by Bobby Markos
Two pillars of American motorsports converged this week on The Dale Jr. Download, as NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. welcomed two-time IndyCar Series Champion Josef Newgarden, and it did not disappoint.
Dale kicked off the interview with a story of how he originally met Josef at another major racing event, the Kentucky Derby. (Additional homework: don't miss this funny tweet from Newgarden about Junior from that day at the Derby.)
This week’s episode unpacks Josef’s unconventional journey in auto racing, where he is currently a 19-time winner in one of the world’s premiere open-wheel racing organizations.
Newgarden fell in love with the sport of racing through the eyes of his father, who was a die-hard fan of NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One racing. Newgarden described his parents as being “risk averse” and had difficulty convincing them to allow him to drive anything at an early age. His entry into motorsports came in the most unlikely of forms: a motorized scooter he spotted at a local skate shop. He found his competitive bone early, and soon was entering contests and succeeding.
From there, Newgarden and his father decided it was time to enter a more serious realm of the sport, and the two ventured north to Indiana where former IndyCar racer Mark Dismore had just opened the New Castle Motorsports Park for go-karts. The father-son team acquired a kart and began competing for championships at the facility.
Newgarden discusses his time at the Skip Barber Racing School, and how his quick progress there earned him the Team USA racing scholarship to travel to England and compete in the Formula Ford Festival. He provides insight to listeners on the ins and outs of formula racing overseas, and the difficulties one faces while trying to move up the ladder. His story hit a crossroads when his funds ran out in 2010, and he had to return to the US with no future prospects.
Second chances in racing are rare, but thanks to Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Josef’s career found a new lifeline as he raced in the 2011 Indy Lights Series. His achievements there spring boarded him into the IndyCar Series in 2012, where he has become one of the most popular drivers in the country.
As the IndyCar Series prepares to take on the streets of Nashville in the Music City Grand Prix on August 8th, Newgarden, a Tennessee-born driver, looks to find victory lane in front of his hometown cheering section. His path in the world of auto racing has led him all over the globe, but this race will be the closest thing to a homecoming event he’s seen in his professional career.
DJD listeners can expect a unique look into open wheel racing and the competitive ladder to the top-tier organizations, as well as a preview of the course for the upcoming Music City Grand Prix, where Josef has been working with track designers on the layout. All of this and more on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download - available on this website and all major podcast platforms.
Additional reading about our guest:
Born in Hendersonville, Tennessee on December 22nd, 1991, Josef Newgarden began his racing career in 2005 in the world of kart racing, and found early success in 2006 winning two junior division championships. From there he headed to the Skip Barber Racing School, where he would complete classes and find victory lane in the school’s Mazda championship.
In 2008, Newgarden would place 2nd in the series points with three wins and his efforts secured him a Team USA scholarship to compete in England at the Formula Ford Festival, a route that helped launch the careers of racers like Jimmy Vassar and Bryan Herta. He would make good on the honor and win the festival title, becoming the only American in history to do so. The accomplishment landed him in the British Formula Ford Championship in 2009, where he would finish 2nd in the points standings with a series-high nine victories.
Newgarden tried to transition into British Formula 3 racing in 2010, but found difficulty securing the funding needed to compete. When an investor backed out, he ended up in the newly formed GP3 Series, where he would struggle and finish 18th in the points standings. This would prove the end of his time racing overseas, and he would return to the US with no path continuing forward in the sport.
2011 saw Sam Schmidt Motorsports pick Newgarden up for an Indy Lights ride, where he would find instant success winning his first time out on the Streets of St. Petersburg. He would win the points championship with five total victories, including his first career oval races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The triumph again led to bigger opportunities, and in December of that year he was set as the driver for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing in the Indycar Series for 2012.
Newgarden would show promise in his first years in the series, achieving his first podium in 2013 in Baltimore and his first victory in 2015 at Barber Motorsports Park. He would follow it up with a second victory in Toronto and 7th-place points effort.
In 2017, Newgarden would move to Team Penske, where he would win a career-high four races and his first IndyCar Championship. He would follow the benchmark in 2019 with a second Championship, supported by another four-win campaign. After a couple of near-wins and heartbreaks, Newgarden finally found victory lane in 2021 at Mid-Ohio and is currently 4th in the series points standings.
-- Dirty Mo Media --