Nashville is home again for Josef Newgarden among big life changes

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His victory in the season-opening Firestone St. Petersburg Grand Prix was just the latest in a series of major life events for Josef Newgarden.

There’s also the ongoing corrective dental work to fix a jaw problem caused by childhood braces. He is in the process of wedding planning for later in the year.

And the Team Penske driver just made a major move – literally.

Newgarden relocated a few weeks ago to his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee (he was born in nearby Hendersonville), to be closer to his family.

It’s notable because he had been living in Davidson, North Carolina, to be near Penske’s headquarters in Mooresville. During a new episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast, Newgarden said he’d cleared it with team president Tim Cindric.

“I had a great conversation with Tim about it before I made the decision to move back,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I talked to everybody and see how they felt about me moving away because I’d always been close to the team. The reason I moved to Davidson when I first joined Team Penske was to be accessible; they had to be accessible to me and vice versa.”

With the move to Nashville, Newgarden thinks he still will spend about as much time in Mooresville as last year.

“Our (race) schedule is a lot lighter than NASCAR but I think we travel nearly as much if not more,” he said. “We travel a lot during the week and go to so many different functions and partner events. We’re doing testing. We’re always traveling for something. I’ll be in North Carolina, the simulator and the shop pretty much as much as I was in 2018. I don’t feel impacted by (the move).”

The Firestone St. Petersburg Grand Prix was the 11th victory of Josef Newgarden’s IndyCar career (IndyCar photo by Joe Skibinski).

Newgarden proposed to his fiancée, Ashley Welch, last October while on vacation in Japan.

How is the wedding coming along and is there a date yet?

“Well, I’m not in charge of it,” he said with a laugh. “I think it’s going great! We’re trying to figure (the date) out. The last quarter, after the season. There’s a lot going on this year on the plate. We’re trying to do a lot of things. So really just to have those resources and that infrastructure of people (in Nashville) is a lot of the reason why we moved back.”

It’s appropriate given that he joked about “trying to build my brand as a Nashville guy, bit of a cowboy, guitar boots and some teeth missing” after his win Sunday in St. Petersburg.

Newgarden, 28, recently was part of an NHL on NBC “Inside The Glass” feature and is a longtime Nashville Predators fan, and he kidded that he “got in the rink with (defenseman) Roman Josi” when he was asked about a noticeable gap in his teeth.

The truth was he has reverse braces to realign his jaw and fix a tooth that should have been replaced as a kid.

Newgarden, who started the dental work about six months ago, said during the podcast that the formation of his bite caused major problems the last five years while driving.

“When I get in the car and have the helmet on and go through a race, it just locks up because of the way it’s holding together,” he said. “It puts too much pressure on one side of my jaw. I’d get out of the car and sometimes I’d have to drive the car with it locked up. It’d be locked up all weekend.

“It would start on a Thursday practice day or something. I’m just struggling to eat all weekend and have to drive the car. I struggled to talk sometimes. I just can’t continue to do this. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and refix the issue.”

Josef Newgarden celebrates at St. Petersburg with his team (IndyCar photo by Joe Skibinski).

Though having the procedure will bring long-term relief, the 2017 series champion cracked that he’d prefer to avoid attention in the meantime.

“I’m so conflicted,” he said with a laugh. “I want to do well, but I also don’t want to do well. I want to be under the radar so no one can see me. I need to hide but I can’t do it. It’s a weird situation.”

To listen to the podcast, which also includes an in-depth interview with Tony Kanaan, you can click on the embed above or by listening via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify.

Latest INDYCAR Aeroscreen test continues to provide feedback; data to series

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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RICHMOND, Virginia – After completing its third Aeroscreen test since October 2, INDYCAR continues to collect valuable data and feedback from the drivers and engineers involved in testing.

