There’s no better place for third-year Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) driver Josef Newgarden to start the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season than the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Newgarden, 23, showed his quickness on temporary street circuits in his sophomore season, placing in the top five in two of three final street-course races in 2013. With two years of experience, Newgarden understands the need for a strong performance in the No. 67 Florida Lottery Dallara/Honda/Firestone entry on St. Petersburg’s 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 30.
“It’s always important in the first race to get a good result because it really builds momentum for the year,” he said. “If you’re able to finish well, you really want to secure that result, and you don’t want to do anything too silly to mess that up in the race. We want to have a solid weekend and show pace. I think if we can show pace and be quick, then it just lifts team morale for the rest of the year, and it starts you on the right foot.”
Nashville native Newgarden drove his Honda-powered car to a second-place finish on the Streets of Baltimore in 2013, scoring his first IndyCar podium. Newgarden fought brake issues during the race, an aspect the SFHR crew will focus on this weekend at St. Petersburg.
“Similar to Baltimore last year, the track at St. Pete has very heavy brake zones, so it’s easy to overheat your brakes during the race,” Newgarden said. “The guys are going to have to look after overheating them so they don’t fade during the race and also so they’re at optimal performance so we can pass people.”
SFHR worked diligently during the five-month offseason at team headquarters in Speedway, Ind., and on track testing in Sebring, Fla. and Barber Motorsports Park.
“We are all ready to go, and we’re very prepared for St. Pete,” Newgarden said. “We’ve done a lot of testing, but it’s been a long time driving the car without actually racing anyone, so it will be fun to get back to an actual race weekend where everything counts. The pressure is back to do a great job every weekend.”
Newgarden’s highlights in 2013 included four top-five finishes, seven top-10s and an overall 14th place in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings.
“We’re very excited about the 2014 season,” SFHR co-owner Wink Hartman said. “The team, including Josef himself, expects even more podiums and more great finishes. He’s worked hard, he has the skills, and the team is ready to support him with all of the proper things he needs as far as engineering and from a mechanical side. I think we’re going to be a big surprise in IndyCar this year with our finishes on the track.”
Practice kicks off for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 10 a.m. (ET) on Friday, March 28. ABC will broadcast the 110-lap race live at 3 p.m. ET Sunday, March 30. To keep up with the latest team news, like Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing on Facebook and follow @SFHRindy on Twitter and Instagram.