With the maturity that Josef Newgarden demonstrates, it would be easy to assume that he was closing in on the end of his major-league racing career, not sitting less than two years into it.
Take, for example, his views on the late-race battle he had with Takuma Sato at the IZOD IndyCar Series race in Brazil earlier this season. Newgarden came achingly close to wheeling the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing machine to his first victory. But James Hinchcliffe was able to catch up and steal the win after a prolonged battle between Newgarden and Sato, whose defending came close enough to violating IndyCar blocking rules to draw intense scrutiny from all corners.
It would have been easy for Newgarden to jump onto the bandwagon and blame Sato for his inability to close the deal. Instead, to this day, he still sees the determining factor as himself.
“I don’t think I drove him aggressively enough,” he says. “I don’t think I originally put full effort into him. I felt like it was more important to secure a good result instead of throwing something away and putting too much risk into it.
“I wasn’t too concerned about the way he drove. I was almost surprised at how everyone else reacted. It seemed like everyone else was in appall of what he had done.
“If the situation presents itself again, I’ll definitely be driving a little bit differently towards him, and I probably won’t be taking that cautious of an approach.”
At the same time, a side effect of that maturity and self-awareness is Newgarden’s willingness to take on opportunities for growth. That’s why he’s thrilled for the upcoming chance he’ll have to work with ALMS champion Lucas Luhr as a teammate at the upcoming GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
“Lucas is an incredible driver, really a fascinating guy to get to know,” Newgarden says. “I’m just extremely excited to have a teammate alongside me for a race weekend.
“And Sonoma is probably the perfect place that we could get that because that was our weakest track last year, the place where we definitely struggled the most to develop everything.
“Having another teammate as experienced as Lucas is going to be a huge bonus for us.”
Much is made about how single-car teams struggle to earn consistent results. But for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing in particular, Newgarden paints a bigger picture.
“We haven’t had a full-time sponsor,” he says, “and that’s definitely put a crimp in the program. It’s hard not having that full budget for an entire season.
“We’ve had incredible partners at Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, and everyone that supports us does a wonderful job and provides everything that we really do need to run for a full championship. But there can definitely always be more, and a full-time sponsor is certainly something that we need around this team.”
Between searching for sponsorship and looking into expansion, it’s clear that the people at this organization — and Newgarden in particular — will never be satisfied with the status quo.
“We want to be regularly contending for podiums and wins, and that’s really our goal,” Newgarden says. “We’ve still got a little ways to go, but I think points-wise we’ve been able to do a good job of managing each weekend and trying to maximize points as much as possible, so I’ve been happy with that.
“We’ve just not been able to consistently get good point-scoring results and getting ourselves right to the top. That’s what we’re still working on. It’s a long process, but if it was super-easy then I think everyone would be in this game.”
Where Newgarden’s maturity beyond his years truly shines, however, is in his philosophy.
“I take it as it comes right now,” he says. “You never know where you’re going to be or what you’re going to be doing the next year and even sometimes the next race. It’s a very dynamic sport, and you never really know where it’s going to take you as a driver.
“Whenever you get an opportunity to do something, I think you’ve got to take it by the horns and do the best that you can every single time.
“I just want to be successful in whatever I do. Every time you show up to a racetrack and get inside of a race car, you’re looking to win the race and be as successful as possible.
“So, I kind of treat it as one race at a time. Whatever happens, happens.”
Josef Newgarden recently shared his thoughts with More Front Wing on a number of other topics, including double-header race weekends, standing starts, and further races this season where he and his team have shown excellent potential. To hear the interview in its entirety, listen to the More Front Wing podcast, which will be available tomorrow morning. Find us on iTunes or right here at morefrontwing.com.