Josef Newgarden

Track Talk: Interview with Josef Newgarden

Best part about racing in Toronto? What’s the meaning behind #riseabove? Gaming as offtrack training? #TrackTalk sits down with two-time Honda Indy winner, Josef Newgarden.

VG: You’re a two-time Honda Indy Toronto winner— what’s the best part about racing in Toronto?

JN: I think it's probably that the event itself is quite special. It's not just a race. Although we enjoy racing it feels like a big event—and the city does a great job of providing that. The Toronto fans also help make it what it is. So I just I enjoy that they create an atmosphere— you know not just a race atmosphere but an event atmosphere


VG: The best place to pass on the track?

JN: The best place to pass on the track is probably turn three. You get a couple of spots you can pass (in turn three). You can also pass in turn one, you can pass into nine, but three is the best.


VG: In the last couple of years the final two turns have tightened up because of changes to Exhibition Place, making passing harder. Does this put on premium on your starting spot?

JN: Qualifying is important at Toronto. You want to start toward the front. But anything can happen in these races depending on how the yellows stack up. Toronto has gotten a bit tougher to pass so qualifying is important.


VG: Four of the next five races are at tracks you have won at. Do you see that as an overall advantage going into the back half of the season? Or is your strategy to just focus on one race at a time?

JN: I take it one race at a time. You know, they're all important. I don't think that you can assume you're going to perform well at places you have won, and vice versa. You can't assume you're going to perform badly at races you statistically haven’t run that bad at. So yeah, it's one race at a time. Things change quick. You’ve go to maximize each weekend. That's always how I've looked at it.


VG: You have a partnership with the Forza Motorsport franchiseare you a big gamer?

JN: I grew up playing Forza as a kid, and it was kind of my way of racing when I wasn't at the track. I've always enjoyed the Forza Motorsport game, but it has become more & more prevalent and a way for people to connect and compete against each other. Gaming in general is a great platform to connect with more people through competition. People that wouldn't necessarily be able to compete in real life can compete through gaming. It's a great tool that people use not just for fun or socializing, but also competition.


VG: Do you use gaming as part of your off-season or in-season training?

JN: I always play a bit during the season and certainly during the off-season when we have more time. I'll game a bit especially on Forza Motorsports just to keep things active and fresh. It's really just repetition a lot of times. It’s muscle memory and its mental training, preparing yourself on what routine to go through at the race track. I think it's important to keep those repetitions up.


VG: How realistic are the games? For example, are your lap times at Road America in a digital IndyCar comparable to your actual lap times in real IndyCar?

JN: Yeah there's always variances in the game versus reality. We are constantly trying to bring that closer— but it is quite close. I think if you tune the car in the game when you have tuning options in Forza Motorsport, when you tune it to a similar setup that we would run in real life then yeah, they are quite close. It's nice to be able to have that reference to work on and work with before you actually show up to the real world environment.


VG: Your hashtag this year is #riseabove? Why #riseabove? And were there any other finalists for your 2019 hashtag?

JN: For us, #riseabove was about always overcoming any obstacle. Every year it's impossible not to be faced with challenges and obstacles so we're trying to rise above that is kind of the messaging behind #riseabove. There were some other finalists. I can't remember which one we were working through but #riseabove is sort of the mantra behind that.


VG: If you take the 2019 championship, will you resurrect #defendthe1?

JN: I don't know. We'll have to we'll have to cross that bridge when we get to it.


VG: Is there a track from your time in Europe that you’d love to test an IndyCar on?

JN: Brands Hatch GP.


VG: What’s your daily driver?

JN: I drive a (Chevy) Tahoe, but I have a Camaro which I sort of daily drive.


VG: Top Gear or The Grand Tour?

JN: Top Gear. Old school Top Gear though.


VG: If you could team up with any other driver in history, who would you pick, and why? 

JN: I would choose Senna. Not because it's a popular choice. I would choose it because I would want to be teammates with him and see where we stack up against each other and see where his strengths and weaknesses are.


Victor Genova is the host of the Media People Podcast and a freelance racing writer. You can follow him on Instagram at @VicGenova