AUSTIN, Texas – Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden had the busiest of weeks.
A month removed from hoisting the Astor Cup trophy at the season finale in Sonoma, California, the 26-year-old Tennessean had quite the adventure with Team Penske partner Shell that took him from an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico to Formula One’s United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.
Newgarden’s travels were chronicled on social media.
“We spent a lot of time with our partner at Shell,” Newgarden said. “They do work with Ferrari (in F1) as well, so it’s been a really good tie-in to involve all their motorsports. They had (F1 driver) Sebastian Vettel, we had Joey Logano from the (Team Penske) NASCAR side. Then, I was representing the INDYCAR side of things. It’s been busy. I feel like it’s been busy since the checkered flag dropped at Sonoma.
“There’s been a lot going on, within the motorsports space specifically, but a lot of traveling and work.”
Newgarden’s week began in Austin for promotional work with Shell that included him taking on Logano and Vettel in slot car racing as well as a competition to see who could drive a golf ball the farthest:
Then it was on to New Orleans for Newgarden, who had to pass extensive training before he could be transported by helicopter to the Shell oil rig in the Gulf. The training included emergency procedures for a helicopter water landing as well as lifeboat protocol for the oil rig:
Once aboard the oil rig platform, Newgarden learned oil is retrieved from under the Gulf of Mexico, separated from the water and sent on its way:
After that, Newgarden returned to terra firma and headed back to Austin to take in Sunday’s race and learn more about Shell's F1 operations. There, he participated in the NBC prerace grid walk with Will Buxton and met up with two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, who competed with Newgarden and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series field in May’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
A former driver in the GP3 feeder series in Europe before turning his attention to INDYCAR’s Mazda Road to Indy ladder that led to him joining the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2012, Newgarden admitted to retaining an affection for Formula One.
"I always just admired the race cars the most,” he said. “That’s what I tell people because it’s the truth. I loved the Formula One era of ’03 to ’07. That era was really fun. Those cars were fascinating to watch. They were so entertaining and when I was growing up watching racing.
“That was my favorite era of the series.”
Newgarden was among several from the INDYCAR paddock in Austin for the F1 race, including series executives Mark Miles and Jay Frye, Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti and two-time Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya.
The newest Verizon IndyCar Series champion is fully focused on INDYCAR racing now. Newgarden said he is refreshed and eager to get back into the cockpit of his Team Penske machine.
“It’s been a huge privilege just representing the IndyCar Series and everything that we’ve done throughout the year, and the great racing that we’ve had,” said Newgarden. “It’s been a ton of fun being in that position. It’s been busy.
“I feel ready to go for next year. I’m already ready to get back to work, I’m ready to go testing more, I’m ready to get back to the racetrack. I’m ready to get to St. Pete (for the 2018 opener). I’m ready to go get into May. I think getting to back to May and trying to win the (Indy) 500 is a big deal.”