Until he arrived at Sebring in early March, had never driven an Indy car. As the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights champion, he was more accustomed to the 420 horsepower of a Lights racer than to the 700 bhp of his 2012 Dallara-Honda. And yet, when the final times were posted, the 21-year-old Tennessee driver found himself solidly in mid-field at the Izod IndyCar Series' Spring Training session, where he outpaced several IndyCar veterans including Tony Kanaan, Alex Tagliani, Marco Andretti and Sébastien Bourdais. "I thought it was great," said Newgarden, the latest hot rookie to join North America's premier open-wheel racing series.
From his beginnings in karts at age 13, Josef has proven to be a quick study. Finishing 2nd in the 2008 Skip Barber National series, he won the Kent Class at the British Formula Ford Festival that year, then placed 2nd in the 2009 British Formula Ford Championship while taking two wins in the 2009 Formula Palmer Audi series. In 2011, following a disappointing 2010 season in GP3, Josef returned to the United States and Indy Lights where he won five races including a barn-burner in New Hampshire where he lapped the entire field.
Driving for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, Newgarden—who was born in Nashville—continues to impress, finishing 11th in the season opener at St. Petersburg. He struggled a bit at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama where he placed 17th, but bounced back—and caught the attention of everyone—at Long Beach where he started on the front row alongside pole-sitter Dario Franchitti. Unfortunately, Josef's race ended early. Trying to outbrake the reigning IndyCar champ going into Turn 1 at the start, he was forced to go wide and slid into the tire barrier. "I should have known better with it being Franchitti," he said. "You've got to have some cooperation from the guy on the inside."
Unfazed by the incident, Newgarden says that given a do-over, he'd do the exact same thing. "It's a hard way to learn. But it's a new series to me, and I've got to learn the drivers and how they work. And how to race Franchitti in the future."
While he's committed to IndyCar for the foreseeable future and would even like to do some NASCAR racing at some point, Formula 1 remains his ultimate goal, and he thinks it will be possible to make the jump from IndyCar to F1, as drivers such as Mario and Michael Andretti, Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya (to name a few) have done.
"I think it's absolutely possible. There are a lot of people who don't believe that nowadays, but I'm not of that same thinking. I believe it's possible—if all the stars are aligned correctly and the right situation presents itself."
Anybody know a good astrologer?