Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Heart of A Champion

The ultimate goal in racing is to win. Winners are the ones who are remembered throughout history. History does not remember the guy who was content with finishing in the top-10 every race week in and week out. And not to say that every rookie, or for that matter, some drivers in Indycar nowadays are content with not winning, but I get the feeling that for the past couple of years, some drivers in Indycar have had a laid back approach about not winning and/or performing well. If their car wasn't up to scratch, then they would be content with finishing the race in one piece, and, which in most cases, meant not winning. And this process repeated itself on a week to week basis.

But after three races, it is clear that Josef Newgarden will not be one of those drivers. I know it is cliche, but he is not the Racer of Tomorrow, he is the Racer of Today.

In St. Petersburg, after missing the setup during qualifying and therefore starting towards the back, Josef passed his way through the field with a damaged front wing and finished 11th with a team (SFHR) that had a reputation of not doing so hot on road courses. A lot of people were praising 21 year old Newgarden, but what does Josef say and tweet after the race? How he was disappointed in himself for not doing a better job. My first reaction was, "How can you be disappointed in a 11th place result in one of the most stacked fields in history?" But then something hit me and I learned a lot about Josef and his determination and will power (what you feel on the inside, not the driver). He expects nothing less of himself. He wants to win races and titles, and anything less than that is a sub-par performance in his head. Go big or go home.



At Barber, Josef had a so-so race. He was lightning fast in practice, something happened in qualifying, and contact in the race capped off an average finish for him, at P17. Following the race, he was quoted as saying, "Right now I put myself at a C and my team at a A-." I mean, can you sound more humbling than that?!



Then there is Long Beach. He again was quick in the practice session. Then he qualified P7, but thanks to the downfall by the Chevrolet engines, wound up on the front row. Heading into turn one, he had a great run going on Dario Franchitti, and tried taking the position, but got clipped by Dario and wound up in the tires. His race was run. But did Josef point fingers and blame Dario? No, he was very sorry for his team, and put that in his notebook for the future so he may think differently next time.

Was it a rookie mistake? I think not. Can you get mad at him for going for it? He wanted to lead, after all that is the best place to be. That is where champions run, towards the front.


If I could compare Newgarden to another driver, it would be the late and great Dan Wheldon. Dan never wanted to finish second, fourth, seventeenth, etc. Dan only wanted to win races and championships. In this business, that's the mantra you have to have. Go big or go home. It didn't matter where DW started, he wanted to get to the front in as little time possible and lead as many laps as possible so he could win as many races at possible. Anything less than that would be disappointing in his eyes. I see in young Josef Newgarden what I saw in Dan Wheldon.


Not to mention Josef has the talent to back up his determination And like Dan, Josef has that connection with the fans, as demonstrated in his latest master piece from Long Beach, hilarious stuff! ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdcF1km_eiA ).

He has that all elusive attribute that drivers need. He has the heart of a champion.


-Matthew Hickey

No comments:

Post a Comment