Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, 2017 IndyCar champ, talks about Detroit on a visit to Penske Corporation headquarters on Tuesday. Geoff Robinson, Detroit News
Bloomfield Hills — Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden is becoming a familiar face around Metro Detroit.
With autumn in full swing, Newgarden brought a taste of summer to the Motor City, as he made the rounds Tuesday afternoon at Penske Corporation headquarters in Bloomfield Hills. He met with employees and signed autographs, as tickets went on sale for the 2018 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.
Newgarden, 26, has been around town quite a bit over the last year and half. He threw out the first pitch at a Tigers game in 2016, and he was also the guest of honor at a Pistons game last spring, where he came up just short of hitting a half-court shot.
“I’ve been to Detroit way more in this last year than I had in five years combined before that,” Newgarden said. “We have a lot of fun. Detroit is special to Team Penske, so it’s a joy to come up here and see everyone that’s involved in what we do.”
Coming off a disappointing 19th-place finish at the Indianapolis 500, Newgarden really started to turn his season around at the Detroit Grand Prix in June. He finished in fourth place in Dual 1 before coming up just short of victory with a second-place finish in Dual 2.
Newgarden won three races and finished second three times after leaving Detroit on his way to the series championship.
“Detroit was a swing of momentum from the terrible May that we had,” he said. “I didn’t know how this season was going to go, but I was excited about it. It was a big challenge, but it was something I tried to take head on.
“For us, we’ve got to be better out of the gates. We weren’t as strong at the beginning of the weekend. We didn’t qualify well, but we kept coming to the front.
Despite a lot of whispers around Detroit’s racing community that some would like to see the Grand Prix moved into the city, Newgarden gave his stamp of approval to keep the race at Belle Isle.
“I love it out there,” Newgarden said. “The best part about it is that it’s brought a lot of change to the park. It’s cleaned up a lot. The park wasn’t getting a lot of attention before the race, so it’s brought a lot of positive impact. It’s a great park for people to go to. (The race) should stay there, in my opinion.”