Josef Newgarden will start fourth in the 40th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 13 after a strong performance in Firestone Fast Six qualifying Saturday afternoon.
Newgarden turned a top lap of 1 minute, 8.0097 seconds, 104.173 mph in the No. 67 Honda-powered entry fielded by Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. The second Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season starts at 4 p.m. (ET) Sunday.
“We’ve had a fast car all weekend,” Newgarden said. “I really wish we could have gotten pole, but we are still starting up front, which is a really great spot. We have to keep our heads clean, and we are going to be solid on Sunday.”
Newgarden was in first place and in contention for the Verizon P1 Award for pole with three minutes remaining in the final session before driving the No. 67 Honda-powered machine into SFHR’s pit box a few minutes before the checkered flag. Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport won the pole at 1:07.8219, 104.462.
“We try to save our tires for the race as best as we can, and I tried to run what I thought was my best optimal lap,” Newgarden said. “I didn’t want to waste the tires. I thought I got the most out of them. We try to prioritize saving tires for the race, and that’s what we did. Hopefully we can put it to good use tomorrow.”
In his third consecutive season driving for SFHR, Newgarden has proved his natural talent on temporary street circuits. He enjoys the 11-turn, 1.968-mile course at Long Beach in particular, where he started on the front row in his rookie season and placed 11th in 2013.
“Long Beach is special because it’s been here for so long,” he said. “There’s been so many IndyCar events here in the past, and it’s kind of the crown jewel for street racing. It’s a very fun track to drive, too. It’s very fast with a lot of heavy braking zones. You can really drive the course hard, and drivers love that.”
The 80-lap race will begin with a standing start, an element added for the first time to two Verizon IndyCar Series events in 2013.
“Standing starts are fairly new to IndyCar,” Newgarden said. “We’ve only done them one year and only at select events. We haven’t had much practice this year, so it will be interesting to see how everyone performs. We had good standing starts last year at Houston, so I feel confident about being able to start pretty well and maintaining our spot.
“We have some things to dial in on for the race, but our car is good. We haven’t touched it much off the truck. It’s worked pretty well since we’ve gotten here. We are going to do a little tweaking here and there, and the car should be good. Hopefully we will have a good warm-up, finalize everything and figure out tire degradation. I really want to win this race, so I hope we can do that tomorrow.”
NBC Sports Network will air the Grand Prix of Long Beach live at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. To keep up with the latest team news, like Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing on Facebook and follow @SFHRindy on Twitter and Instagram.