When Josef Newgarden steers through the Streets of Long Beach for the second Verizon IndyCar Series race of 2014, patience will remain at the front of his mind.
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) driver Newgarden used that strategic trait to pass 12 cars en route to a ninth-place finish March 30 at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to open the new season.
“Patience is an important thing I learned in St. Pete,” Newgarden said. “These are long races, and a lot can happen. You have to be very patient throughout the whole deal, with each set of tires and each stint, because anything can happen at any point.”
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach’s 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit will create contrasting challenges for Newgarden compared to St. Petersburg.
“Long Beach is different because it’s all about corner entry,” he said. “You have to have a really stable rear end when entering corners, where in St. Pete you are generally dealing with a lot of understeer in the car. You also have to have really good traction because there are a lot of corners that lead into big straightaways. Those two things are going to be key.”
After qualifying 22nd on the grid in St. Petersburg, SFHR stayed composed and fought its way to the front of the field. Newgarden, 23, is hopeful his team will improve the No. 67 SFHR Dallara/Honda/Firestone entry ‘s qualifying time for its second run at Firestone Fast 6 qualifying in Long Beach.
“We had a rougher weekend than we wanted to in St. Pete; I think we were still cleaning out some cobwebs from the offseason,” Newgarden said. “Some unexpected things hindered us in qualifying, so we just have to make sure everything is cleaned up. I have to make sure I get the most out of the Firestone red (alternate) tires. I think we’ll be in a much better position if that all goes according to plan.”
In 2012, Newgarden qualified his Honda-powered machine on the front row, and in 2013 he placed 11th. That solid track record has Nashville native Newgarden aiming for another solid points weekend at one of his favorite street circuits.
“Long Beach is nostalgic, it has a lot of history and it has a lot of the same vibes as it did many years ago,” Newgarden said. “I love that type of circuit, and getting a good finish there would undoubtedly be great because it’s Long Beach, but we need to be getting good finishes everywhere we go. That’s going to be vital to having a good championship finish.”
Practice for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begins at 1 p.m. (ET) Friday, April 11. Coverage of Firestone Fast 6 qualifications will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 12, and live race coverage will begin at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 13 on NBC Sports Network. For trackside updates from SFHR, follow @SFHRindy on Twitter and Instagram, and like Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing on Facebook.