‘Steep learning curve’ of challenges awaiting Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson in the Rolex 24


DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Among myriad ways the Rolex 24 at Daytona will be a dizzying but euphoric rush of sensory overload for Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson, what might top the checklist?

How about race traffic – an answer that might seem odd to longtime NASCAR fans.

Elliott, a winner at Talladega Superspeedway and frequent contender on the circuit’s biggest and fastest tracks, and Johnson, a two-time Daytona 500 winner, are well versed in running a breakneck pace while slicing through massive packs of cars at Daytona International Speedway.

But the Rolex 24 will be like racing NASCAR to the nth degree.

HOW AND WHEN TO WATCH THE ROLEX 24: Schedule, TV info, start times, entry lists, more

In joining two Action Express Racing Cadillacs already teeming with elite road racers, the two Cup Series champions will navigate wildly divergent speeds, five classes of exotic cars and a roster of roughly 200 largely unfamiliar drivers who hail from around the world with unfamiliar accents and unique styles.

And it will happen over the course of 24 grueling hours on the World Center of Racing’s other layout, the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course that incorporates the infield and much of the 2.5-mile oval that Elliott and Johnson know so well.

Action Express team manager Gary Nelson, a former NASCAR champion himself, has translated those stock-car experiences into an analogy to coach his star crossovers on getting acclimated to the heavy congestion, which he believes will be their biggest challenge at the Rolex 24.

CROSSING OVER: A look at the NASCAR and IndyCar drivers in the 59th Rolex 24

“I’m telling both Chase and Jimmie that imagine you’re on the track racing with all your Cup Series drivers and all of the Xfinity drivers and all of the Truck series drivers and all of the K&N Series drivers – all at the same time,” Nelson told NBC Sports with a chuckle. “There’s going to be a huge difference in speed and closure rate and talent among the different drivers.

“If I lose a couple of seconds waiting to get on a straightaway to pass this particular driver because I’m not sure if he’s going to leave me room, that decision helps you win the race here. If you rush it, like you would if you’re running a 500-mile race, you could find yourself with damage that costs you the race. Patience has got to be key to get through this.”

Neither is underestimating the challenge of doing Daytona, particularly Elliott.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver is the reigning king of the road in NASCAR, with four consecutive victories on the circuits that require left and right turns.

But even though he won at the Daytona road course last August, he has no extra confidence entering his Rolex 24 debut in a high-performance car unlike anything he ever has raced.

“No, not really, this is a very different deal,” Elliott told NBC Sports. “All these guys are very good and drive these types of cars all the time. They have all the small little things that make you great inside a car, all those little nuances to manipulate things and find that last 2%.

“I’ve never even driven one of these things, so it’s going to be a steep learning curve for me. I’ve accepted that. I’m looking forward to the challenge for sure and just trying not to mess it up too bad for my teammates.”

The No. 48 Ally Cadillac DPI-V.R, which will be shared by Jimmie Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi, Simon Pagenaud and Mike Rockenfeller, in the Daytona International Speedway garage Saturday (IMSA).

Though Johnson is making his eighth attempt at the Rolex 24, it’s his first in a decade, and the top-level prototypes radically have evolved through generations of technological development (and a sports car series merger), helping shave nearly 10 seconds off lap times with optimized braking and a smoother ride that rewards high aggression.

“It’s a very fun car to drive, lots of downforce, lots of speed,” said Johnson, who will be teamed with Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Rockenfeller and Simon Pagenaud in his familiar No. 48 that will be a one-off entry. “This race has a special place in my heart, and I love to be a part of it.”

The seven-time champion and Elliott seemed to adapt well Friday on the first day of Roar testing.

The No. 31 Cadillac that Chase Elliott will be driving in the Rolex 24 at Daytona was in the hunt for the DPi championship last year through the Twelve Hours of Sebring finale (Brian Cleary/bcpix.com).

Making 27 laps in the No. 31 Cadillac DPI-V.R that he’ll share with Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Mike Conway, Elliott described his constantly improving lap times as “a whirlwind. The faster you go through some of these sections, the better it drives. I’m trying to get that through my head a little bit.”

Said Johnson, who made 12 laps: “It’s an awesome race car. We have an amazing driver lineup.”

Each Action Express car paced a practice (Kobayashi in the first session; Conway in Session 2), reaffirming the teams have the setups and talent to compete for an overall victory.

