Josef Newgarden, driver of the No. 21 Century 21 CFR Racing Chevrolet, recently sat down in Gasoline Alley for a conversation with IMS.com correspondent Phillip B. Wilson.
PW: You still living Downtown?
JN: Yes. Downtown is getting better each and every year. There’s more and more restaurants and more places to go.
PW: New hot spot?
JN: No new hot spot. I love the canal. I love Union 50, that’s kind of new. I love Bakersfield, that’s kind of new. There’s a lot of good places downtown. I love downtown Indy.
PW: What do you get Graham Rahal and Courtney Force for a wedding gift?
JN: Picture frames. What are you going to get ‘em? They have everything else.
PW: Does this make you the most eligible bachelor among the drivers?
JN: I’ve got a girlfriend, man. Well, I guess I’m not married, yeah, but …
PW: Marco Andretti?
JN: Marco is taken, too, though. There aren’t any bachelors. I’m legitimately taken. I’m not on the streets. Marco is more of a bachelor than I am, but he probably wouldn’t stay that. Simon Pagenaud is taken, too. He’s probably getting married. Who’s the most eligible bachelor? I don’t know. It would probably be Sage Karam, which is so weird to say.
PW: He’s 20.
JN: That’s a very good point. He probably needs some years, especially in this sport. Sage is a pup.
PW: Like you’re an old man.
JN: I’m 24. Three or four years makes a big difference. It makes a huge difference. I don’t know, other than him, who else do you have?
PW: We’ve got to talk Dutch.
JN: Danish. Come on, it’s Danish. Everyone says Dutch or Sweden. It’s not Holland. It’s not Sweden. It’s Denmark.
PW: Your mom is from Denmark?
PW: Your dad is from?
JN: New York.
PW: So your recent win at Alabama was the first Verizon IndyCar Series victory by a Danish driver?
JN: Yeah, first American and Danish win at the same time.
PW: People keep getting it wrong. You were born in America, but they assume a lot from the unique spelling of your name.
JN: Yeah, you know, it won’t be weird if you keep winning. Everybody knew who Dario Franchitti was, that’s such an interesting different name. Even Sage now. It’s (mispronounced) Sa-jay Ka-ram. It’s not Sage Karam. That doesn’t sound like an American name, but he’s an American. I don’t need to be Phil Johnson. That’s so American. Freddie Quick. That’s not me.
PW: You’ve got a cool name.
JN: I like it, too. It’s a good name. Newgarden, the garden of new.
PW: You’ve spoken passionately many times about the 500. You’ve waxed poetic pretty impressively about it in the past.
JN: Really? You think so?
PW: Definitely. You were asked last year to fill in the blank in this sentence, ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing is …’
JN: It’s an amazing facility. I got to do a golf kart lap around this place when we were doing a track walk for the GP. Me and my engineers were just taking in the scenery. It was so cool. It was so cool to just stop on the backstretch and look at the pagoda over the golf course. It’s just a beautiful facility. There’s no other place in the world that rivals the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I don’t care what anyone says, you come here, you see this place, you see the details and the beauty, nothing rivals it. Done. Period. No conversation.
PW: Anything else new about you?
JN: I’m Chevy this year. The Chevy thing is fun. I miss Honda sometimes because they were such a great opponent, and they still are. But you need that. You’ve got have strong manufacturers on both sides. If you just had one that was good, it wouldn’t be fun anymore. Chevy is a little different with the way they work. They’ve got great programs for everything they do. I love their stage presence here in the Fan Village. I love the Tahoe that I get to drive because I’m a Chevy guy. It’s all good stuff. The Tahoe is sweet. It makes my trip to Nashville, Tennessee, way nicer (to see his parents).
PW: Cake, pie or cookies?
JN: All. I love cookie cakes. Cookie cakes, to me, equal a party. When I see a cookie cake, I know a party is happening.
PW: What’s your favorite beverage?
JN: Milk. (Smiles.) I love milk. I really do. I’m not saying this just because of the Indianapolis 500 tradition. I will have milk with any meal. It’s kind of weird because some people get grossed out by having milk with certain meals. I can have milk with any meal. I love whole milk. People are against whole milk, they like it watered down, but I like it natural.
PW: So you watch these Indianapolis 500 winners splash their faces with milk, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan?
JN: That’s sweet victory. That’s literally the only moment where that’s acceptable. Here’s the thing. The Verizon IndyCar Series championship is great. Everything is important about it. Every win is important. The whole year is important. But there is only one day out of the entire season where you have an opportunity to reach glory. That is the Indianapolis 500. You get one chance every year. It’s a big deal.
PW: Let me ask you this. Is it hard when driving the Tahoe on regular roads to obey the limits of the road?
JN: It’s not hard to stay within the limits of the road. It’s hard to not hit people because of the way they drive here in America. American drivers are really annoying, so annoying, with their movements, their attitudes, their car language, it’s all wrong. I just want to punt people sometimes. That’s the one thing you want to do. You don’t want to speed. You just want to punt people.
PW: A comedian once who suggested the best thing would be to have cell phone numbers on license plates.
JN: Oh yeah. Oh my gosh, how great would that be? I would have the most fun on the road. ‘This is the garden of new, please move over!’ (Laughs.) That would be so great. I’ve never heard that. That was perfect. I wish I would have thought of that.
PW: You can still kind of own it.
JN: He’s not real well known? I can coin that. I’ll say I once heard this. I love the idea. It’s brilliant.