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.

Todd LeDuc advances two positions in Monster Jam Power Rankings

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Neil Elliott held onto the top spot in the Monster Jam Power Rankings, but he has a new driver sniffing his exhaust as Todd Leduc advanced two positions to second this week.

The Stadium Series Green continues to hold the advantage in the Power Rankings with Elliott topping the chart, Morgan Kane in fourth, and Ryan Anderson eighth, but there is an equitable distribution among the other series throughout the field.

Notably, Leduc and his Monster Energy truck in the Stadium Series Red closed the gap with a 38-point overall victory at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. Leduc achieved his win through consistency, pocketing the overall without winning a single individual event. Leduc’s best session was a second-place finish to Mike Vaters II in Overkill Evolution by .001 points.

Meanwhile on the West Coast, Elliott rambled on. Elliott won his sixth skills challenge in seven contests so far. That contributed to his 35 points for the event at PETCO Park in San Diego and allowed him to hold onto the No. 1 slot in the Monster Jam Power Rankings.

Colton Eichelberger also held station. Third last week, he entered the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on a mission in the Triple Threat Series Central. He topped the event points in all four events with timed race wins in each session, ATV race wins in three of the four, three wins in the speedster obstacle course, two freestyle wins and one win in the donut competitions.

MORE: Ryan Anderson and the anatomy of a Monster Jam freestyle run

Morgan Kane and Grave Digger had a rough night. He was ousted from the racing event in Round 2 by Max-D and Elliott. He failed to win either of the other two competitions of the night and ended with 29 points, which was a distant third to Ryan Anderson’s Son-Uva Digger (37) and Max-D (35).

Brandon Vinson moved up to the fifth position with three wins in the Triple Threat Series West. During the weekend he earned seven session wins, including a sweep of the speedster obstacle course and two victories in the two-wheel skills challenge.

Tom Meents debuted on the Monster Jam Power Rankings in 10th by winning the overall in back to back nights of the Stadium Series Yellow. The Saturday show can be seen Feb. 22 at 11:30 p.m. on NBCSN (click here for streaming). The highlight of Meents’ weekend were race wins on Saturday and Sunday, defeating Coty Saucier in a Monster Energy truck on Night 1 and Eric Swanson in Obsessed on Night 2.

Power Rankings

1. Neil Elliott–same
2. Todd LeDuc–up 2
3. Colton Eichelberger-same
4. Morgan Kane–down 2
5. Brandon Vinson–up 1
6. Tyler Menninga–up 1
7. Coty Saucier–down 2
8. Ryan Anderson–same
9. Linsey Read–up 1
10. Tom Meents-new for 2020

Upcoming TV Schedule (All showings on Eastern time on NBCSN)

Oakland: February 22 (Saturday); 11:30 p.m.
Miami: March 1 (Sunday); 12 a.m.
Jacksonville: March 9 (Monday); 6 p.m.
Detroit: March 21 (Saturday); 11 p.m.
Las Vegas: March 28 (Saturday); 7 p.m.
Santa Clara: April 11 (Saturday); 7 p.m.
Philadelphia: April 17 (Friday); 2:30 p.m.
Denver: April 25 (Saturday); 6:30 p.m.
Monster Jam World Finals Racing: May 9 (Saturday); 5 p.m.
Monster Jam World Finals: May 19 (Tuesday); 4 p.m.
Monster Jam World Freestyle: May 20 (Wednesday); 12 a.m.
Monster Jam World Finals: June 20 (Saturday); 2:30 p.m.