Nelson said he initially was nervous about how Elliott and Johnson would adapt to the foreign elements of carbon brakes, paddle shifting and traction control when they hopped into the GM racing simulator with a baseline setup from Nasr and Derani, the team’s full-time drivers.

“I thought we might be there a while to have to really teach those things to Chase and Jimmie, and in five laps, they were right there,” Nelson said. “They were able to just pick it right up. It’s unbelievable. These guys are professionals.”

As Elliott and Johnson prepare to race the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener Jan. 30-31, here are some hurdles they’ll face in keeping up with the world’s best sports car drivers:


The Cadillacs are a world apart from the Camaros that Elliott and Johnson raced in Cup last year. The lighter DPi car (by about 1,200 pounds) will be much more nimble through the turns while loaded up with extra downforce.

They also will have supreme stopping ability, allowing Elliott and Johnson to carry higher speeds through the corners in tight sectors and also brake much deeper than in the Cup race on the same course.

Nelson said it’s one of the many differences in the cast-iron brakes used in Cup cars vs. the lighter carbon-fiber brakes of a sports car. And though the carbon brakes offer much greater precision braking, they also require a careful technique of applying pedal pressure to slow the car without shedding too much downforce

Rolex 24 IndyCar NASCAR
Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller and Simon Pagenaud tested the No. 48 Cadillac at Daytona International Speedway in December (Brian Cleary/bcpix.com).

“Carbon brakes have a whole different warmup and peak performance time,” Nelson said. “It ramps up a lot different on a cast-iron brake, but then it holds differently and drops off differently when it gets real hot. Your car is stopping so much faster with the carbon brakes, but it’s also losing downforce much faster. When you double or lose half your speed, your downforce changes by a factor of 4.

“So the braking can be really great at 200 mph, but you’ve got half that traction from downforce when you get down to 100 mph, so you have to modulate the brake pedal to compensate for the ramp-up and bite or effectiveness of the brakes, and at the same time, you have to modulate for the loss of downforce, which is huge if you’re a stock-car driver trying to learn that.”

Because the braking concepts are similar, Johnson is leveraging his Rolex 24 foray to also help in his adaptation to a part-time IndyCar schedule this year.

“The brakes are really the weakest link on a NASCAR vehicle,” he said. “You create lap time exiting the turn in a NASCAR vehicle. This downforce world of sports cars and IndyCar is the other way around.

“The technique of applying the brakes and then how you trail off them and throw the car at the center of the turn is where the magic is. It’s easier said than done.”

NBC Sports analyst Townsend Bell, who will be driving a Lexus in the GTD division for the third consecutive year, said the end of the braking zones in Turns 3 and 5 will be critical.

“For Chase, a big adjustment is the initial application of brakes, because in a stock car, you have a lot of weight transfer to the front end, and you have to ease that transition more,” Bell said. “In a prototype, it’s a much more instant feeling, like using the fast dimmer on a light switch. It’s a much slower dimmer on a stock car. It’s a lot to get adjusted to, but if you know how to win like Chase does in the Cup Series, you’ll figure that out quickly.”

There’s almost too much to learn with the advanced electronic controls of the DPi car, which has a steering wheel outfitted with adjustable settings for handling (including power steering).

“The feel of the car can change tremendously by moving these knobs around,” Nelson said. “But the thing that put Jimmie and Chase at ease was we have a telemetry screen that tells us where every one of those knobs is positioned at all times. So they can’t get off base very far before we see it on the telemetry screen in the pits, and we can tell them.

“So once they learn we’re able to look over their shoulder as if we’re riding in the back seat, all of a sudden, they get comfortable with the ability of us to keep them from messing up.”

Unlike the manual (and error-prone) procedures of relying on dashboard lights and a tachometer needle in NASCAR, there also is a button that makes speeding in the pits impossible no matter how much the driver stomps the accelerator.

But that might be the only setting that interests Elliott, who said he isn’t planning to fiddle with his space-age steering wheel options.

“I think I’m going to be such a big variable in the car and getting around this racetrack in something new, I honestly think the worst thing I can do to myself would be to start messing with settings,” Elliott said. “I think I’m probably going to mess myself up and probably slow down more than I’m going to help myself.

“So whichever guy gets out of the car in front of me, I’m probably not going to touch anything when I get in and just try to focus on driving and figure it out from that side.”

Having gotten to tinker with similar steering wheel adjustments in IndyCar testing, Johnson said with a laugh that he is trying “to push on Chase to twist some dials, because there are many driver aids built in there.

