Josef Newgarden will start fourth at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday, April 27 after a strong run during qualifications Saturday.
His fourth-place run earned third-year Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver Newgarden his first back-to-back Firestone Fast 6 qualification in his young Verizon IndyCar Series career.
Newgarden turned a fast lap of 1 minute, 8.4702 seconds around Barber Motorsports Park in the final round of Firestone Fast 6 qualifications. In 2013, Newgarden qualified 22nd and placed ninth in the 90-lap race.
“We always find something a little better each year (at Barber),” Newgarden said. “I think we’ve gotten off to a good start this year. We’ve had a lot more consistent speed. We found something that clicks better on the race car and for me.
“It’s hard to do in a small group. We don’t want to make any excuses, but we’ve just been getting better as a team. Everyone works together better. I’ve been doing a better job of helping the team find what we need. That’s crucial, and I feel good about it. I think we have a better package than we’ve had around here in the past.”
Newgarden gives all the credit to those working behind the scenes at Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing as he will start from the second row of the Verizon IndyCar Series track closest to his hometown of Nashville, Tenn.
“Not a lot of teams give a driver three years to get good at what they do,” he said. “I have a new engineer who was my assistant the first two years, Jeremy Milless. He is super talented. He’s never been a race engineer before. He’s been an assistant his whole career, and he’s incredibly brilliant. We mesh really well together. He understands what I want, and I understand what he’s going to give me a lot of the time.
“When you have that good combo, it’s critical within a group that you’re working in a cohesive unit. I think we’re clicking well. He’s doing a great job.”
Newgarden is 14th in the Verizon IndyCar points standings after getting knocked from the lead at the Grand Prix of Long Beach with 24 laps remaining.
“When I looked at it, what happened was sad,” Newgarden said. “But I’d rather be up (in front) more often having a day like that than just having one shot to finish on the podium or challenge for a win.
“Immediately I wanted to go to the next one, like I think any racer would. You don’t just want one opportunity to finish well in a race. Over a year, you hope to have eight or 10 opportunities to capitalize on it. We’re here now, and it’s turning the page for everybody.”
To watch Newgarden race around the 2.38-mile, 15-turn road course at Barber Motorsports Park, tune into NBC Sports Network’s live broadcast at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday, April 27. To keep up with the latest team news and photos, follow @SFHRindy on Twitter and Instagram.