Nashville native Josef Newgarden always has kept close ties with his hometown. In fact, the 29-year-old Tennessean moved back to his home state last year to be closer with his family.
The defending NTT IndyCar Series champion woke up Tuesday morning in Florida (where he was testing at Sebring International Raceway) to the news that his hometown was struck by a deadly tornado.
“It was 5 a.m., and there were all these texts asking me if I was good,” Newgarden told the NFL Network in a Wednesday morning interview. “Fortunately, we are all fine. Everyone in my family is great. Not everyone was so lucky, as everyone saw.
“The big thing was my sister. She lives in East Nashville, where it hit really hard and she missed it by just a little bit. I feel for the city, my heart breaks for a lot of my friends there. We have to rebuild. That city has done it before with the floods and we will have to do it with a tornado. I need to get back home. I have been gone for the last 48 hours, I need to get back home and see what I can do.”
Newgarden also took to social media to voice his support of his fellow Nashvillians.
Down in FL testing with the team today and just waking up to the news in Nashville.
All okay from our end, but tough to see the photos and what’s effected others. This is a great city with a strong community.
— Josef Newgarden (@josefnewgarden) March 3, 2020
Additionally, fellow Tennessean and three-time NASCAR champion Darrell Waltrip, who resides in nearby Franklin, Tennessee, also tweeted that he and his family were unaffected by the tornado.
Thanks to everyone checking on @AllWaltrip and my family, we live in Franklin and the storm was in Nashville, lots of rain but no damage at our house! Prayers for all that were effected by the storm!
— Darrell Waltrip (@AllWaltrip) March 3, 2020
Charlotte Motor Speedway vice president and general manager Greg Walter also woke up Tuesday to a message from his daughter, a Nashville resident who was impacted but thankfully survived the storm.
The voicemail in the middle of the night started, “Daddy, we are okay but I have lost everything…” Watching the news this morning, I know there are at least 9 families in TN for who the call was very different. My prayers are for all those affected last night in Nashville.
— Greg Walter (@GTWalter1) March 3, 2020
Tuesday’s tornado death toll currently is at 24 (with dozens still missing), which would tie it with a Feb. 5, 2008 tornado as the second deadliest in Tennessee history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center.