“I know it’s a bit overwhelming trying to get your senses and mind up to speed in the car,” he said. “There are some longer straightaways (at Daytona), which are nice because you can complete your thoughts and look down at the wheel.”


Getting swiftly in and out for driver swaps also will be among the in-race challenges for Elliott, who never has shared a car before but is confident of adapting well (the team began practicing changes Friday).

“There’s no excuse for it to take any longer than a pit stop should,” Elliott said. “I think they can typically change before they fill it up with fuel, so there’s no excuse for us being any slower than that.”

It’s one of many ways he is expecting to be leaning on his highly accomplished teammates. After a 20-minute introductory chat with his co-drivers – two natives of Brazil and another from England – Elliott said they were “super friendly and understand I’m all ears and want to learn. It seems they’re willing to do that and kind of walk me through this as I learn to get up to speed. I’m going to give everything that I have to not try to mess up because I think they can easily go win this race without me.”

Elliott also is mindful that his car will be competing for the championship post-Daytona (unlike Johnson’s ride). “I respect that, and so I just want to do my part and play whatever role they ask me to play,” he said. “I don’t want anything special. I’m just happy to be here for the opportunity.”

Nasr, a Formula One veteran who jokes about being Elliott’s “lucky charm” having attended his victories at Daytona and the Roval (“I’m hoping he can do the same in our car”), said the team will provide Elliott with as much information as possible but also isn’t worried about his performance.

“It’s going to be a lot different than his NASCAR car,” Nasr told NBC Sports. “The way it feels, the brakes, the power, the handling. But I see no problem at all for him to get up to the grips of the car and being up at speed. He’s got enough time and enough practice, and everyone is looking forward to having him on board.”

The same holds true for Johnson, who already has good friendships with Rockenfeller and Pagenaud. The 2019 Indy 500 winner is “happy and honored I can give Jimmie advice on road racing” after Johnson had provided him many tips on oval racing (Pagenaud’s wife is from Johnson’s hometown of El Cajon, California, where she became good friends with Johnson’s brother, Jesse).

Kobayashi, a two-time defending Rolex 24 winner, said the most important factor is the team “sharing good information. I knew Jimmie had the talent, that why he’s a legend in NASCAR, so I’m not at all worried about the performance. It’s just very important to share information to win this race.”

One of Johnson’s biggest concerns is the race’s length and 3:40 p.m. start, a few hours later than the midday green flags for his past endurance races. “I’ll never forget the feeling of fatigue when you get near the end of the race and now to have the race to start and finish so late in the day, that adds a few more hours of being awake and on your feet,” he said.

A veteran of the Boston Marathon and Ironman 70.3 triathlons, Johnson already has the physical and mental fitness for the Rolex 24.

“Nutrition, hydration and all that comes into play, but the thing I really love the most about it is just understanding how far you can push yourself,” he said. “And in a 24-hour car race, you’re going to be challenged and taxed in ways you just can’t prepare for and expect.

“In doing the Boston Marathon and the 70.3, I’ve been in the hurt locker and looked at quitting. It’s been right in my face, and I chose not to, and I feel like there’s just something really big in that mentally that carries over to the day job and over to car racing.”


But sometimes the trick will be not pushing the limits during the heat of battle against the slower LMP3 and GT cars (whose lap times can be more than 10 seconds slower).

Johnson said learning how to manage traffic “is really the art of being successful in any 24-hour race.

“Thankfully I’ve had experience, and I know the areas where I’ve had success, and also know some areas where I’ve made mistakes,” he said. “But it’s really tough because the lower division cars, their performance on the brakes and through the corners is pretty impressive. We don’t have much of an advantage there.

“Chase and I have less experience with it, but it’s something we all have to deal with, and I’ll just continue to tell myself it’s a very long race, and you’ve got to keep it on the road.”

It isn’t necessarily an incident that can affect a driver so much as the finely tuned anticipation every lap to judge traffic while maintain competitive lap times.

“Yes, these boys can drive, but you get in these moments when you’re thrown that curveball of someone doing something you’re not expecting,” NBC Sports analyst Calvin Fish said. “Not locking up the brakes or releasing too early, that’s the key. Particularly for Chase in a championship-contending car that needs points on the board coming out of the race.”

NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500
Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson spent five seasons together as NASCAR Cup Series teammates at Hendrick Motorsports, which was bookended by Johnson’s seventh championship in 2016 and Elliott’s first title last year (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

Bell, who watched Kyle Busch adapt to traffic last year as a GTD teammate, said the Rolex 24 will be “a big jump in road course performance for Chase.

