Travis Law isn’t wired to slow down.
The crew chief for an IndyCar Series team has built his entire career on finding ways to go faster. Yet, sometimes, it pays to come back to Earth.
Indeed, the Maquoketa native makes it a priority to come back and visit his hometown at least once a year — usually after the IndyCar Series season has concluded.
This year, though, there’s something a bit more special to laud: a championship.
The kid who remembers attending races at the Maquoketa Speedway and eating at Obie’s — a place he makes sure to visit on his home trips — reached the pinnacle of his sport in 2019. Law, a crew chief for the Josef Newgarden team owned by Roger Penske, was a part of the 2019 championship-winning team that schooled the rest of its competition en route to a league-leading four wins and 490 laps led.
The season concluded Sept. 28 with Law’s team on top. There’s been some time for Law to let that fact sink in. And when he visited Maquoketa after the series concluded, he couldn’t help but remember growing up in Jackson County.
“I think the first thing I felt good about is: You feel validation for all those people who have helped you along the way, all the way back to Maquoketa,” he said. “The time they took to help you out, you hope paid them back a bit for what they did for you. You hope those people can take some pride in the championship as well.”
It was well earned.
Law’s responsibilities on the team cannot be understated. He’s in a leadership role at Penske Racing. As a crew chief, Law manages engineers, crew members, and fabricators who work in the race shop building the cars. It’s a role he fell into when superiors moved on.
“I think I’ve found myself filling those shoes when they left. That meant it was me and the two less-experienced chiefs — who are very talented — but I think they give me a lot of credit,” he said. “They lean on me a lot. In the moment, you don’t think about it, but in certain times you realize that you’re in a leadership position.”
He also operates as a front-tire changer.
Law’s leadership helped not only the Newgarden team, but also the other two Penske Racing cars. The teams of Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, who won the Indianapolis 500, the series’ biggest spectacle — and finished runner-up to Newgarden in the points — also operate under the Penske umbrella. Penske cars finished first, second, and fifth (Power) in the standings. They all work together, and in many instances, share resources and personnel.
The Newgarden team started off the season strong with a win in Florida at St. Petersburg. That, Law said, was the springboard the team needed.
“That was the initial stamp on ‘yep, we can do this,’” Law said. “We struggled at St. Pete the year before, so to come out and win in a dominating sort of fashion, that was the moment we needed.”
From there, they sprinkled wins throughout the season including at Law’s home track in Newton, Iowa, where some family including his dad, Kevin, and mom, Veronica Barten, watched the race. Law said his family travels around the country to watch the races.
“My dad isn’t the biggest race fan, but he loves the traveling and seeing the different venues,” Law said. “There’s tons of stuff going on and he enjoys going different places.”
As the season wound down and it became more and more apparent that the Newgarden team was on a collision course with the championship, Law said the team’s morale was at an all-time high. And placing teammates first and second?
“That was a feather in our caps,” Law said.
One week after the season concluded, Law and wife Brittani spent a week in Hawaii.
“We definitely celebrated,” Law said. “It was nice to take a minute and acknowledge [the championship]. But after that we tested [the car] in Richmond. When you’re on the beach in Hawaii, you’re itching. Five days, that’s about the max. After that you’re going to have to have some interaction.”
The same happened in Maquoketa.
“We definitely have a lot of little things we go around and see,” Law said. “You kind of forget some of the things. We went to the Voy 3 Theatres and caught a movie.”
But then, almost as quickly as they arrived, the Laws were back to work. Brittani has a job in retail, and the holiday season demands more of her time.
The Laws don’t slow down.