IndyCar champion Newgarden:”It was a crazy journey”
Josef Newgarden’s big goal comes true with the IndyCar title – the US-American has come a long way until his Penske deal.
With Josef Newgarden, US motorsport has a new figurehead.The 26-year-old from the state of Tennesse won the IndyCar championship in his first attempt with Roger Penske’s traditional team.He is the first US champion since Ryan Hunter-Reay (2012) and only the third US-American after Sam Hornish junior, who won the highest formula class in the United States in this millennium.
At the season finale in Sonoma, Newgarden secured the additional point for the pole position.In the race he had to bow to his team mate Simon Pagenaud.I don’t know if you can ever foresee it.Some guys are lucky to be in this sport.And it takes 20 years to achieve something.Others do it in a year or two.I didn’t know how it would turn out for me.”
Penske hires drivers he trusts to win races and championships.The “Captain” wanted to take Newgarden and put Juan-Pablo Montoya in front of the door.Newgarden took the chance, moved to Charlotte and had to deal with several strong team-mates.The pressure was there from the beginning.Apart from the crash in Watkins Glen, he finally stood up to it.
“I agree that this year has been my greatest opportunity.You have champions around you and a team that drives you every week to get the best out of you.You have to put this into practice.I was offered the best opportunity to grow and prove myself in this environment.It was fun and challenging,” Newgarden celebrated four victories on the way to the title.Especially his strong second half of the season made the difference.
Short, unsuccessful trip to Europe
Newgarden began his career in the classic skip-barber racing series in North America. In 2009, he ventured off to Europe and drove in smaller Formula series.Internationally, he attracted attention for the first time in 2010 with a season in GP3.However, Newgarden remained victorious for Carlin and finished the year in which Esteban Gutierrez became champion, only in 18th place.Newgarden went back to the USA and won the IndyLights series right away.That was the ticket for the IndyCar championship.
“It was a crazy journey,”recalls the new champion,”Many people helped me on my way.It started with Karts, the trip to Europe, my return, then the first IndyCar chance and now I’m here with Penske.It was a crazy trip.It’s so cool that I’m allowed to do it and I’m proud of all the people involved.I have always dreamed and hoped that I would have a successful career and be good.You never know how it’ll turn out.”
Ex-racing driver Sarah Fisher brought Newgarden into the IndyCar series.The team finally merged with Ed Carpenter’s team.It’s been five years with ups and downs.Newgarden won several podium finishes and his first two victories in 2015.However, constant top results against the strong teams Penske, Ganassi and Andretti failed to materialize.In retrospect, it was a formative time for Newgarden.
No longer believed in Penske opportunity
“I’ve had my chance in the past, too.It was an advantage for me to start as a one-car team and to have to find out everything on my own.I think that’s what brought me my strength.The best situation, however, was not.I loved to drive for this team, but we were often standing with our backs to the wall.We were a new team with a new car.There were no old setups, no data.We had to do everything ourselves.I think these moments have prepared me to reach this point with Penske.”
As he admits in retrospect:”The more years passed, the less I believed that I was hired by a team like Penske.I didn’t think that would ever happen.It seemed they didn’t want me to be a part of their team.To a certain extent, this was okay for me because I worked with good people and we were successful.After a year with Penske, I can say what a fantastic group they are.”