“It’s those surprise moments in multiclass traffic. If you’re by yourself turning laps, you’re getting into a rhythm of putting together the braking zone, apex, exit and getting that consistent and refined. Suddenly, you have traffic in front of you, a moment happens, and that percussive rhythm gets thrown off.”

Will Elliott mentally prepare for those sorts of moments or just try to react when they happen?

“That’s a great question,” he said with a laugh. “I have no idea. You hear about it and watch it on TV, but making lap time out on the track by yourself is one thing that’s a hard thing to do as is.

“To try to make time with people in your way and navigating traffic all at once brings a great challenge and is a big aspect of this event, so I’ll just have to figure it out as we go.”

Through belief and grief, Josef Newgarden won Indy 500 with life lessons from his family


INDIANAPOLIS – Josef Newgarden was taught by his father that he could win the Indy 500, and he learned through his wife that it would be OK to always lose it.

After finally winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the typically unflappable two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion got choked up when discussing the importance of Joey Newgarden, who instilled “internal belief,” and Ashley Newgarden, who “helps make my world go round and sees the heartbreak more than anyone else.”

Monday morning, while Josef Newgarden made the rounds of photo shoots and media obligations at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, beaming family members lingered among incessant laugher on the Yard of Bricks –savoring the moment and recounting their supportive roles through a journey that took 12 tries (Newgarden tied the record for most Indianapolis 500 starts before his first victory).

VICTORY SPOILS: Newgarden earns $3.66 million from record purse

INSIDE TEAM PENSKEThe tension and hard work preceding ‘The Captain’s’ 19th win

For Joey Newgarden, it was turning a scrawny kid (“when Josef was 11, he was 4 foot 11, 67 pounds”) into the superstar with six-pack abs who proved a worthy main character in the first season of IndyCar’s “100 Days to Indy” docuseries.

For Ashley, it was the anguished and helpless days after the many Brickyard disappointments that left her in the role of indefatigable sports psychologist.

“In a lot of ways, it’s terribly difficult for someone like Ashley,” Newgarden told NBC Sports during a reflective interview late Monday morning in an antiseptic glass-paneled office on the fourth floor of the IMS media center. “She carries the burden more than anybody, and people don’t know that and see that. I’m not easy to be around when my heart’s broken.

“And when this place breaks your heart, it’s tough to leave here every year. I’m going to cry thinking about it. It’s really, really hard. And she just … endures it is probably the one way to put it. She has endured the pain. And I think it’s almost a harder pain than the pain I feel because she’s not asking for it, but she’s having to live it.

“And there’s more than just that. You think about the genuinely impossible odds that are so against you to make it to this level, and a lot of it is down to my mom and dad, and the way they literally laid everything on the line to make this happen. We don’t come from some just blank check group. I came from a great upbringing. We had great opportunity, but you really have to put everything on the line if you’re going to make this type of career work, and they did that. So to come against all these odds, and all of us to be there together and win this race.

“It’s full circle.”

Josef Newgarden was ready to quit motorsports after his first full-bodied car race – a Southern regional Skip Barber event in 2006 at Sebring International Raceway.

After a hugely successful career in go-karting, this was his chance to take a critical next step toward the major leagues, and it was happening on one of the most daunting, physically punishing road courses in the United States.

So on the first lap, Newgarden fully committed to taking the Turn 17 corner, pancaking his car into the wall with embarrassing overexuberance.

“It was basically a typically me move,” he said sheepishly. “I always overcook high-speed stuff. I love it. That’s what my essence is. I love a high-speed track. I will send it bigger than anybody. That was one of the days I oversent it into Turn 17 and overcooked it straight into the wall.”

There was another race the next day, but at dinner that night, Newgarden was having second thoughts.

“I was saying I don’t know if I want to do this,” he said. “I don’t know that I can do this. There definitely was doubt in a lot of ways, and I’m saying this stuff, and my dad made me run the race the next day when I didn’t want to run the race. That’s how much I was taken aback by the whole thing. He made me run the race. And most people would not ever guess that story that my dad is trying to help make me run the race the next day because I don’t want to do it, and because I feel like I can’t do it.”

It’s unfathomable to consider because Newgarden, 32, comes off as one of the most supremely confident drivers in IndyCar through a persona of unflagging optimism. Whether starting 17th (as he did in the 107th Indy 500) or first, he never betrays an iota of doubt that he can’t win.

