What to know about IndyCar star Josef Newgarden, a Nashville native

Nashville's Josef Newgarden has twice been an IndyCar champion. He's won on short tracks, big ovals and road courses.

Winning the Indy 500 is about the only thing the 32-year-old has not done in IndyCar.

Here's what you need to know about Team Penske's top driver.

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A prodigy in Indy Lights

As a 20-year-old in the Indy Lights series, Newgarden dominated the developmental Indy Lights series, winning five of 14 races and finishing on the podium 10 times n the 2011 season. In that series, which featured future IndyCar competitors Bryan Clauson, Stefan Wilson and Conor Daly, the driver of the Sam Schmidt Motorsports car won the Indy Lights Series title by 94 points.

Must-see: Watch Josef Newgarden's wild Indy 500 winning celebration with the fans

Struggles with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

Newgarden's IndyCar Series career started with the upstart and under funded race team owned by IndyCar veteran Sarah Fisher.

Newgarden and Fisher Hartman Racing struggled to stay competitive consistently, though he finished second at the 2013 Grand Prix of Baltimore and a 2014 race at Iowa Speedway.

The runner-up finish at Iowa was Newgarden's first step into the series spotlight; a late pit stop cost him a chance at the win.

Newgarden won the 2017, 2019 IndyCar titles

Newgarden became the first American since 2012 and the youngest driver since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006 to win the IndyCar championship. In first season with Team Penske, Newgarden won four races and placed in the top three nine times.

“It’s a crazy journey,” Newgarden said to IndyStar after he clinched the title in the 2017  season finale at Sonoma. “Forgive me if my words aren’t so great right now. I got definitely emotional with the whole — just the whole ceremony process and seeing everyone there and how happy everyone else was. It’s taken a lot of people to get to this point, clearly and obviously.

"This started a long time ago with just my parents, and they’re the biggest reason that I’ve been able to do this. They’ve put everything on the line for me to make sure I had an opportunity to do this, and that’s where it starts, and then it kind of falls into line with everyone else.”

In 2019, Newgarden began the season with four wins and seven podium finishes in the first 12 races before holding onto the IndyCar title with an eighth-place finish in the season finale at Leguna Seca.

"I didn't want us to throw it away at the end," he said to IndyStar through tears in victory lane. "I'm so glad this is over."

Josef Newgarden leaps out of his car following his win in the Sonsio Grand Prix, Sunday, June 12, 2022, at Road America near Elkhart Lake, Wis.
Josef Newgarden leaps out of his car following his win in the Sonsio Grand Prix, Sunday, June 12, 2022, at Road America near Elkhart Lake, Wis.

Back-to-back-to-back runner-up finishes in IndyCar points

How else can you equate how good Newgarden is in IndyCar?

Newgarden has finished 2nd in the IndyCar points standings in the last three full seasons, 2020, 2021 and 2022. He's finished as the runner-up to a different champion each year (Scott Dixon in 2020, Alex Palou in 2021 and Will Power in 2022).

2022 was his narrowest title miss yet, as he trailed Power by 16 points at the end of the year. Newgarden had a series-high five wins last season but had two finishes outside the top 20 to create the gap to Power.

In 2023, Newgarden won at Texas and sat in 6th in points heading into the Indy 500.

He's a big Nashville Predators fan

Newgarden shows up to Preds home games each season and outwardly roots for his hometown team on social media.

In 2018, Newgarden and fellow driver James Hinchcliffe, a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, made a cake bet on the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Maple Leafs could not advance past the first round, while Nashville beat Colorado in six games.

Hinchcliffe did pay up on his bet.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Josef Newgarden: What to know about IndyCar star and Nashville native