Sports car standout and five-time ALMS champion Lucas Luhr, tested in his #97 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR)/RW Motorsports car for the first time on Aug. 13, at Sonoma Raceway. The 34-year-old Germany-native is excited to make his official IZOD IndyCar Series debut when the green flag drops for the Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 25. Before Luhr jumps into his Honda-powered car next weekend, he sat down with SFHRacing.com to talk about his passion for racing, his family and life itself.
SFHRacing.com: What first made you interested in the IZOD IndyCar Series?
Lucas Luhr: “It’s very simple. When I drove for Roger Penske with the Prototype sports car program he invited me one year to see the Indy 500 and that really made me interested in the series. There’s been a few times where ALMS and IndyCar race during the same weekend, so I followed it and would stay an extra day to watch the race. I just like the way American racing has been done. I was always interested in it and followed it, but on the other hand I never really pushed to get in it or have a chance at trying it. Now that this opportunity is here, it’s even better! I’m very excited and am looking forward to it like a little child at Christmas Eve.”
SFHR: Will it help that you’ve driven at Sonoma Raceway in the past in your sports car career?
LL: “Certainly it is a help to know the track, especially if you go there with a brand new car you’ve never raced in before, but on the other hand I don’t think it gives me an advantage over any of the other drivers because they know the track. I drove there in a GT sports car, so it’s quite different.”
SFHR: The weekend will entail many challenges, but what do you believe will be the most challenging part?
LL: “To get used to the car will be the most challenging part. The way it responds to my action and learning to understand the car, technically and also from a driving point of view. Learning what I need to do to make the car work and to make the tires work. It’s not going to be easy, especially because all the other drivers have been driving these cars for the entire season. Coming in as the new guy is not going to be easy, but that’s why I’m doing it. If it was easy everyone would do it.”
SFHR: How will having Josef (Newgarden) as a teammate help your transition?
LL: “It is for sure a help to have a guy around you that’s done this the whole year. Someone who knows the team and knows how the race weekend itself will play out. It’s a totally different format than sports car racing. Everything for me is an unknown until I really get there. For the team I think it’s good to have four eyes compared to two. I think two drivers feel more than one can, and that’s a general benefit for the entire team — two drivers giving their comments, sharing information, and collecting different kinds of data.”
SFHR: Depending how the weekend plays out and how you feel in an IndyCar, is this a series you would be interested in long-term?
LL: “I hope so, but I strongly believe that if things are meant to be they are meant to be, kind of like this deal here. For sure, if the opportunity comes up to run a full IndyCar Series season then I wouldn’t say no to it. But at this point I think that’s a little bit too far away, so I just want to focus on Sonoma and do the best I can and hopefully learn a lot. Because the competition in IndyCar is so tight, it doesn’t necessarily mean if you don’t have a good result in terms of numbers that you didn’t do a good job. I just want to do the best job that I possibly can for the team and we will see how it goes.”
SFHR: How does it make you feel to know you are the first German to drive an IndyCar since the series became the IZOD IndyCar Series?
LL: “For me it’s an honor to be the first German to compete or do a race in the IZOD IndyCar Series, but more importantly the more nations you have in a series the better it is for the series. It gets more coverage around the world, it gets more attention, maybe more sponsors or more TV time. It’s good for everyone — the drivers, the teams, the sponsors, the manufacturers. More nations coming into a series is always a plus. For me personally to be “the German” in IndyCar is very special. And you can say I’m a little bit proud of that.”
SFHR: What were your first impressions of SFHR’s new state-of-the-art race shop?
LL: “To be honest I was a little bit blown away at how big, nice and organized the shop is. I’ve been doing a lot of racing and I’ve been with different teams, but as I walked into SFHR’s shop, and even as I was just approaching, I said to myself ‘wow this is serious stuff here!’ I’m really surprised in a positive way at how well everything is done. Even though the building is new there is already a lot of history in here which is great.”
SFHR: What were your initial thoughts about the team?
LL: “I knew who Sarah Fisher was, but the first time I actually met Sarah, the guys and engineers, everyone was so welcoming and friendly that I already felt like I knew this team for years. It’s a good, comfortable feeling for a driver.”
SFHR: Switching gears, tell me a little bit about your family.
LL: “I have two kids. Georgina is 12 and she is the quiet one in the family. Gianluca is 8 and he is the wild one and the one you have to put the handbrake on a little bit. My wife is Claudia. I’ve known her since I was 11-years-old and we were the typical children “in love.” I told her I would be going away for 10 years and when I came back I would marry her, and that’s exactly how it happened.”
SFHR: What a neat story! What do you all enjoy doing in your free time?
LL: “We are always together if I am not racing. My daughter is into horses, which is not really my type of thing just purely because I’m afraid of the horses! My son and I will ride motocross. I live in Lake Constance, Switzerland, which is right on the lake so if I have time off we spend a lot of time on the water. I have a Harley and I enjoy riding that and I like to go fishing.”
SFHR: Since you have traveled a lot in your lifetime, what is your favorite type of food?
LL: “My favorite food is definitely Italian. When I was a kid I did some go karting and when I was 12 I moved to Italy on my own and became a factory driver for the CRG. So I kind of took over the Italian lifestyle. I have to have my espresso too! Without espresso the body of Lucas will not function.”
SFHR: What is something about you that most people don’t know?
LL: “I am a nice guy. A lot of people in the sports car world think that I’m arrogant, which I am not. It makes me mad, so I would tell people that I’m really a nice guy.”
To catch Luhr in his SFHR/RW Motorsports ride, tune into NBC Sports Network at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, Aug. 25. For all of the latest trackside updates, follow @SFHRindy on Twitter.