On Saturday afternoon, I had the chance to interview Josef Newgarden, driver of the 67 Hartman Oil/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car. Taking the Indy Lights championship in 2011, he is now in his third year driving in the IndyCar series as well as his third year with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Newgarden's best career finish has been second, which he earned in both the 2013 Baltimore race and this year's race in Iowa. After qualifying on Saturday, he will start in 2nd position for Sunday's race.
ISABELLE BEECY - This season has been a bit uneven - what are some of the goals for your team to finish 2014 on a strong note?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN - Our goals probably haven’t changed from the beginning. Every weekend that we show up to, we try to just maximize what we can and get a good result. For the last four rounds, we’re just trying to get as many points as possible and keep the car in one piece and finish solidly every weekend, as you would every week, so I don’t think it’s changed from the beginning of the year.
IB - You finished 12th and 23rd in the past two seasons here at Mid Ohio. What are you and your team looking to do differently in terms of preparing for the race this year?
JN - It’s the third year and the track’s evolved quite a bit over the last couple years. It’s been a little bit of a deterioration in track grip but then at the same time, we have more power. There’s a little bit of an evolution and as always with IndyCar, you always have development for the chassis. Each team gets stronger and stronger every year and every race that we go to, so there’s a development phase that goes on there. For us, we’ve gone through various cycles of our development and we’ve come from a little different approach this year. I think we’ve got a relatively strong car. We were good at the test and have a good package to work with, it’s just very close right now. You’ve got to make sure you get everything out of it. You miss just a little bit here or there from the driving side or the set up side and you can find yourself ten positions back. We just got to make sure we get everything we can out of our set up.
IB - You've been racing at Mid Ohio in IndyCar for the past few seasons. What do you enjoy the most about the track so far?
JN - It’s one of the best tracks in North America, I would say. It’s a little more European style; a lot of the European drivers like this place because it’s very smooth, very similar to what you would race in England or most of the European circuits. It’s a fun track, it’s got a lot of grip. I think that’s why everyone’s closer, too. You see times are very, very close between everyone. Everyone seems to get a lot out of their own car. It’s just because there’s so much grip. It’s a lot of grip, a lot of high commitment. You really gotta put a lot into it when you try to get a fast lap. For a driver, that’s fun. It’s fun to go to a place that’s so high commitment, that you really have to put everything into it to get the best lap. I think that’s my favorite part about it.
IB - You recently participated in space camp with James Hinchcliffe. What was that experience like?
JN - It’s always fun getting to do extracurricular stuff and Hinch is one of the coolest guys to hang out with. He’s pretty laid back and we always have a fun time whenever we do stuff. Honda was the one that helped put together the space camp stuff. It’s fun to do space camp. After that, we got to visit the real NASA and see some of the behind-the-scenes stuff they’ve done over the years with space exploration and what they’re doing in the future. It’s just a lot of fun. I always enjoy visits like that and going with someone like Hinch makes it even better.
IB - Earlier this year you were part of an animal rescue/anti animal abuse campaign. How did you get involved with that?
JN - I’m part of this organization called Best Friends Animal Society and it’s basically an awareness group trying to bring awareness to shelter animals, specifically cats and dogs but all animals in general and not putting them down. There’s about 9,000 dogs and cats that are put down every day in the United States and you think about those statistics. It’s really high. I think they’re a great group to be a part of. They really try to bring awareness to that, to taking care of animals. It kind of segued into this other group out in Baltimore. They got me in contact with this Show Your Soft Side group, which promotes non animal cruelty. That’s where it segued from but Best Friends Animal Society is what I’m linked up with. I think they’re a great group, if anyone checks them out. That’s where it all stemmed from.