Josef Newgarden detailed just some of the perks that come with winning the Indy 500, calling it a “never-ending gift that keeps on giving”.
As any Indy 500 winner will tell you, winning the Indy 500 is just the start of one of the busiest weeks any athlete could ask for.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is the latest IndyCar driver to find this out, following his last-lap pass for the win in Sunday afternoon’s 107th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 32-year-old Hendersonville, Tennessee native discussed some of his favorite perks of winning the race, including some of the lesser-known highlights of his first week as an Indy 500 champion.
“Oh man, that’s a hard choice,” Newgarden admitted to Beyond the Flag. “It’s never-ending is what I would tell you. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving if you win this race. There are just a million little things that keep popping up. It’s the traditions of kissing the bricks, the milk, the victory lap, but then there are all these little trinkets and things that you’re given.
“There’s like a belt buckle, you win the trophy, I could go on and on and list everything out. I don’t know what would be most underrated, but it’s the simple stuff that I think is the best – the milk tradition and how iconic that is, that was probably the biggest privilege to be allowed to be a part of.”
He acknowledged that this week has been the busiest week of his life.
“Yeah, it’s been a whirlwind for sure,” Newgarden continued. “This is our biggest race. It’s an iconic stage and you just don’t know what it’s like until you experience it. And to win it, it’s been busy, it’s been sort of nonstop. Just to get through everything and try to get back on track this weekend, it’s coming fast.”
IndyCar does not have a week off between races, as the inaugural Detroit Grand Prix, relocated from Belle Isle to downtown Detroit, is scheduled for this coming Sunday afternoon.
“We’re literally turning around a week later to run our next race and [we’re] just trying to come out of the haze, in a way, and find out how you keep going to the next one,” he said.
Perhaps the most memorable part of Newgarden’s epic win came after he stopped his car on the yard of bricks after the victory lap, climbed out, and climbed through the fence and into the crowd.
Newgarden, who is known for being one of the more emotional drivers on the grid, said that he had been planning that celebration since he started competing in the Indy 500 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing back in 2012.
And after 12 years of trying, the fact that Josef Newgarden’s now iconic Indy 500 celebration no longer remains unused is a huge relief.
“Many years,” he said when asked how long he has had that particular celebration in mind. “Pretty much ever since I started, from being a rookie, I’ve always wanted to have the honor of winning the race, and I said look, if I’m lucky enough to win it, then this is what I want to do. I really want to go into the crowd. So it’s been in the back of my mind. I thought about it immediately afterwards and knew exactly where I wanted to go.”
What stands out about Newgarden’s celebration is the fact that he wanted to share it with the fans. Newgarden, in his greatest moment of triumph, made sure to emphasize their importance to the Indy 500 as well.
And in return, the fans showed him what he means to the speedway and to the city of Indianapolis, embracing the newest champion of the world’s greatest sporting event just moments after the one-lap dash to the checkered flag.
“I said this the last couple days, and I really mean it,” Newgarden said. “I think there is no bad seat in the house. It doesn’t matter where you’re sitting, you’re making the Indy 500 what it is, whether you’re driving the car or you’re working on it or you’re a friend or you’re just you’re sitting in the crowd in turn one, front straightaway, turn four, it just doesn’t matter.
“We all keep the energy at that place on that day, and the energy is what stands out to me. It is an event that produces a feeling that nowhere else in the world you’re going to receive, and I know that because I’ve witnessed it for many years.
“I really wanted to be a part of it and feel it in that way. So it was cool. It was very cool for me to see that at the very end with everybody.”