Newgarden Fights to Ninth in Florida Lottery Car to Open 2014 Verizon IndyCar Season
Though Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) did not win the jackpot, the Florida Lottery machine helped Josef Newgarden fight through the Streets of St. Petersburg to place ninth after starting last in the 22-car Verizon IndyCar Series field.
SFHR never backed down after struggling in qualifications Saturday evening. Three clean pit stops and spot-on tire strategy helped Newgarden gain 13 positions during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg’s 110-lap temporary street-circuit race.
“Today was a great points day,” Newgarden said. “We started really buried in the field, which was not ideal, but we kept fighting. There are a lot of fighters on this team who never give up. We scored a top-10 finish, which is good points. You have to be scoring in the top-10 every weekend. It’s a great way to start the year.”
After starting the race on black (primary) Firestone tires, SFHR ran its final three stints on red (alternate) tires, two sets of new red tires and one set of scuff red tires.
“We were really strong on the red tires today, and it was a mix-up with who was good on blacks and who was good on reds,” Newgarden said. “Who could save tires well over a stint was important, and it looked like a lot of people struggled to keep pace about 15 or 20 laps into a stint. I think we were able to manage really well and hold on to our tires pretty good. That was our key today: We had good tire management, and hopefully we can carry that forward.”
On a Lap 82 restart, an incident involving Marco Andretti and Jack Hawksworth caused Newgarden to drop to 13th place. But Newgarden, 23, continued to attack and gained four final spots before the checkered flag flew.
“The field got bunched up on the restart, which almost threw me into Justin Wilson. I avoided him and in turn ended up getting slammed into from behind. I got caught in the anti-stall, and we dropped down to 13th and had to work our way back up to ninth. Realistically, I think we were a seventh- or eighth-place car, but ninth is still a great finish starting from 22nd.”
Team Penske’s Will Power won the opening round of Verizon IndyCar Series action, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves, respectively.
Newgarden and SFHR will take the streets at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 14. To keep up with the latest team news before the team heads to California, like Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing on Facebook and follow @SFHRindy on Twitter and Instagram.
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