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.

Steinbrenner brings winning tradition to IndyCar Victory Lane

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones
INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones
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AUSTIN, Texas – Opening Day for the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball is Thursday against the hapless Baltimore Orioles. But the Steinbrenner family can already celebrate a big-time, major league victory in 2019.

George Michael Steinbrenner, IV is the 22-year-old son of Yankees co-owner and co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner. He is the grandson of the legendary Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, whose fiery tenure at the helm of the Yankees restored the team to the prestige and pride it continues to enjoy as the most successful professional sports franchise in the world.

Steinbrenner, IV, is co-owner of Harding Steinbrenner Racing in the NTT IndyCar Series and the youngest team owner in IndyCar history.

When his grandfather was ruling the Yankees, excellence wasn’t expected; it was demanded. Those are traits that define the Steinbrenner family.

On Sunday at Circuit of the Americas, young Steinbrenner became an IndyCar winner in just his third race in the series in the INDYCAR Classic. It was also historic as his driver, Colton Herta, became the youngest driver in history to win an IndyCar race at race at 18 years, 11 months and 25 days. Graham Rahal was 19 years 3 months and 2 days when he won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in 2008.

“Break up the Yankees” was a popular battle cry around baseball in the glory days of the boys in pinstripes, from Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle to Reggie Jackson to Derek Jeter and A-Rod.

What makes the latest Steinbrenner winner so stunning, is how quickly it happened.

“We didn’t think this was possible so soon,” Steinbrenner told NBC Sports.com from the team’s pit stand seconds after the checkered flag waved for Herta’s victory. “What a drive by Colton and what a job by the crew. They did everything they could to keep us ahead of the 2 car (Josef Newgarden) all day. Wow, I can’t believe it.”

Steinbrenner has the Yankees in his blood and DNA, but his passion has always been IndyCar racing. He was just 16 when he met then 12-year-old Herta at a Skip Barber race at Lime Rock, Connecticut. The two became friends and joined together to begin their climb to IndyCar.

“I interned at Bryan Herta Rallysport for the 2016 season, learning the top to bottom of how a race team operates during the week and during the weekend,” Steinbrenner recalled. “When Colton and I decided that we’d start this crazy journey together in Indy Lights, being able to partner with Andretti Autosport in Indy Lights was huge. They’re a buttoned-down organization, do everything right. To be able to learn from the folks there was a huge jump-start, the perfect jump-start I could have hoped for, for INDYCAR ownership.”

For two years, they joined forces with team owner Michael Andretti in Indy Lights. Andretti helped broker a deal for Steinbrenner and Herta to step up to IndyCar by joining a team owned by Indianapolis paving company owner Mike Harding.

Harding Steinbrenner Racing was announced last summer with tremendous fanfare at Yankee Stadium before a New York Yankees game.

Andretti is still part of the operation as Andretti Technologies supplies engineering and crew support to Harding Steinbrenner Racing.

“None of this would have been possible without Michael Andretti,” Herta said. “I’d like to say thank you to Michael and his team. He elevated us to the top really quick and without them we wouldn’t be here.”

When Steinbrenner announced his goal of taking Herta to the IndyCar, it was a long-term commitment. Herta’s first victory at an 18-year-old could be the start of something great, beginning another winning tradition for the Steinbrenners.

“We’ve had a pretty good start here,” Steinbrenner said. “This is huge, to get this win off our belts. We showed the IndyCar world what we could do.”

Herta qualified fourth and raced his way to third in a race that Will Power dominated. The Team Penske driver led the first 45 laps from the pole while he was pursued by Alexander Rossi.

The two front-runners planned on being the last two drivers in the 24-car field to make their final pit stop.

That plan was foiled, however, when James Hinchcliffe’s Honda ran into the back of Felix Rosenqvist’s Honda, sending it into the barrier in Turn 20. That was the only caution in the 60-lap race. Power and Rossi would go from the top two to 14thand 15thafter making their pit stops.

Power’s race ended on pit lane when a broken half-shaft kept his car from engaging in gear and he went from first to worst in the 24-car field.

That put Herta in the lead under caution. Right behind him was the intimidating sight of the No. 2 Chevrolet driven by Team Penske’s 28-year-old Josef Newgarden, the 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion and the winner of the 2019 season-opener at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“We knew we got on the right side of the pit strategy and had the pace to stay ahead of two extremely fast guys behind us,” Steinbrenner said. “It was a matter of Colton staying out in front and nursing it home.”

When the green flag waved to restart the race with 10 laps left, the 18-year-old was calm and cool as he was able to get a great restart and pull away from Newgarden.

Back in the pit area, Steinbrenner stood on the timing stand in the pits alongside co-owner Mike Harding and team president and race strategist Brian Barnhart. Because COTA is a 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course, it takes a while to complete a lap. Herta had the fastest lap in the race on Lap 54 and it was 108.9853 seconds.

The long course added to the tension as the 60-lap race neared its conclusion.

Steinbrenner, who bears a resemblance to 1980s actor Fisher Stevens, remained cool on the timing stand.

When Herta’s Honda came out of Turn 20 on the final lap to the checkered flag, Steinbrenner could finally celebrate, pumping his fist in the air.

“I was very concerned,” Steinbrenner admitted. “Most of the guys in the paddock, you are concerned with in a situation like that, especially a former champion. It was nerve-racking.

“Wow. It’s a dream come true.”

Steinbrenner got his first win in IndyCar before the New York Yankees.

“Not too far apart, but a couple of days in front,” Steinbrenner laughed.

For a Steinbrenner, there are always more goals to achieve. Sunday’s first victory is like a “regular season” win to the Yankees. That team’s goal is to win the World Series.

Steinbrenner, IV’s goal is to win the biggest race in the world – the 103rdIndianapolis 500 on May 26.

“I think there’s a pretty big race in May,” Steinbrenner said. “I think for us, that’s the next big goal.

“I grew up with two passions: baseball and racing. I thought my family had one pretty well covered. We’ll go and chase another one.”

When a Steinbrenner sets a goal, don’t bet against it.