Josef Newgarden showed the mark of a true competitor at the Milwaukee Mile on Friday. After two lightning-quick practice sessions and a solid qualifying effort he was left disappointed and wanting more because of what could have been, not just content with his more than respectable effort as a rookie driver.
Newgarden qualified his No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) Dallara/Honda/Firestone car in seventh position for tomorrow’s Milwaukee IndyFest race. His car was even more promising in the two practice sessions prior to qualifications when he finished first and second.
“I didn’t quite get enough out of the car today in qualifications,” Newgarden said. “I probably should have held it a little more flat than I did because SFHR gave me a really good car.”
Newgarden’s two-lap qualifying average of 166.699 mph was the third highest qualification effort out of all Honda-powered cars in the Milwaukee IndyFest field. He was also the fastest rookie qualifier.
However, the No. 67 car will serve a 10-spot starting grid penalty for tomorrow’s race because of an unapproved engine change made at Texas Motor Speedway before last weekend’s Firestone 550. After the penalty, Newgarden will start from the 17th position.
“Knowing we had the penalty coming here wasn’t too bad because it’s been a cycle this year,” he said. “Everyone’s had to go through it at some point and it’s just our turn.”
Newgarden relishes the rivalry brewing between Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus as a bonus for the sport.
“I think it’s great that we have that competition because that’s what racing is really about,” he said. “We want to see them duking it out with each other, and I’m really proud to be backed by Honda power.”
As SFHR makes the switch from qualification to race mode, Newgarden is focusing on a strong car and conserving tires.
“I’m concerned with tire wear being a big issue during the race,” he said. “We have a fast car though and we’ve got to make it last throughout the whole race tomorrow.”
Honda power claimed the top two starting positions on the Milwaukee IndyFest starting grid. Dario Franchitti will start on pole with an average lap speed of 168.737 mph. Justin Wilson qualified second with an average lap speed of 168.287 mph.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (167.911 mph), Will Power (167.361 mph) and Rubens Barrichello (166.899 mph) rounded out the top five in Milwaukee IndyFest qualifying.
The 225-lap Milwaukee IndyFest race will air live Saturday, June 17, at 1 p.m. ET on ABC. It can also be heard on the IMS Radio Network (check local listings) and XM94/Sirius 121.