By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Honda to power Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing in 2012
2. Auto Club Speedway race confimed as season finale
3. Enerson to compete in USF2000 National Clas
4. Of note
1. Honda to power Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing in 2012: Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and rising American racer Josef Newgarden will compete in the entire 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season with Honda power.
SFHR and Newgarden will be on the grid for the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 25 with the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, as the team’s engine program with Honda came to fruition for all 16 races in 2012.
“Everyone at SFHR is ecstatic about competing in the entire 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season with Josef behind the wheel and with Honda engines,” team co-owner Sarah Fisher said. “We couldn’t have done it without the support of our loyal fans, who mobilized on our behalf through email, social media, texting and phone calls. Their voices were heard. We had been in discussions with Honda since last season, and I’m delighted that it finally came together. My heart has been in IndyCar for several years, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to enter a season as a full-time owner. Honda saw an opportunity and has given our team a chance to be on the grid in St. Petersburg. I’m really proud of the hard work by so many to pull this package together.
“I’d also like to give special thanks to Indy 500 winner and IZOD IndyCar Series team owner Bobby Rahal for helping us initiate our 2012 partnership with Honda. Bobby once again personified the definition of a gentleman and sportsman, remembering how we helped his son Graham. This is a wonderful example of paying it forward.”
Fisher stepped from the cockpit of her team’s car for four IZOD IndyCar Series races in early 2010 so Graham Rahal would have a drive. That helped Rahal stay on a career arc that would land him a seat with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2011 and would eventually make the introduction to his current sponsor, Service Central.
“Sarah Fisher is a class act and so is everyone at Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing,” added Rahal. “The team did great things for Graham when he didn’t have a program, and I am happy we were in a position to help her. We are disappointed that we couldn’t put our second program together in time for the start of the season and hope to have that resolved by the Indianapolis 500. Either way, like the many fans of the team, we are happy that SFHR and Josef Newgarden will compete for a full season in 2012.”
Newgarden, who will compete for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, will drive the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone at the IZOD IndyCar Series Open Test March 8-9 at Sebring, Fla., with other private tests also scheduled before the season opener. Newgarden, 21, advanced to the pinnacle of North American open-wheel racing with SFHR after winning the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights championship. He will compete for IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year honors in 2012.
“I’m thrilled to get the chance to race the entire season,” Newgarden said. “This is a dream come true, thanks to Honda and the unwavering support of Sarah’s fans. I can’t wait for St. Petersburg.”
The partnership with Honda is another big step forward for SFHR, which was formed in 2008 as Sarah Fisher Racing and earned its first IZOD IndyCar Series victory in 2011 at Kentucky Speedway. The Indianapolis-based team announced last December a partnership with businessman Wink Hartman, the hiring of Newgarden as its IZOD IndyCar Series driver and plans to build a new race shop and offices in Speedway, Ind., in the shadows of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“When Bobby kindly offered to forego his second full season lease in order to ensure that Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing could be on the grid from the start of the season, we were happy to be able to help facilitate the matter,” said Steve Eriksen, Vice President of Honda Performance Development. “We’re pleased to be able to continue our relationship with Sarah Fisher and her new team and look forward to a successful rookie year from Josef following on the heels of his 2011 Indy Lights championship.”
2. Auto Club Speedway race confimed as season finale: The Sept. 15 race under the lights at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval in Fontana, Calif., has been confirmed as the IZOD IndyCar Series season finale.
“We already have record speeds, world-class drivers and the history and tradition of open-wheel racing at Auto Club Speedway,” track president Gillian Zucker said. “Now add ‘season finale’ to our resume. All those ingredients make this track, which has arguably hosted some of the most exciting races in INDYCAR history, the place to be in September.”
To purchase tickets to see the IZOD IndyCar Series return to Auto Club Speedway, call 800-944-RACE (7223) or visit www.autoclubspeedway.com.
3. Enerson to compete in USF2000 National Class: ZSports Motorsports has signed up-and-comer RC Enerson as its first driver of the 2012 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda. The 14-year-old Floridian will make his series debut as one of the youngest drivers in championship history, piloting a Van Diemen Zetec in the National class.
With the goal of not only challenging for top honors in its return to full-time USF2000 Championship competition, but also continuing its proven history of helping train and develop talented young racers, ZSports Motorsports has joined forces with Enerson for the upcoming 2012 season. He impressed both the team crew and onlookers in his inaugural off-season test at Sebring International Raceway, furthering the hope that the Skip Barber race winner is poised to be a USF2000 National class title contender in 2012.
“Everyone at ZSports Motorsports greatly looking forward to working with RC this season,” stated team principal Steve Thomson. “He showed a lot of speed and very good car control in testing, we think he is a true talent behind the wheel. The goal now is to challenge for National class wins and the series title.”
A native, of New Port Richey, Fla., Enerson joins the team in the USF2000 Championship with a good deal of success behind the wheel despite his young age. The son of Firestone Indy Lights entrant Team E owner Neil Enerson, he initially made his mark in the karting ranks. Making the transition to car competition at age 12, Enerson continued his development via Skip Barber Racing and Formula 100 testing, culminating in a Skip Barber Racing Regional win this past year.
“I am so excited about getting my IndyCar license and racing in the USF2000 Championship with ZSports Motorsports,” Enerson said. “I think the championship is the right place for me to develop as a driver, and I am looking forward to starting my Mazda Road to Indy career with a great result in 2012. I would really like to thank my driver coach Jonatan Jorge at JJRD for his incredible help to get me to this level, and most importantly, Team E Racing.”
The chase for top National class honors in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda commences for Enerson and his ZSports Motorsports squad on March 15-16, with Rounds One and Two as part of the prestigious 60th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida event. Prior to the season-opening doubleheader in central Florida, the race-winning pro F2000 team will continue to evaluate potential drivers and commence its season-long testing program. Drivers interested in competing in either the Championship or National classes of the USF2000 Championship are encouraged to contact team principal Steve Thomson. SCCA Club Racing and testing programs are also available.
4. Of note: The IZOD IndyCar Series (March 5-6 and 8-9) and Firestone Indy Lights (March 7) Open Tests at Sebring International Raceway are open to the public. There will be a $10 admission charge… Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is offering fans the chance to win their ticket order for free if they place orders by Feb. 29. The offer includes the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio weekend on Aug. 3-5. Anyone who already purchased will also be included in the random drawing. At the close of business Feb. 29, a Mid-Ohio employee will select one order and the track will refund the customer their purchase price. The winner also will receive access to Victory Circle for the post-race celebration (up to four people).