Newgarden hot for IndyCar to race on hometown track, too

Friday, July 3, 2020, Vol. 44, No. 27
By Tom Wood

Hendersonville’s Josef Newgarden racing in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin in 2019.

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Josef Newgarden, the two-time (and reigning) NTT IndyCar Series champion, is anxious to race again at what he considers his hometown track.

Newgarden, 29, went to high school in Hendersonville (Pope John Paul II) before moving to Indiana to pursue his open-wheel racing career, then moved to North Carolina when he joined Team Penske in order to be closer to company headquarters. When Newgarden and longtime girlfriend Ashley Welch got married in October, they decided to move back to Nashville.

“Of course, I would love to see IndyCar return (to Nashville Superspeedway). I’ve been slowly campaigning for that and keep trying to build my case,” Newgarden says. “We have been fortunate to return to some tracks in recent years and plan to in the future. … I think adding Nashville to our schedule would be great for a lot of reasons.”

Mike Tatoian, president of Dover International Speedway and chief operating officer of Dover Motorsports, Inc., says he’s “had some contact” with IndyCar officials but notes the recent reports about a possible NTT IndyCar street race in downtown Nashville. Tatoian doesn’t know how that might impact a return to the Superspeedway, where IndyCar ran from 2001-08.

“So they know we’re opening up and they enjoyed a lot of success here for the eight or nine years that they raced, so they know the track and they know the same guys,” Tatoian adds.

Kate Davis, the director of communications at IndyCar, would not comment on the prospects of either a Nashville street race or feasibly a return to the Superspeedway.

“It’s no secret that Nashville is a tremendous host for major events and has a passion for racing. But there is nothing new to report at this time,” Davis says.

Newgarden, a 14-time winner on the IndyCar circuit, has nothing but good things to say about the Nashville track and hopes IndyCar officials are listening.

“Selfishly, for me, I would love it because it’s so close to home and I have a lot of friends and family who would love to check it out. Also, Nashville is such a great town. It’s growing really quickly,” he says.

“Lots of new jobs and industries beyond music that are coming in are really helping with that growth. There’s also a lot of great restaurants and amazing places to see live music which could make for a really great weekend for fans who travel not just to see the race but who want to experience all Nashville has to offer.”

Newgarden says there is room for both NASCAR and IndyCar at the Superspeedway.

“I love that track. It’s so close to where I grew up and now live,” Newgarden says. “Nashville has way more race fans than even I expected since I moved back here a few years ago.

“They’re hungry for more and bringing back NASCAR is a great way to get them excited. It was really cool that NASCAR celebrated their championship weekend here last year, and I think it exposed to a lot of people that Nashville is a big sports town. We have a growing fan base here that are paying a lot of attention to all forms of racing, not just NASCAR.”

Even if IndyCar doesn’t return, Newgarden says he will be at the Superspeedway as long as it doesn’t conflict with his own racing demands.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to bring an IndyCar event here in the future, and I’ll definitely be heading to the track to check out the NASCAR event when they’re in town,” Newgarden adds.