Josef Newgarden finds a flavor of familiarity as he heads to Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala., for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday, April 27. He grew up less than four hours away in Hendersonville, Tenn., just outside of Nashville.
“Barber is one of two races that feels like a home race to me,” Newgarden said. “Indy feels like one too, but Barber is the closest race I have to Nashville, which means it’s easier for family to get there. If there’s anyone in Nashville that normally can’t make a race, they can generally make Barber. I always get to stop in Nashville on the way to Barber, so it’s a convenient trip for me.”
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) driver Newgarden moved up 13 positions during the 2013 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, placing ninth to earn his first career Verizon IndyCar Series top-10 finish. This year Newgarden is confident his team will be quick around the 2.3-mile, 15-turn permanent road course.
“Barber is a difficult place now because there’s such high grip,” he said. “With the new Firestone tires and the track surfacing with the grinding that they’ve done, it’s added a lot of grip to the racetrack, and Indy cars are crazy fast around there — which makes it tough to figure out a setup.
“Everything tends to feel good on the car because there’s so much grip. The car is fast for everyone, but the challenge is you just have to be a little bit quicker than everyone else, and it’s hard to find that last bit of speed.”
SFHR tested the No. 67 Honda-powered machine at Barber for three days during the 2014 offseason, including the Verizon IndyCar Series open test March 17-18.
“We still have some work to do around Barber,” Newgarden said. “We had good testing time there over the last couple of months, but the open test was cut short because of weather so we weren’t able to get through everything on our list. We have a good baseline frame for our setup. Now it’s about getting all the details around that starting point right. If we get the details right, we should be quick.”
After getting knocked from the lead past the halfway point of the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 14, Newgarden is ready to bounce back and continue to strive for solid championship points.
“I’m super motivated for Round 3 of IndyCar,” he said. “I’m really motivated for this whole year. It’ll be interesting to see where we are 10 races into the season. Long Beach was a tough race for everyone. The good news is we get to try and bounce right back at Barber.”
To watch Newgarden and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing fight to the front of the field in the 90-lap race, tune into NBC Sports Network at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday, April 27. For the latest team updates from Barber Motorsports Park, follow @SFHRindy on Twitter and Instagram and like Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing on Facebook.