SFHR Bets on Two Young Guns at IMS
A track as unforgiving as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway tests the most experienced drivers in the IZOD IndyCar series year after year, but Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) has decided to throw a curve ball at the storied track with two young rookie drivers.
Josef Newgarden, 21, and Bryan Clauson, 22, will drive the team’s cars around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in hope of drinking milk in victory lane at the end of the 500-mile race.
The IZOD IndyCar series is running brand new cars in 2012, which could work to the advantage of SFHR’s rookie drivers. The new Dallara DW-12 cars have never competed on oval tracks, which gives a touch of rookie status to all IndyCar teams.
With several practice days in the books for the 2012 Indianapolis 500, SFHR’s rookies have shown that they will not let their rookie status slow them down on the track. Newgarden topped the speed charts on three of the first five days of practice, and has been in the top 10 on three practice days.
That the two drivers have meshed so quickly as teammates may have something to do with them having worked together as teammates in 2011.
Newgarden and Clauson teamed up to compete in the Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in 2011 at IMS, with Clauson starting on pole and Newgarden scoring the victory.
They also have a strong mentor to lean on in team owner Sarah Fisher, who made nine Indy 500 starts in her driving career.
As practice continues and race day draws nearer, Newgarden and Clauson will set out to show that older doesn’t always mean wiser.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (Driver- Nashville, Tenn.)
On being teammates with Bryan Clauson:
“Bryan and I were teammates last year so we know how each other work. He feels very similar to me about the car, and that’s a good thing. We can work together on the same page. We’re both really happy with it. I think the car’s great, but I can see some areas I want to work on to maximize its performance. We’ve had a decent time so far this year of getting a handle on it.”
On the difference between IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights at Indy:
“Everything is magnified in the IndyCar at Indianapolis. When you have an issue they tend to grow and they grow a lot faster than in a Firestone Indy Lights car. When the wind picks up you really notice it around this place. That really changes the car and the way it handles around the corners. This place could bite you really easily in an IndyCar compared to Indy Lights if you get too confident or comfortable.”
On the extended practice periods leading up to the Indy 500:
“This is a long month. Indy Lights is a junior series, and they come to IMS and run like a normal race weekend. In IndyCar, we have a long process. You have to use that time and process in the right way. The teams who have been here a long time know how to use that time properly and to their advantage.”
BRYAN CLAUSON (Driver- Noblesville, Ind.)
On finding speed quickly:
“I was pleasantly surprised at how good we were right out of the box. The speeds we ran were even faster than what we thought they would be with the trim package we were in. We were happy with the speeds and I think it bodes well for what we’ll be doing this week leading up to qualifying.”
On working with another rookie driver:
“I think having two rookies is tough on a team, but with the new car this year everyone is a rookie of sorts. No one has raced this car on an oval yet. We’re not the only ones who don’t know how this car is going to react as we move forward. With Josef and myself, we spent a lot of time together last year as teammates in Firestone Indy Lights. Since we have that relationship from having already worked together, we already have great chemistry."
At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, drivers need to be in the hands of a good spotter. On several practice days, team co-owner Sarah Fisher spotted for the No. 39 of Bryan Clauson. With nine starts in the Indianapolis 500, Clauson would be hard pressed to find a spotter that knows their way around the 2.5-mile track better than Fisher.
By qualifying seventh for the Indianapolis 500, Newgarden became the highest qualifying rookie starter since Danica Patrick made her rookie start in the 500-Mile race from fourth position in 2005.
Jim Nabors, who famously sings “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the start of each Indianapolis 500 will miss the race this year due to health issues. It turns out that one of Nabors’ biggest fans is SFHR driver Bryan Clauson. “Jim singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” is my favorite part of pre-race at Indy,” Bryan said. “I’m bummed he’s not going to be at my first Indy 500.”
SFHR’s newest full time engineer, Justin Penix, is a two-time Purdue Grand Prix winner. Penix is a recent graduate of the motorsports engineering program at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).