It comes as no surprise to learn that Road America holds a special place in Josef Newgarden’s racing heart.
The Tennessean started from the pole and led 53 of 55 laps to claim victory in the 2018 NTT IndyCar Series Kohler Grand Prix. Newgarden, in a Team Penske Chevrolet, finished 3.3759 seconds ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay to earn his first win at permanent road course.
“It’s one of the great, old-school circuits that we have in the world, certainly in North America,” said Newgarden, who first competed on the track during a Skip Barber event in 2008.
“I’ve just always liked high-speed sections on race tracks and Road America has tons of those. That’s one of the reasons I like the style of driving and racing there.”
The 28-year-old said that attempting to run a mistake-free race wasn’t easy in 2018, but he was able to hold off Hunter-Reay by placing focus on running strong in particular corners.
“I really had to work hard to have no mistakes in the last corner, Turn 14 which leads into the front stretch, and Turn 3, which leads down to Turn 5,” Newgarden said. “Turns 3 and 14, those were very critical. If I had mistakes in those corners, then Ryan was able to close up and could use push-to-pass to maybe get by me.”
The victory came one year after he posted a runner-up effort to Scott Dixon at the 4-mile, 14-turn circuit. Newgarden wound up 0.5779 seconds back of Dixon, and chalked up the finish to being caught with having the wrong tire on his Chevy at the wrong time when a caution flag was flown.
Newgarden, who won the 2017 NTT IndyCar Series championship with Team Penske, said he’s confident the team will continue to run strong at Road America. The win was the fifth for Team Penske in 28 races races – in CART, Champ Car World Series and IndyCar – at Road America dating back to 1982.
“Both weekends have been solid with Team Penske,” he said of the 2017 and 2018 events. “We’ve got a quick car there. I hope we can continue that.
“Chevrolet seemed to do a lot of good work for us last year, with it being a lot of straightaways and quite a bit of time at top speed. Having a solid engine is important but you have to have a good race car, too, and we’ve had that. We’ve got to continue to keep that underneath us for the future now.”
When asked what it takes to string a solid lap at Road America, Newgarden offered an interesting perspective. Newgarden was fast in both practice sessions in 2018, and beat out Team Penske teammate Will Power by five hundredths of a second to claim the pole.
“Road America is all about aggressive precision,” Newgarden said. “You’ve got to be aggressive and kind of on top of the wheel to be fast there. There are so many high-speed sections that if you don’t wrestle the car, it’s hard to get the speed out of it.
“But at the same time, you have to have precision because if you slide the car too much than it can also be slow. If you have one big, slow moment, it can add up to a lot of time lost, specifically with how long the straightaways are. If you make a mistake, it’s almost double penalizing with a track of Road America’s length.
Newgarden also has been incredibly impressed with spectators’ loyalty and scenic atmosphere that the track, nestled in the Kettle Moraine woods.
“It’s very much a racers’ atmosphere where you hang out the whole time at the track,” Newgarden said. “You might grill out or have a camper there. The atmosphere is really, really cool. The fans are in it for the long haul, they don’t just come there for a couple hours. It adds to the specialness of the event.”
Led by the NTT IndyCar Series REV Group Grand Prix presented by American Medical Response, the weekend also features the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires including doubleheader rounds for Indy Lights, Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000. Sanctioned by IndyCar, the Road to Indy develops the stars of tomorrow with several drivers on the NTT IndyCar Series grid as graduates. Additional series’ in competition include the Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup and the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup.
Fans have three quick, convenient methods to buy tickets:
Online: Visit www.roadamerica.com Tickets are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Print your tickets at home and save time.
Phone: Call 800-365-RACE or 920-892-4576 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday.
In Person: Visit the Main Gate off of State Highway 67.
Anyone 16-years-old and under are always FREE with a paying adult at the gate. Any student can show their ID at the gate and get $10 off the ticket price.
Gates will open to the public each day at 7 a.m.
All races will run rain or shine.
A tentative event schedule is available online at www.roadamerica.com
Road America PR