Josef Newgarden and Sage Karam have been seeing a lot of each other lately. The journey started last week when they arrived in New Orleans for a Mardi Gras parade, continued to Indianapolis for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ annual media day and culminated in a four-drill test at Lucas Oil Stadium as part of the NFL Combine.
Newgarden and Karam were invited to the home of the Indianapolis Colts for the scouting event, where hundreds of NFL hopefuls gather in front of scouts and media hoping to launch their professional careers.
“The combine is great because it’s young guys trying to break into the pro level,” Newgarden said. “It’s very much like young race car drivers racing Indy Lights or some of the lower ladder series of the Mazda Road to Indy trying to become Verizon IndyCar Series drivers. These types of events are where you showcase your talent for your sport.”
Upon arriving on the field they were greeted by Arizona Cardinals defensive back Patrick Peterson, who was taking in the day’s activities. The duo was outfitted head-to-toe in Under Armour gear for the demonstration, which included neon orange shirts personalized with their names and car numbers, matching shorts and solid gold-colored cleats.
The drivers were taken through four drills: the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump and three-cone challenge. True to their racing nature, the casual exercise quickly escalated to a friendly competition and ended in a tie, with Karam edging Newgarden on the dash and cones and Newgarden on top for both of the jumps.
“We were pretty competitive with each other,” Karam said. “I think it’s a driver mentality, you want to beat each other. We’re good friends, and we had a lot of fun with this. My favorite drill was the 40-yard dash because it’s just high intensity and it’s like five seconds as hard as you can go. I like the ones I beat Josef in.”
Their head-to-head results:
40-yard dash: Karam -- 4.9 seconds ... Newgarden -- 5.0 seconds
Broad jump: Karam -- 8 feet, 9 inches ... Newgarden -- 8 feet, 11 inches
Vertical jump: Karam -- 22 inches ... Newgarden -- 24.5 inches
Three-cone: Karam -- 7.57 seconds ... Newgarden -- 7.7 seconds
With limited warm-up and an unfamiliarity with the drills they were asked to complete, the athleticism required to perform the duties of a Verizon IndyCar Series driver certainly came into play.
“NFL players train for short bursts of power; that’s specific to their sport,” said Newgarden. “For us as race car drivers, we train more so for muscular endurance. We need strength, but we need strength endurance. I don’t think we were very prepared for the types of tests that they gave us, but even so I thought we did well.
“I think what we did probably show is that we do have athletic ability, it’s just not tuned for football. It’s tuned for driving race cars, which is so different.”
Karam, 19, played safety and running back for his high school football team in Nazareth, Pa., grew up a fan of the Miami Dolphins and currently pledges loyalty to the Indianapolis Colts. Upon learning that one of his time-keepers at the event was a scout for the Dallas Cowboys, he quickly put in a good word.
“I met an NFL scout from the Dallas Cowboys, which was pretty cool,” Karam said. “I got his business card so maybe I can slip him my resume. It’s not so crazy for football, but maybe he can see some of the racing resume and respect that a little bit.”