Josef Newgarden is a second-year driver for Sarah Fisher/Hartman Racing and while the 22-year old is still new to the IZOD Indy Car Series, he isn’t out of place.
Newgarden was the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights Champion. Along with winning the points championship, he also won the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Reflecting on 2011 reminds Newgarden of a special time where he was able to be crowned the best.
However, while it is a debate for some, Newgarden leaves no doubt about it: The Indianapolis 500 means more than a points championship.
“There’s a lot of great drivers that haven’t won championships. For us its different, some people love victory while some love championships … It depends how you want to approach things because a championship is a broad spectrum of a whole season and you respect that, but one race victories have their own greatness to them as well. So between those two I’d like to win the 500 more because I definitely want to win the 500 the most.”
While owner Sarah Fisher may have never had the same impact as Danica Patrick, she knows an awful lot about race cars. Owners can be good to their drivers, but some owner can be great for their drivers. Having a former driver as an owner has definitely been great for Newgarden.
“I don’t necessarily think its her advice. Its just great to have access to an owner who has been a driver … If I have a certain feeling about something she can help me confirm it and give her opinion on it. That’s more of a convenience than anything else.”
No matter the advice or guidance Fisher gives Newgarden, nothing can truly prepare a driver for the 500 and all that comes with it. The entire month leading up to race day can be overwhelming. Yet even with a year of experience now behind him, Newgarden still has a tough time turning the switch on to race mode as nerves run high.
“Its hard for me to eat that night before or the morning of plus there are a lot of appearances so I just try to get a good night sleep and get to the track … Even when you’re in the car people are waving and you’re trying to accommodate everyone. So its hard. The fans here are very knowledgeable they know everything that’s going on which is awesome. After driver intros I’m geared up so once I start rolling from the grid on the parade laps, that’s when I get ready to rock.”