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.