Rookie Newgarden Stuns at Indy Pole Day to Start 7th

Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda
Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 19, 2012 – On Pole Day for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500, rookie Josef Newgarden showed the strength of his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) team and the depth of his own skill by qualifying in the seventh position.

Newgarden will start the 500-mile race from inside the third row. He was the highest qualifying rookie as well as the highest qualifier with Honda power.

It was a good run, and we’ve obviously got a quick Honda-powered race car,” Newgarden said.

The No. 67 SFHR/Dollar General/Dallara/Honda/Firestone car ticked off a four-lap average of 224.667 mph in segment one of qualifying to advance to segment two. Only nine drivers advanced to segment two where times from segment one were scrapped and drivers re-attempted their four-lap qualifying efforts.

Newgarden and SFHR laid down a four-lap average of 224.037, which bumped them up from eighth to seventh.

Starting near the front of the field is a nice bonus for the rookie, but his focus will now shift solely to race day.

“Today’s outcome was great but we’ll push forward to next Sunday and try our best in the race because that’s what really counts,” Newgarden said.

SFHR driver Bryan Clauson had a scare in his qualifying run when he crashed in Turn 1 of his fourth and final qualifying lap. Clauson walked away from the incident with only a sore thumb.

“I hate it for the Angie’s List/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing/Honda car,” Clauson said. “It’s a tough blow because we’ve been so strong all month. The guys will get to work tonight to get the car repaired and we’ll get out there and qualify tomorrow.”

SFHR will repair Clauson’s No. 39 car instead of reverting to a backup car.

Clauson will attempt to snag his spot in the field on Bump Day. Nine drivers are expected make attempts at earning a starting spot in the race, and Clauson will qualify last.

“JOSEF NEWGARDEN (Driver- Nashville, Tenn.) Have you been surprised by your team’s speed this year? “Not at all. They won Kentucky last year, and that’s pretty impressive. There were only five teams that won races last year and they were one of them. That’s a big statement right there, and they won that race outright. They can win more, and I hope we can win together.”

On his engineering staff: “I work mainly with Nathan O’Rourke, and I think he’s one of the most underrated engineers. He’s a very talented guy and he’s got his wits about him. You can’t really single anyone out on this team though. The way we find speed is through group effort. Everyone has ideas, and we take them and try to implement them into our program. We try to put every little piece together to make this thing run.”

On experiencing his first Pole Day: “There are so many people here on Pole Day! I could see a ton of people in Turn 1 and they all cheered and it was really cool. I remember being on the other side of the fence last year in Firestone Indy Lights watching everyone qualify for the 500 and it’s a cool moment. You kind of self-reflect and see yourself in the car and it’s a cool feeling. You’re the guy that gets to go out and drive the car. They’ve built this nice race car that costs a lot of money and you go out and run the laps. It’s a lot of pressure but it’s a lot of fun too.”

On his qualifying run in segment one: “Early on in the run I thought it was going to be difficult to finish all four laps. You’ve got a lot of tools in the car that you can play with and adjust each lap, which is what I was doing. I was just trying to make it as fast as possible and get through the thing. I know we’re not the quickest right now but I really think we’ve got one of the quickest cars in the field.”

“BRYAN CLAUSON (Driver- Noblesville, Ind.) On his incident in qualifying: “It started off as a great run for us. We were set to land right where we thought we would. I got to Turn 1 on my final lap and it just came around. We hadn’t had any issues with stability throughout the whole run. If anything, it wasn’t turning well enough. I don’t know exactly what happened but it ended up coming around on us. I hate it for the Angie’s List/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda car. It’s a tough blow because we’ve been so strong all month. The guys will get to work tonight to get the car repaired and we’ll get out there and qualify tomorrow.”