pressdog: You were P8 in Texas and P11 at Milwaukee, it seems like you have an improvement trend going.
Josef Newgarden: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve had some good results. Detroit Race 1 was good for us. We’ve had the potential to do even a little better. We got unlucky in Texas, but other than that I think we’ve had the potential to be in the top 5 at every event, even challenge for a win. So it’s there.
The consistency of us doing that every weekend and showing that we can make it happen, it’s only been good for us and it’s going to eventually get us into that consistent place where we are finishing inside the top five and contending week in and week out with the top guys.
Josef: That’s a hard one to answer. I think continuity is a big thing. We’ve got the same guys that have been working here from day one last year and it’s just putting in time, putting the resources in, month after month. Sixteen months down the road you’re going to get a better performance because we have been together for a while now and you are going to see that blossom a little bit.
pressdog: The Brazil race, I don’t think I’ve seen any comments from you on the end of the race. What did you think?
Josef: I thought it was a good IndyCar race, if nothing else. Brazil was an incredible race. That’s all I care about, which is people loved it. I think that was one of the coolest street course races ever, so I was happy that we were in the mix. We were right there and we could have won the race. We had a really fast car all weekend. We were able to come back through (the grid), finish in the top 10 and challenge for the win. It didn’t work out like we wanted it to, but it was a great result for where we started. We started last on the grid and didn’t get to qualify, all that sort of stuff, so it was a great weekend when you look at everything together.
And the stuff with Taku (Takuma Sato)… Taku did what he did. Honestly, as a driver, it’s not a big deal, at least for me. Other guys might have reacted differently. I was in a certain situation. I could only do so much because I think we really needed to secure a good result, especially going into Indianapolis, that was really important. So there was only so much I was going to push it, and only so aggressive I was going to get with him which was one thing. The way he drove was maybe a little bit more to the aggressive side. There were a lot of people who were upset, way more upset than I was about it. There was a bigger reaction from other drivers. I didn’t even have to be upset about it because it seemed like everyone else was pissed about it more than me, so that was kind of cool.
But anyway, I think as a driver you have to sort it out. It doesn’t matter if someone is driving wrong or doing something against the rules, you can’t just whine about it and say they should take his win away or take his place away. You’ve got figure it out as a driver how to get around it, whatever it is. I think Hinch did a great job. Hinch sorted it out.
pressdog: Let’s talk about Indy. Does Indy not like you? Have you done something to offend Indy (based on two disappointing results)?
Josef: I don’t want to say yes. I don’t want to say Indy hates me because I won the Freedom 100 there, so it can’t hate me if it allowed me to do well on my first try, so that can’t be what it is.
pressdog: Good point … (Newgarden had mechanical issues and finished seven laps down at Indy.) Is it hard as a driver to switch from that mentality from “I have a good car and I could win” and then something comes up and obviously you’re not going to win and you have to get in kind of a damage control mode?
Josef: Yeah, well anything can happen and obviously if you’re seven laps down at Indianapolis, it’s pretty hard to make it up but you keep a similar mentality that anything can happen and you just run it all the way out. You never know. Maybe the whole field crashes. Probably never going to happen, but I think you keep that mentality all the way to the end.
We did that at Detroit. We ended up getting hit in the back in Race 2 in Detroit by Rahal and it just smoked our gearbox. We had to come in take the whole cluster out and fix it and put a gear pod in and a gear position sensor and we got that going and we were seven laps down sitting in 24th or something. We were just keeping on, you know, doing what we can, and we ended up finishing 16th seven laps down, so it’s one of those you never get out of the mentality. You always keep that all the way to the end because you never know what is doing to happen.
pressdog: It’s going to be hot at race time. Is the heat something that bothers you?
Josef: Yeah, the heat’s tough. It’s just another element that you have to deal with. Physically, the place is very demanding. Iowa is one of the toughest places we go to. For an oval, I think it is actually the most physically demanding place we go to. You got high banking, high loads, very short track, you are always flat out, and you are always turning, so that just creates a very physical environment for the drivers. Then you add heat then that’s just another level of difficulty you’re adding onto it.
pressdog: You’ve won here in Indy Lights, so what does it take to win at Iowa?
Josef: At Iowa there are a couple characteristics that are different than anywhere. Turn 1 and 2, there’s a bump that is massive. You have to have your car good over throughout a stint, because the car changes over that throughout each stint of the race. I think the way your car transitions throughout the stint is very very important. That’s something you have to watch out for, that’s something in prep up to the race and also in practice. You have to do a really good job of that. If you do a really good job of that, I think you’ll do well in the race.
Other than that you really have to stay on top of your tools as a driver to make sure you’re doing a good job of managing the balance over the course of each run. If you start with understeer or you start with over steer, it doesn’t matter you have to balance that out at the beginning and manage it all the way out to the end.
It’s pretty true around this place especially now, the way we are running the aero configuration, it’s a lot harder to drive because there is not as much downforce on the cars so it puts more emphasis on the driver doing a good job. And making sure the driver is staying on top of his tools. I think those two together is probably going to key around here.
pressdog: Can you still go incognito?
Josef: Yeah, I think I can. I think I can do it. It’s gotta be very different now. There’s a different way to approach it. I have ideas on stuff to do it’s just a matter of doing it.
It’s harder now for me not to be recognized because people recognize me from the (Incognito) video.
pressdog: So the incognito videos blew your ability to go incognito?
Josef: It’s silly when you think of it. It’s hard to do at the track.
pressdog: You have a great sense of humor, where did that come from, first of all, and how important is it to have that sense of humor in your line of work?
Josef: I don’t know. That’s just me. I’ve always just been a dork and a goofball.
pressdog: Were your parents dorks?
Josef: Well, yeah, my dad is kind of a clown. He walks around in these Hawaiian shirts now and looks like Tommy Bahama now when he comes to the race track. That’s how I’ve always been since I was younger. I think it comes out now especially when I’m racing. I think it’s OK to get your personality out there. I think it’s important to get your personality out there. That’s huge nowadays. The serious of driving IndyCars is always present, it always is, it’s the main thing when you come to the track, that’s your job.
But on the other side, you have to have a branding aspect of it if you want to have longevity, if you want to build a brand and have identity, it’s important to have a personality. You can’t build anything from it if you don’t. I think it’s important. The good thing about it is it’s natural. There’s nothing forced. It’s me. Everything I do purely is me. There’s nothing forced there.
pressdog: So, Sarah Fisher, do you have to call her Ms. Fisher? Is she pretty demonic, crazy?* (*denotes sarcasm)
Josef: No. No. Sarah is actually pretty great. She’s been great to drive for. She’s kind of like a sister to me, I’m going to say. Great friend, boss. Real easy to drive for. Real easy to work for. The good thing about Sarah is that she’s been a driver so that helps. It helps that she understands my side a little bit more and that’s never a bad thing to have. I think she makes my transition easier.