Josef Newgarden returned to IZOD IndyCar Series action for the MAV TV American Real 500 qualifications in Fontana, Calif. and proved that the brace on his broken finger will not slow down his No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda-powered car.
Despite the brace and a bumpy track, Newgarden qualified the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) Dallara/Honda/Firestone car in fourth position with a lap of 215.919 mph.
Newgarden’s qualifying result of fourth is the best of the rookie’s young IZOD IndyCar Series career.
The qualifying speed did not come easily, however. In morning practice the Honda engine of the No. 67 car faltered when a part supplied by an outside party failed. Newgarden only turned one practice lap in the No. 67 car before it returned to the garage for an engine change.
“We were pretty flat out in qualifications, and maybe we could have trimmed out a little more,” Newgarden said. “It was hard for us though because we couldn’t come in too aggressive in qualifying after having an issue in practice. We didn’t want to risk too much.”
The No. 67 car will incur a 10-spot grid penalty for the unapproved engine change, but Newgarden thinks it will do little to hinder his chances in Saturday’s race.
“Coming into this race, the team and I talked about how I didn’t want a car that’s going to sit on pole,” he said. “I want a car that’s going to be comfortable, reliable and consistent for the entire race. That’s what we’re focusing on for tomorrow.”
On the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule, the MAV TV American Real 500 is matched in distance only by the Indianapolis 500. Newgarden wants a car that will be strong when the checkered flag waves.
“We want to have a good race car that can run a ton of solid laps,” he said. “If we have that, then we can run up front and compete up front.”
Marco Andretti, of Andretti Autosport, will start on pole for the MAV TV American Real 500. His qualifying average of 216.069 mph narrowly edged out Ryan Briscoe’s two-lap average of 216.058 mph.
Aside from Newgarden in fourth, the top-five in qualifying was rounded out by Will Power in third and Scott Dixon in fifth.
The green flag will drop on the MAV TV American Real 500 at 5:50 p.m. PT on Saturday. The race will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.