Which, under the watchful eye of his father, is exactly what he did in the second Skip Barber race at Sebring.

It was “a big turning point” on the championship mettle required for big-time auto racing.

“There was a light bulb that switched for me for sure that I was like you have to dig deep,” Newgarden said. “It was one of those moments of do you want to do this or not? And I think you either change in that moment to fully get on board or not. Because you can’t be in the middle. You won’t run for Roger Penske in the biggest race in the world if you are.

“It’s weird to go back and talk about it because I know it’s become second nature to me. There’s so much pressure, there’s so much obligation of be you, be awesome. Talk to our sponsors. Be their representative. Get in the car, do a great job. The amount of commitment that people put on you. You just can’t crack.

“It must have been in there, and Joey just brought it out of me.”

Josef Newgarden describes his dad as “the ultimate believer” who was always there as his son barnstormed around the country on dozens of go-kart trips from their home outside Nashville, Tennessee.

“He’s just a very distinct human being,” Josef said of Joey. “But he has an amazing talent for optimism, and that can’t be understated how he’s given that to me. I can be a very realistic and pragmatic person. Those don’t always line up, having extreme optimism and trying to be realistic about something and see all scenarios. I think I’m able to be both now. I try to see things truly for what they are, and I don’t overreach. But I also have ultimate belief that anything can is possible. My dad embodied that from the very beginning.”

Though Joey refers to it as “putting in the work,” Josef Newgarden said there were immense sacrifices made by him and his mother, Tina, so their son could pursue the dream of becoming a professional race car driver with a single-minded focus.

“It was, ‘We don’t have enough money? We’ll get the money,’ ” he said. “We will figure it out. And I didn’t have to carry any of that burden when I was young. If we go into debt, who cares? We’ll figure it out. Are we out of opportunities? Doesn’t matter. We’ll figure something out and keep going.”

His father recalls it all as being my design of trying to mold a young teenager “who never had belief in himself” while competing in baseball, basketball and go-karts against bigger competition.

Joey Newgarden, who grew up sweeping floors for 75 cents an hour in Miami while working for his father in the business of photography chemicals, set to establishing a simple principle that hard work and a positive attitude can .

“Maybe I was just trying to trick him,” Joey Newgarden, wearing an Indy 500 hat and dark sunglasses, told a few reporters Monday morning at IMS. “I was scrawny like that when I was a kid, too, and I didn’t really have a male role model doing that with me, so I had to try to come up with a plan. We’ve got two daughters and one son, and he was the youngest. And it was, ‘How are we going to do it and convince him that he can be No. 1?’ It’s tough competition out there.”

Though there was a physical aspect (Newgarden became a fitness fanatic in his later teens), much of dad’s grooming was on the attitude of his son, who has retained the competitive fire and grace as a world-class driver but shed being a poor loser.

“He was the biggest baby about racing cars,” Joey recalled with a laugh. “He wanted to win every race and lead every lap literally from the very beginning. And when he’d get out of the car, he was Tony Stewart Jr. He wanted to win every single time.

“I always told him you’ve got to learn how to lose before you learn how to win. Because if you don’t know how to lose, you don’t know what winning really means.”

Josef Newgarden said the crash in Sebring went a long way toward establishing his mental toughness.

“You either are hardened by that, and you’re steel,” he said. “Or you’re weak, and you’re not going to make it at this level. It’s just what it takes.

“From that point on, it was never again am I going to lack that type of belief. But Joey is central to the belief system. He should have full credit for that. It sounds simple, but not everybody can truly put their all into something and make it happen at all costs. He gave that to me.”

If his parents provided the immutable faith of pursuing a goal that seemed impossible, his wife of four years (and romantic partner of nearly a decade) gave him the gift of letting go of it.

Ashley Newgarden annually watched her husband agonizingly wrestle with the toll of coming up short in the Indy 500 (which Team Penske now has won a record 19 times).

“Every year, you see someone else get that, and you want it so desperately for yourself and you can picture it for yourself, too,” she said. “So with Josef, the heartbreak just comes from just the thought of, ‘Maybe I’ll never get this opportunity.’ And that’s the worst thing. Because you only get one chance a year, and you only have a certain amount of years you can do this and be competitive at it.

“And he knows that it’s now or never. Every year we left, it was just more hard and more hard and sadder and sadder and sadder.”

There was little she could do to console him, too.

