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IndyCar Season Preview: Josef Newgarden

Photo credit: Indy Racing Review (CC BY-NC 2.0)

#67 Dallara-Honda, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

Born: December 22, 1990

Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: Newgarden absolutely destroyed the Indy Lights Series, clinching the championship before the final event and winning the title by 94 points. Newgarden won five of 14 races and three poles to add his name to the long list of talented feeder series drivers employed by Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: The lone disappointment of Newgarden’s season came at Long Beach, which saw him lead 31 of 43 laps but fail to finish the race. With only minutes remaining in the shortened event, driver error forced Newgarden to improperly negotiate a turn and hit a tire barrier.

SEASON OUTLOOK: While Sam Schmidt had looked to promote his top Indy Lights driver to IndyCar for the 2012 season, Sarah Fisher will make Newgarden the first full-time driver in the history of her organization. Fisher’s team, which picked up its first win last season with the departed Ed Carpenter at Kentucky, will rely on the young American (and his $1 million scholarship for winning the Lights title) to make an even bigger dent in 2012.

Fisher’s team is solidly growing, as oil magnate Wink Hartman has added extra financial support and his name to the single-car effort. SFHR also secured a Honda engine deal in late February, bringing the final piece of the puzzle together and helping the sport avoid the nasty public relations black eye that would have come with an engine shortage. The combination of Fisher, Hartman, and Honda bodes well for Newgarden, who won’t suffer the same uncertain fate of many recent Lights champions. He hasn’t landed with the biggest team in the paddock, but he’s with an outfit that will be happy to build around him for the long haul.

– Chris Leone

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