Josef Newgarden pays it forward by helping a stranger, then eating Chipotle

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If you’ve followed some of our more off-beat Verizon IndyCar Series coverage over the last year or so, you’ll know we’ve hit two key items of Josef Newgarden’s life that don’t revolve around his day job piloting the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.

The first is that he saved a kitten in Baltimore last year (which he eventually adopted), and promptly secured his first career series podium later that weekend.

The second is that he loves Chipotle, despite a brief flirtation with Mo’s.

Anyway while Newgarden was en route for some Chipotle on Wednesday night, an off day with no track activity in the run up to Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, he ran across someone who needed help.

He then posted this photo to his Instagram page, with this description beneath it.

Today I want to post something a little different. I’ve been wanting to start a project for a little while now that I think is cool and means something to me. I met a new friend tonight by the name of Kevin Bruce. He’s 23 like me, loves sports (including IndyCar), admires comedians, and considers kindness one of his favorite things in life. I saw Kevin sitting outside in the rain asking for a bit of help and needing dinner. I was on my way to Chipotle to grab a quick bite and just thought it would be great to bring Kevin along. Nothing outlandish, just a nice meal out of the rain with a simple conversation to pass the time. I think being able to help your fellow human in this world, no matter how big or small the gesture, is so important, and keeping it at the forefront of your thoughts everyday should be a goal. I call this project #TodayIHelped and I hope you all find it fun to tag along with me and join in. PS. If you find Kevin in the streets of Indy and have a job opportunity available, please consider him. You never know who just might surprise you!

So here’s Newgarden, 23, meeting a fellow 23-year-old and paying it forward with a random act of kindness.

Newgarden described how this all went down during Thursday’s media day at IMS.

“It was super spontaneous,” he said. “I wanted to do something like that for a while. I wasn’t thinking ahead so much, but maybe wanted to start a project that would become cool. Post something about helping other people and telling their story.

“There’s not enough trendy, cool stuff on social media, of helping others,” said Newgarden, who is renowned in the IndyCar paddock for his social media savvy. “You have to make something cool to stand out, and one to do that is to ideally have people do a small gesture for others.”

This wasn’t planned – it just happened when Newgarden was heading for Chipotle.

“I saw him when I was rolling downtown to get Chipotle. He had a cardboard sign saying need ‘help, super hungry,’ and I got the place to go eat. We ate dinner together. He’s a pretty cool guy.”

Down the road, depending on how many of these stories Newgarden tells, he’s hoping to eventually put a website together and group the stories with that #TodayIHelped hashtag.

As for the cat? Newgarden said he might need company in the pet department.

“I’ve rescued a cat… so I need a dog to balance it out,” Newgarden said. “I’m the cat guy now. Got a little experience.”

In terms of his day job, Newgarden rolls off eighth for Sunday’s 98th Indianapolis 500.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.