“It’s the toughest part because she wants nothing more than to help, and she can’t help me,” Josef said. “That’s why I say she’s had to endure the pain because in some relationships that person is able to help the individual that needs it. And that doesn’t work for me. So she can’t help.”

Said Ashley: “There’s nothing you can say. Just give him your support. You can say, ‘That one hurt, it’s yours next year.’ But he’s such a realist, and he doesn’t need the coaching like that from me. You just have to be supportive, and my biggest focus was always how do we get him in a mentally stronger place before the next race and not let this bleed over, (and) he goes into the next race angry.

“It was always the focus of how do we somehow let this go and just put it on the back burner and kind of forget about it. This race is done. After the month, just forget about it until next year. Go to Detroit and have a good season.”

Eventually, Ashley helped Josef with landing in a place where he could divorce himself from some of the pain in the Indy misses. After his second IndyCar championship, Josef struck a new tone publicly about refusing to let the Brickyard define him.

“I think you have to get to that point, because if not, this will just eat you alive,” Ashley said. “And you’ll just not feel you’ve accomplished enough, even though it’s harder to win a championship. This is a very hard race to win, of course. But it’s harder to put together seasons and to be an IndyCar Series champion, but yet this race is more elusive, and you want this more almost.

“I think recently over the last couple of years, really the last year, he started to focus on ‘I’ve done my job. I’ve done everything that I can. I’ve given them two championships.’ I think he started to focus more on that, and he was going to do everything that he could, and it’s going to be enough, and if he doesn’t win the 500, that does not take away from his career. Because I think people think it does. And I think he just kind of let go of it.”

Newgarden described the new outlook as conceding he never might win the Brickyard despite the omnipresent belief that he could.

“I kind of grieved it in a way,” he said. “It’s a weird way to put it, but I’m going to grieve the Indy 500 and it just doesn’t matter if I don’t ever win it. I truly do not subscribe to this thesis that you have to win this race to have a complete career. Of course, I would love to win the race, and it is a huge achievement. And it is the most difficult race and the most accomplishing race to win.

“But it shouldn’t define your time in the sport if you’re given that time. So I grieved the possibility of it and said if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. I’m not going to linger on it if it doesn’t work out.”

Ashley, who studied psychology in college, provides an emotionally intelligent yin to her husband’s coolly detached yang.

“She’s a very smart woman and more of an empath than I am, which is a little tough because she can be very emotional, and I’m not emotional at all half the time,” Josef said. “But she’s very intuitive with that type of mentality and trying to understand how to survive things and construct things in your brain or how to reason with things. So she’s definitely been most helpful for me to find balance in life.

“Because without her I would probably be a much darker, more miserable person. I would cut everything off and have no balance in my life without her. She’s really the only one that’s figured out how to give that to me.”

Serving as an unofficial nutritionist for her husband’s elite athlete lifestyle, Ashley has tried to find other ways to “make sure everything in his life is easy. Home, food, everything else is taken care of, and I don’t think it comes from a place of him needing that. But that’s how I show him love in those moments and am supportive.”

On the Sunday morning of the Indy 500, Ashley and Josef Newgarden usually awake to a stress level that never subsides.

It wasn’t there this year.

“It was so weird,” she said. “I’ll be honest, starting 17th, I’m like, ‘Oh man, I don’t know if we’re going to get up there’. But yesterday morning, we were so easy. And I don’t know if it was because I just felt so confident within. I think it was just a different change of mind for him and I. It was like if it doesn’t happen today, it’s OK. I think you have to get there mentally because it not, this will emotionally kill you.”

Joey Newgarden also has noticed an off-track calmness surrounding his family.

When Ashley gave birth to their first child, a son named Kota, in April 2022, Josef Newgarden joined his siblings in each having children within a 20-month span after the trio had gotten married within three years of each other.

His two sisters (the oldest works in pharmaceutical sales at a California company; the other is a registered nurse at a cancer research facility in Seattle) “are doing really well for themselves” to the delight of their parents.

“It’s storybook, the whole thing,” Joey said. “It almost scares me at this point. When things go this well, you’re always waiting for something to go wrong.

He’s got a wonderful wife that he’s been with for 10 years, married for three or four. He’s got a great relationship. What is that movie with Jimmy Cagney? Top of the world, ma.”

And his family says Josef Newgarden is not stopping there.

“I’ve never met someone that just wants to break all the records,” Ashley said. “I know everyone says that, but this dude, he knows the stats. He watches them. It’s never enough.”