Who is He? Josef Newgarden, IndyCar driver, 26 years old, from Hendersonville, Tennessee. Currently lives in North Carolina.
What did he do? Won The IndyCar championship last month at Sonoma Raceway.
Why is he so important?: Newgarden is a fan favorite. He’s the first American to win the championship since Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012. He’s the youngest champion, at 26, since Sam Hornish Jr. He had a great season, winning four races. Newgarden is a fun-loving driver who has pulled pranks on fans and his teammates. He stars in the online game show “Penske Games,” and it’s hilarious. Check it out. He describes himself as a kid at heart, and when he told me his favorite cartoons were Looney Tunes and Mickey Mouse, he just proved that even more. He’s been racing since he was 13, and competed all over Europe in 2009 and 2010.
Who does he drive for?: Roger Penske, The Captain. Newgarden was a free agent until last September, when Penske hired him despite the fact they had to drop Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya to make room for the American. It seriously paid off, with Newgarden winning his first title in his first season with Penske. Newgarden's finish at Sonoma made for Penske’s 15th Indycar title.
What does Penske say?: “I can’t compare him to anyone exactly. He’s an American, which is special in this sport, because many of the other drivers have come from overseas and different parts of the world, and to see Josef kind of take this route and be at the top right now is pretty exciting.”
All in all, Josef Newgarden is a first time champion, a pretty cool guy, and a really talented driver. It’s no surprise he won the title this year, and he will continue to prosper in 2018.
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images