The latest test of the Aeroscreen came Tuesday, October 15 at Richmond Raceway, a .750-mile short oval. Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has been involved in testing dating all the way back to 2017 at Phoenix with the original “Windscreen.” Tuesday’s test was the first-time two-time NTT IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was able to test the device that partially encloses the cockpit proving greatly enhanced driver safety.

It was also the first time the current “Aeroscreen” designed and created by Red Bull Advanced Technologies, Pankl and Dallara has been tested at a short oval – a track that measures under 1.5-miles in length.

The previous tests were at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2 and the Barber Motorsports Park road course on October 7.

“It wasn’t a problem getting in the car today and relearning a new viewpoint,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com at the conclusion of Tuesday’s test. “It felt like a new viewpoint. It’s still an Indy car. It still feels like an Indy car. The car does a lot of the things it did before. It required some slight tuning differences to accommodate a different center of gravity and different total weight.

“Overall, it still felt like the same Indy car I drove three weeks ago. You get used to that new viewpoint within 30 or 40 laps. It was alien at first but halfway through the day it feels like home again.”

Newgarden’s Team Penske test team along with INDYCAR officials worked on changes to getting air into the cockpit and directing the air to the right place where the driver can utilize it.

“We’ve come up with some solutions that we like,” Newgarden said. “INDYCAR and the teams will continue to fine-tune this. That is why we are doing these tests. The main goal was to figure this out and fine-tune this stuff. We have come up with a lot of good solutions to all of the little things we have talked about that we have needed so when Sebastien Bourdais goes to Sebring (on November 5), it will just be another version.

“We are already close. Because they are such small details, it feels like normal racing stuff and we will come up with solutions for that.”

Some drivers who have participated in the Aeroscreen test has said, they almost feel naked without having the halo-like structure with a clear windshield protecting them on the race car.

“Once we got through a whole IndyCar season, if you took it off, it would feel really strange,” Newgarden said. “People adapt so quickly to a change, what the car looks like. Once you give us a couple of races and a full year, it will feel like home and something we are very used to as drivers.

“It is already starting to get that way. People are feeling more comfortable with it. The field of view is almost identical to the way it was before. Your peripheral vision is identical, the way you look out the front of the cars is identical, the way you see the tires is identical.”

Individual driver preference will allow for shading of the sun and that can be accomplished with the visor strips on the helmet and the tear-offs on Aeroscreen.

Drivers will also have a bit of a quieter atmosphere inside the cockpit. The partial enclosure makes it easier to hear his radio communication and the sounds of the engine in the driver’s car. It partially blocks out the sounds of the engines in the other cars and the rush of wind traveling at high speeds that used to buffet in and around the helmet.

“It has changed the noise level slightly inside the cockpit,” Newgarden said. “For me, it wasn’t super dramatic. It’s a slight reduction in wind noise. You’re not getting the wind directly over your head as dramatically as you would before. All that external noise has just been dimmed.

“You can hear the radio a touch better, things like that. But the engine noise is still quite prominent. It’s bolted directly behind us, so you still hear quite a bit of what’s going on in the car and the engine.”

Dixon was in the car at Indianapolis on October 2 and returned on Tuesday. The Barber test on October 7 included this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, in a Team Penske Chevrolet and Ryan Hunter-Reay in an Andretti Autosport Honda.

“The only differences are the openings on the front wing that creates some more airflow around the legs and body and a different inlet in the screen that was in place today,” Dixon told NBC Sports.com. “There were helmet cooling options since the Barber test because on the road course, some of the drivers were getting a little hotter.

“This project has been very in-depth. It hit the ground running very smoothly. There are some alternate options they are trying to create, especially on the street courses where we will experience hot condition. On street conditions, your depth perception changes because of how close you are to the walls, but we should get used to that.”

Two weeks ago, Team Penske driver Will Power said it takes a different style to get out of the race car because of the added height of the Aeroscreen.

That hasn’t been a problem for Dixon.

“That’s easy, man,” he said. “Just go through the hole in the top.”