“I know this surprises a lot of people, but I’m really a natural introvert,” two-time IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden told Jalopnik in a recent interview. I do love getting out and promoting this series and our Team Penske partners, but until recently I was never super confident in my abilities to do that.”
Those words can come as a shock to anyone even vaguely familiar with IndyCar racing. Newgarden, a Tennessee native, has been one of the most prominent faces representing IndyCar on the world stage since he first joined the sport in 2012. But his unwavering confidence in the growth of the series, paired with his own success on the track, has transformed Newgarden into something a little bit bigger than a race car driver.
“What I will say is that this series was craving an American driver to really succeed,” Newgarden said. “We are a North American series, but 90 percent American. I was able to have some success, move to the best team not only in North America but one of the best in the world, and maybe fill a void that had been there for quite a while.”
He was a natural fit for the role of unintentional series spokesperson — but the nature of the series has certainly helped foster his enthusiasm.
“To me, IndyCar is the most well-rounded racing series in the world,” Newgarden told Jalopnik. “Our cars might not be quite as advanced as Formula 1, but they are still amazing machines that are very physical with a lot of horsepower. Our championship is nice combination of a drivers and manufacturer championship with a variety of racetracks that few other series can match. So, yes, I’m very bullish on IndyCar, now and for the future.”
With all that being said, IndyCar hasn’t exactly had the smoothest past. The series has fractured and reunited more frequently than Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, which has left IndyCar on the back foot in terms of linear growth. It’s taken years, but the open-wheel series is once again starting to gain a significant foothold in the international racing scene.
“We’re growing,” Newgarden said of IndyCar, “and while it might not be at a rate that many would like we’re still one of the few pro sports that continue to grow. We know who we are and who our fans are, and that will allow us to keep delivering a good product.”
When asked about where he’d like to see the series in five years, Newgarden gave a fascinating answer: “What I would like to see more of is the coming together with NASCAR to give fans an unbelievable weekend. We all need to pull the motorsports rope in the same direction and I think the leadership of both entities realizes that and will continue to work together.”
I, for one, would be truly delighted to see IndyCar and NASCAR come together for an action-packed weekend, one that would be beneficial to both sports and foster a more positive relationship of collaboration, not competition.
Of course, there are still plenty of racing fans left in the world to convert into IndyCar fans. I’ve done my best to convince Jalopnik’s audience to tune in, but I’m just one person. I’ll leave it to Newgarden to describe the series — much better than I think I could:
“We are the most competitive series in the world,” Newgarden said. “Truly, anyone in the field has a shot to win the race. If you look at our schedule, with Iowa coming back, it has a great mix of venues. Our races aren’t marathons, but they aren’t sprints either. They fit nicely into the broadcast windows and attention spans of fans that have more options than ever. We have drivers with tons of personality that represent every continent on the planet but Antarctica. We are becoming more diverse and more sustainable.
“There really is something for everyone, and I would implore anyone thinking of becoming an IndyCar fan to just go to one race, particularly a street course. You’ll be hooked.”
So, what race are you aiming for this year?