Josef Newgarden and Roger Penske were awarded their ‘Baby Borgs’ in a ceremony at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan on Tuesday in recognition of their victory in the Indianapolis 500 last May.
“Awarding the Baby Borg to each year’s Indianapolis 500 winner is a tradition we started in 1988 and one we look forward to following every racing season,” said Frederic Lissalde, President and Chief Executive Officer, BorgWarner. “This keepsake commemorates Josef’s skilled driving, tenacity, passion for the sport and incredible finish at the 2023 race and was something we were honored to present to him.”
Newgarden became just the third driver in Indy 500 history to win the race with a last-lap pass when he got around 2022 winner Marcus Ericsson on the backstraight following a flurry of late restarts.
“What a tremendous honor to be here with Roger and representing all of the personnel and workforce of the Penske team,” Newgarden told RACER. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving, the Indianapolis 500, and it’s historic to be a part of it, and to win it is a whole other level. So I’m just very proud to be a part of this team.”
While winning at Indianapolis does require a team effort, it is also an intensely personal experience for the driver. For Newgarden, the Baby Borg represents not only the triumph in 2023, but also the journey he’d taken over the past years before finally finding his way to Victory Circle.
“Personally, for me, I took 12 years to win the race,” he said. “I think about the sacrifice just to make it to the race, to qualify for the race, to be in the show. That’s a huge achievement in its own right, and to win it is a whole other level. So holding the trophy, I think just represents the teamwork, it represents the community. For me, it represents the heartache of leaving broken-hearted every year before after pouring your heart and soul into it. I think that’s what makes it all so magical and worth it if you’re able to win it.”
Being presented with the Baby Borg also marks the final major element in the months-long string of commitments that await Indy’s winner each year. Newgarden said the experience offered a rare opportunity to reflect.
“It’s been nice to slow down and enjoy the moment of the Indianapolis 500,” he said. “The 500 forces that upon you in a very positive way. I’m the type of person that likes to move on to the next goal – you achieve something, it’s great, what’s next? The 500 has a way of stopping you and forcing you to appreciate the achievement. I appreciate that about the event. You find a new appreciation for it after winning it. And it doesn’t matter how much you know about the history or how much you loved it beforehand, winning transforms your appreciation for what it is. I’m so grateful to have had an opportunity to compete in it for 12 years. And I hope I get a couple more to try and add to the list.”
Officially named the ‘BorgWarner Championship Drivers’ Trophy’, the Baby Borgs are a 20-inch high, five pound replica of the 5’4” Borg-Warner Trophy, made from sterling silver with a wooden base. As with the Borg-Warner Trophy, the Baby Borg features a hand-sculpted sterling silver image of Newgarden’s likeness, as well as his name, Team Penske, the year of his win and his average speed (168,193mph). Penske also received a similar award in recognition of his record-extending 19th win as a team owner.
“Today I received the Baby Borg, which is a validation of a tremendous effort in 2023,” Roger Penske told RACER. “But really, I take that trophy for all of our people, and the people back at the race shop that have done all the work, the ones that executed on the racetrack, and certainly Josef and the well-earned victory that he had, because the competition has never been tougher than the last three or four years. You can be leading the fourth, the third, the two, and even on the last lap and still not win this race.
“So to get 19 wins; [now] I have to have to go back and try to figure out how to do it again. For Josef to win on his 12th [try] is really amazing when you think about it. He’s tried, he’s won everything else, but hadn’t won the 500. So once you’ve done it, you seem to be able to understand how to do it again. And that’s what we’re hoping to do in 2024 – get our 20th.”