Josef Newgarden

The 324-mile trek from Hendersonville, Tennessee, to New Castle, Indiana, symbolizes more than just pavement intertwining roads between the two destinations. As Josef Newgarden’s racing career began to blossom, Newgarden made that journey with his father, Joey, almost every weekend.

“I’ve known that drive since I was a 13-year-old boy,” Newgarden said.

Newgarden’s father loaded the go-kart to bring his son to New Castle Motorsports Park to compete against some of the best kart racers in North America.

Approaching Sunday’s 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Newgarden still makes that drive. Instead of traveling through Indianapolis and making the venture east of the city via Interstate 70 to the town of New Castle, Newgarden heads west on the same interstate to the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The mileage is around the same, but the memories never fade.

Still living in the Nashville area, Newgarden as an adult has made that drive more frequently as of late. The defending Indianapolis 500 winner has a plethora of responsibilities ranging from the “Baby Borg” trophy presentation last December, to 2024 Indianapolis 500 ticket unveiling in February to a banner display being raised outside of Gate 2 leading into IMS in March.

Newgarden drove to Indianapolis each time.

That four-hour trip, most times solo, allowed Newgarden to reminisce a lot about the days he was in the back seat with his dad behind the wheel.

“I was hanging out, and my dad was guiding the ship,” Newgarden said. “I was just coming up for the ride. But now I've been sort of the captain of it.”

Newgarden said Indiana always will be a special place to him. The Hoosier State is where he got introduced to racing. There’s never a time where he’s not eagerly anticipating making the trek north from his Tennessee home.

He’s hoping his trip north earlier this month to Indianapolis isn’t the last as the defending “500” winner. Newgarden truly embraced what an Indianapolis win means, and he doesn’t want any one of his 32 other competitors to wrestle that away from his arms.

“I don't know how you can be in racing and not care about just finding success every weekend you're at the track,” Newgarden said. “That's why I show up. I know it's why our team shows up.

“You talk to Roger Penske, he's more motivated than anybody to win the 20th Indy 500. That's an unbelievable statement when you really think about it.

“I'm the same way. I'm so thankful we were able to win an Indy 500 last year, but I'm thinking about the next one. How do we get a second one, and if we're lucky enough to get a second one, how do we get a third, and if we can get a third, how do we get a fourth.

“It's a never-ending process of trying to stack success on to one another. That's what motivates me.”