He has the history and the knowledge. Roger has everything to help the Indy 500 and series flourish tomorrow and for years to come.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!