DETROIT – On a chilly afternoon at Comerica Park that needed it, Ed Carpenter Racing driver Josef Newgarden said he was going to “bring the heat” when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Detroit Tigers’ game with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
While the Verizon IndyCar Series’ rising star didn’t exactly break the radar gun with his toss, he still had an enjoyable time in the Motor City – along with a short jaunt across the Detroit River to neighboring Windsor, Ontario – to promote the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans, part of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix that serves as the lone doubleheader race weekend on the 2016 series schedule.
Newgarden spent a whirlwind 18 hours visiting the historic Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle Park, site of the race weekend, along with trips to several Detroit media outlets. He ventured to Canada to attend the riverfront announcement extending the partnership between the grand prix and city of Windsor, along with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and Michael Montri, general manager of the grand prix.
But the 25-year-old’s favorite stop was at the Tigers game. Newgarden exchanged jerseys with Detroit pitcher Mark Lowe, whose uniform No. 21 is the same as Newgarden’s Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.
Newgarden played baseball nearly 10 years as a youngster, giving up the game at 15 to focus on his blossoming racing career. He admitted to some jitters as he took the mound for the ceremonial pitch, which landed a couple feet short before bouncing into the glove of Lowe behind the plate.
“This was way more nerve-racking for me (than racing), just because it’s not your specialty,” Newgarden admitted. “I played baseball for 10 years but I haven’t thrown a ball for probably the same amount of years.
“I wasn’t going to throw off the mound, but then I thought if I didn’t, I was going to be mad at myself,” he added. “I’m happy that I did that but I’m so mad that I didn’t get it right. If you go out there cold turkey, especially if you haven’t thrown in forever, it’s not easy. And you don’t realize how much the nerves can take over.”
The Tennessee native even joked that he couldn’t properly grip the ball because of the 40-degree temperatures.
“It was a brand new ball, wasn’t totally worn in,” Newgarden said with a laugh. “There were a lot of things that were wrong with the situation, but you have to work with it. (Making it to Lowe on) one hop, I thought that was pretty strong for what I was up against out there.
“It was really cool, it’s one of those feelings that you probably never get again. Just being out there on the field, hearing that music and the pregame festivities, it’s very similar to our sport. You have the prerace stuff, too, and kind of the build-up to the event. It was fun to be part of that for an MLB game.”
Speaking of pressure, Newgarden also pointed out the inherent stress involved in racing twice on the same weekend, as will be the case June 3-5 for the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit. A bad weekend can be devastating.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword when you come to Detroit,” said Newgarden, whose best finish is seventh in seven previous Belle Isle races. “It’s double bang for your buck for race fans, but at the same time, you could mess up two races as a driver. They’re both worth full points so you have to be on top of your game so you don’t mess up the weekend.”
The Windsor announcement continues the partnership with the grand prix that includes direct transportation from the Canadian city to the venue on race weekend via Transit Windsor. Fans can purchase grand prix tickets and transportation at snapdwindsor.com/grandprix or by calling 311 in Canada. For more information on the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, visit detroitgp.com.
.@josefnewgarden threw out the first pitch before today's #Tigers game. pic.twitter.com/vqjRuH0ssg