ELKHART LAKE, Wis., – June 6, 2023 – No INDYCAR Series driver has been as dominant at Road America in recent seasons as Josef Newgarden.
And the 32-year-old has the statistics to back up that claim.
Newgarden has collected two wins, secured three pole positions, and led 136 of 275 laps in five 55-lap events since 2018.
The Tennessean, in a Team Penske Chevrolet, led 25 of 55 laps and finished 3.37 seconds ahead of Marcus Ericsson in 2022 to earn his second victory at Road America.
Newgarden held off Ericsson and a slew of other drivers on a restart with three laps to go.
But the NTT INDYCAR Series Sonsio Grand Prix presented by American Medical Response on June 18 will likely pose new challenges due to a resurface of the 4.048-mile track.
Milling and grinding began at the track, including pit lane, in early October 2022. Fine grading, a new base layer, and a brand-new final surface asphalt layer were completed later that month.
No layout changes were made at Road America, which opened in 1955. The repaving project was the first since 1995.
Newgarden said he’s confident that his Team Penske team will rise to the challenge.
“A lot of what we’ve leaned on in the past, historically, is going to get somewhat thrown out the window,” he said.
“It’s going to be a totally different race track, so that type of variable is hard for me to predict. I don’t know how we will respond to that, but I have full belief we will figure it out.”
The 2022 victory for Newgarden was a redemption for Newgarden and Team Penske. During the 2021 race, Newgarden led 32 of 55 laps from the pole but had a gear issue with two laps remaining. Newgarden finished 21st in the event won by Alex Palou.
Newgarden, who won INDYCAR titles in 2017 and 2019, and the 2023 Indianapolis 500, said that a driver and team need to be at the top of their games to tackle RA. A well-balanced car is also critical.
“The efficiency of the car needs to be excellent,” Newgarden said. “There are long straightaways and high-speed corners and slow-speed technical corners.
“Different variations of soft curves and rumble strips that require the suspension to be both supportive for the high speed and responsive to exit bumps and exit curbing, so, I guess your car just has to be super well rounded.”
In 2018, Newgarden started from the pole and led all but two laps for his first win at the permanent road course. He finished 3.3759 seconds ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Newgarden, who first competed at the track in 2008 at a Skip Barber event, said his favorite sections at RA are huge-speed areas.
“I love high-speed natured tracks, and Road America is one of the best that we go to,” he said. “Road America is obviously very historic, but I love any of the high-speed sections.
“The Carousel is fantastic, and even the Kink, which seems pretty straightforward, but it’s not always straightforward, especially in race conditions when the car has full fuel.”
Newgarden said the track demands balance and a driver must string together many elements to attain success. Those characteristics include navigation of high- and low-speed sections, the ability to get off the corners well, and making use of long straights.
“It’s really about bringing all the elements together, and that’s what makes it hard to put a good lap together at Road America just because it requires so much,” he said. “Where some tracks are a little more narrow on their requirements. I think Road America requires a lot.”
Newgarden admitted that he’s a big fan of the fans who descend on RA, which is burrowed in the Kettle Moraine forest.
“Everybody in INDYCAR enjoys being there, and you can tell that’s the same feeling of the fans,” Newgarden said. ”It’s a very passionate group, with a lot of campers.
“Typically, people who come and camp are more invested in motorsports in general and are pretty savvy with what’s going on and what teams are doing what, who the drivers are. It’s definitely a very motor-sport-educated crowd, which is great. We love that.”
In addition to the 2022 race win, one notable accomplishment that day still resonates with Newgarden.
Newgarden captured a $1 million bonus from PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge. He won the challenge by being the first driver in 2022 to secure wins at a trio of different IndyCar tracks — a road course, an oval, and a street circuit.
Team Penske received $500,000, and Newgarden donated $500,000 to his chosen charities, SeriousFun Children’s Network and Wags and Walks of Nashville.
Wags and Walks of Nashville brought Newgarden and his wife, Ashley, together with their rescue dog Axel.
PeopleReady partnered with the INDYCAR Series to bring back the challenge during the 2023 season.
“It ended up being a special weekend on top of just the win because of that. It was a significant portion of the money to go to these charities that I was representing,” Newgarden said. “It didn’t really sink in until after the fact with how impactful it was.”
Tickets for the NTT INDYCAR Sonsio Grand Prix, Presented by AMR Weekend, June 15-18, are available, and the paddock will be open to fans.
The weekend schedule at Road America will also be bolstered by the Radical Cup series and junior development series’, the INDY NXT Series presented by Firestone, the USF Pro 2000 series, and the USF 2000 series, of which many drivers of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES are graduates.
In addition, several iconic machines from Vintage Indy™ will be featured at the event, ranging from the classic to several modern Indy racers. Spectators will be able to get up close and personal with these legendary machines, and this special feature is sure to be an exciting experience for any racing fan, as they get to witness these cars in action during special parade laps and see first-hand the history and legacy of Indy racing.
Off the track, the Briggs & Stratton Motorplex will be open for public karting. Plus there will be Disc Golf and a Family Fun Zone for the kids on Saturday and Sunday.
Additional event details, ticket pricing, and camping information can be found at www.roadamerica.com or by calling 800-365-7223. Anyone 16 years old and under is FREE with a paying adult at the gate. Racing runs rain or shine.