Sarah Fisher

A week before the ceremonial groundbreaking for a 38,000-square-foot headquarters on Main Street in Speedway, Ind., and taking delivery of the new Dallara chassis, Sarah Fisher and team partner Wink Hartman drove another stake in the ground by announcing that 20-year-old Josef Newgarden would drive the No. 67 entry in the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series.

Newgarden, of Hendersonville, Tenn., had earned the ’11 Indy Lights championship with five victories and 10 total podium finishes, and the previous two years recorded moderate success racing in Europe. Personable, fun-loving, technically astute and media savvy for his tender age, Newgarden appeared to be a natural fit for the young team.

Career parallels were immediately apparent to Fisher, who 12 years earlier enjoyed success in three different midget car series and made her Verizon IndyCar Series debut at Texas Motor Speedway. In 2000, at age 19, she became the youngest woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, and three months later became the first female to earn a podium with a third-place finish at Kentucky Speedway.

Professionally, and maturation through life experiences, Fisher could relate.

“It was kind of neat to watch it over again; a little different because I think it was a different set of media that paid attention than did to me from the beginning of my career,” Fisher says. “He handled it really well and it was a good place for him to be because I could speak to that experience and how to manage that, though there wasn’t a lot of guidance. (It has been) being somebody to talk to. He’s had a good support system, and that all pays off.”

Collectively, Fisher says, that includes the extended family at Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (now CFH Racing after the merger with Ed Carpenter Racing for 2015).

“When you hire a rookie you can certainly have instances where you might luck into a win or have success come really early, but those things don’t just happen,” Fisher says. “Having Wink being the new guy into the team as a partner in 2011 it was just making sure that when we were hiring Josef that we all understood that, yes, we were hiring a rookie and we did see a lot of potential in him and that’s why we wanted to hire him. We knew that after a certain period of time and giving him the tools and the opportunity to be in the car for an extended period of time that he would most certainly become a championship-caliber driver from what we had seen in Indy Lights and some of his performance in Europe. It really was a visual thing when you saw him drive.

“When we put Josef here, it wasn’t so much building our team and then inserting him. It was trying to build with him and build an organization around him and move forward year after year, taking in consideration that he’s a part of that team and not separating the entities of Josef the driver but that he’s a part of the 67 team ongoing.”

Nurturing that inherent talent and the driver’s dedication to race craft have, indeed, paid dividends, highlighted this season by victories at Barber Motorsports Park and in Toronto. Newgarden, who has competed in 61 Indy car races, is 15 points out of fifth place in the championship standings with six events remaining. Fisher notes that having teammates for the first time and the input the past few seasons of driver coaches Barry Waddell and Lee Bentham, too, has been invaluable to prepare for the diverse set of racetracks on the schedule.

Team co-owner Carpenter competes in oval races, while Luca Filippi – runner-up at Toronto on June 14 – drives the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet on road and street courses.

“When I was a rookie (with Walker Racing in 2000) I didn’t have a teammate and that was rough,” Fisher says. “I can totally associate with what Josef experienced developing a new race car. That’s unbelievably hard, so having Ed and Luca this year is a huge thing for Josef.”

In fact, Fisher says, it was among the top draws for Newgarden to re-up with the team last August.  

“Ed has had a good amount of input and guidance this year and I think that’s been beneficial to him and his career, and he’s enjoyed working with Ed and Luca” says Fisher, who again will face the prospect of losing Newgarden to another team at the conclusion of the season. “Lee Bentham also has done a great job this year, just like Barry last year, so it’s really a team effort.

“It’s not one individual who has helped Josef – here’s Josef as a rookie, here’s Josef mature and it’s because of this one person. It’s been talking to (chief engineer) Jeremy (Milless) and (engineer) Chase (Kauffman) and (engineer) Justin (Penix) and (crew chief) Anton (Julian). All of these talented individuals that he’s been fortunate to work with have helped him get to where he is today. That’s why our team is good and why we’re successful is because it’s about everybody working together.

“It’s such a challenging and competitive series and I think that’s why we’re so proud of (Toronto) because when you come away with a 1-2 finish you know you’ve beaten the best.”

Races on three distinctly different ovals – the 2-mile, D-shaped Auto Club Speedway, the Milwaukee Mile and .894, variably-banked Iowa Speedway – are up next on the schedule, and offer potential for continued success based on the drivers' recent history.

Track Start Finish Start Finish
Auto Club Speedway 3 10 13 3
The Milwaukee Mile 5 5 7 9
Iowa Speedway 21 2 10 5

“I know Ed is excited to get to Fontana. He loves driving on the ovals and he loves coaching and working with Josef,” Fisher says. “It’s neat to see the team working well together. It’s been tough when you take two well-organized teams. Normally, you hand-pick individuals and they work together, but when you say, ‘Alright, this baseball team and this baseball team are one now,’ it’s hard. But it’s great because you see a lot of them smiling and enjoying what they do. That means a lot to both Ed and I.”