Racing Man Josef Negarden
Over the years of human evolution, the species has transitioned from four limb mobility to upright walking to running to riding faster animals and finally to fabricating machines which propel him beyond the speed of any living creature. Along with this physical development, the human brain has been growing…so it could perform tasks of ever increasing complexity. We assert that one of the highly developed off-shoots of this evolutionary tree is home to the small number of individuals capable of piloting a high performance car under racing conditions – thus our title. Please meet IndyCar driver, Josef Newgarden.
I&S: You are slated to return for the 2016 IndyCar season driving the #21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet…and this will be your fifth year with the CFH team. Is there anything specific to CFH Racing that develops and maintains a driver’s loyalty to their organization? Perhaps you can reflect on your experience(s) with them since joining in 2012?
JN: When I first got hired to drive an IndyCar, I had the faith of some wonderful owners. Wink Hartman, Libba Hartman, Sarah Fisher, and Andy O’Gara are the ones who really gave me my first opportunity to drive professionally. When you’re given an opportunity like that, it’s easy to show loyalty – especially when a similar opportunity is so difficult to come by currently. That continues on with Ed Carpenter – he’s given me the opportunity to continue racing with Ed Carpenter Racing. I can see being with this group for a very long time, so loyalty could very well come into play again.
I&S: How have you personally developed since you began participating in the IndyCar series? Are their ways/methods you can employ/use to improve your racing skills in the off season? If so (and if they are not proprietary secrets), could you tell us what you do?
JN: There are a lot of different things that make you a well-rounded, successful IndyCar driver. It’s not just physical fitness, it’s not just being able to drive the car fast or understanding the limits of the car. It’s also the working relationship you have with your group. It’s really important to be a leader within the team and be the quarterback of your crew, including engineers, mechanics and spotters. You really have a whole group behind you. Being able to focus everyone’s energies on the correct thing at the right time is really what makes you successful in this series. That is a skill I’ve always focused on trying to improve.
I&S: In our past interviews with race car drivers, the consensus is that drivers are a small subset of the general public who possess aptitude for racing and are receptive to the training which allows them to compete at the highest level. Looking back, was this true for you? Who “discovered” Josef Newgarden – future race car driver? Or maybe it was you that knew it all along?
JN: Racing is a very specialized sport. I know a lot of people that want to drive cars professionally, a lot of gearheads. Learning how to break into the industry is very, very difficult compared to stick and ball sports that you would grow up playing. The access to racing at the ground level is harder than most of those sports. There are a lot of people in the world that would be decent drivers, but there’s only a select few that possess the talent level to be professional. It’s a small niche group, but I think that aspect applies to all sports.
I&S: Your finishing position in the IndyCar series has been moving upwards year after year. What is it going to take to maintain that trend in the 2016 season? Will the experience you gained while racing against your fellow drivers in this series play a part in improving your outcomes?
JN: The trend has been only upward as far as results, championship finishes and the overall amount of success we’ve had each year, which can be attributed to the growth of the organization over the years. I also feel like I improve greatly year in and year out. It can be argued that we compete against teams that have greater resources and more personnel at their disposal, while we continually learn to do more with less and become more efficient. Combined with my personal growth, that makes us a more successful group.
I&S: Do you – as a professional driver – look up to any of the senior drivers in the series for their skills and/or accomplishments? How would you like your career to progress? Or, in short, where is “UP” from here?
JN: I don’t know if I looked up to any specifically, but I tried to study the industry and be a student of the sport. I’ve always tried to analyze or understand the growth of other drivers: why they ended up where they did and what it’s attributed to. You try and look for trends and see where people find success…and if they don’t find success, what’s holding them back?
That’s been really helpful for me and my career as I try to climb up the ladder. I don’t see it really having a limit; there’s not a glass ceiling on anyone’s career. I want to climb as high as I can on my own ladder and hopefully that includes a lot of success with wins, championships, and everything in between.
I&S: One assumes you have young fans who ask you questions about racing. Would you relate some of those questions (and answers) for our readers? What recommends your profession to the younger generation?
JN: The most frequent question is “How to do become a professional race car driver?” Most young racers that want to drive in IndyCar one day start in go-karting. There are a lot of national championships all over the United States and karting is really one of the best ways to get involved with the sport.
But with all levels of racing, not just karting, you have to find financial support. Racing is a business first and a sport second…which makes it different from other sports. You really have to understand the commercial side of how to get sponsors / how to get the support that will allow you to get into a racecar. That can start very small with a family friend, a local business, or even your own family. It gets harder and harder as you need more money and bigger racecars.
I have always told people to become a student of the sport. You have to understand the business side and speak to as many people as you can. And you have to have a lot of tenacity. A lot of times, things are going to go wrong or not go your way. If you don’t have the passion to keep going, it will be pretty easy for you to fizzle out.
I&S: Can you describe the feeling you get when racing? In past articles you’ve mentioned that being in-car is your preferred place to be. Has this feeling grown over the years?
JN: For me, in the racecar is the most comfortable place in the world. I think that’s true of all athletes in their respective sport. NFL players love being on the field and playing the game. I’ve always felt the best when I get to put on my helmet, get in the car, and do my own thing. Driving is the most fun thing I can do on the planet. I don’t like anything more than racing. it consumes my life. When you do get those little moments of joy by being in the racecar, that’ what it’s all about. it compares to anyone else’s passion. If you have a passion for something and you enjoy it so much, that’s your most comfortable place. That’s how I feel when I get inside a racecar.
I&S: This is a space for website and social media links so our readers can follow you in your ongoing ventures. Feel free to list as many as you’d like.
I&S:: If for no other reason than reporting on someone who has found his place in the world, we were pleased to have met Mr. Newgarden and thank him for responding to our questions. We at Image & Style Magazine look forward to seeing him move ever upwards in his sport’s ranking and in his growth as a professional.