Sarah Fisher and her partner Wink Hartman have seen the fruits of their labor and investments begin to pay off in recent weeks with a pair of top-5 results on the streets of Baltimore and Houston.
Sophomore IndyCar Series driver Josef Newgarden and the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team continue to move from strength to strength, and with her ongoing desire to add a second car to the SFHR operation, the former driver turned owner tells RACER she could have a solution in the works.
“We're trying to be creative about it,” said Fisher. “There were some options out there for us, some alliances for us that would have allowed things to happen pretty quickly for us. At this time, I'm not far enough down the pipeline to discuss it at length, and have only shared those plans with the upper management in our team. We're still committed to making it happen, but we're not quite there yet.”
Fisher has spoken with a number of quality drivers about joining the SFHR next season as a teammate and mentor to 22-year-old Newgarden, and after the team briefly expanded to two cars at Sonoma with the support of Steve Weirich, the interest in establishing a second full-time program has only intensified.
SFHR also partnered with Muscle Milk Pickett Racing owner Greg Pickett at Sonoma, who supplied his ALMS P1 driver Lucas Luhr, and despite the hope that Pickett would field an IndyCar team next season – possibly in association with SFHR – RACER has learned the Muscle Milk outfit is all but guaranteed to remain in sports cars. That would leave Fisher and Hartman to find the funding to run a second car in-house or, as she reveals, could involve partnering with an existing IndyCar program to double SFHR's resources.
“Josef and the team have done a great job recently, we've had great results with our first podium on a road and street course at Baltimore, but the benefits of a second car are extremely heavy towards furthering our consistency,” she explained. “Having one of data, one set of engineers, one setup direction; those aren't advantages in a series as competitive as IndyCar. Our guys have done an amazing job, I think, but imagine if we had two sets.
“It's the next step for us. We can either align ourselves with a team to have that opportunity, or create that opportunity for ourselves. I'm not sure which is going to be the best route for us – to manage those partnerships that are out there and available to us, or to do it in-house. Either way, we need to get to having that second car because it helps us in every way.”
Despite having work to do on the ways and means to pull it off, Fisher is confident SFHR will head into 2014 with some form of second car arrangement in place.
“An alliance is very likely,” she continued. “As far as straight up having a second car, it is less likely. We're most interested in that technical bridge. The engineering and feedback. I'd love to have that second storyline to tell, but from a priority standpoint, it's about the technical side, the expanding of resources.
“One way or the other, we have to find a way to help Josef and the team to take that next step. As Josef matures as a driver, his feedback matures, but with a veteran driver to work with, it will only benefit his career and our team, so we have to find a way to make that happen.”
Fisher and Hartman have another major decision to finalize in the coming months as the team, which has used Honda's single-turbo V6 powerplant since 2012, needs to secure its next engine lease. The choice of vendor, as Fisher alludes, is up for review. If a switch to Chevy were to take place, it would also change the roster of teams SFHR would have to form an alliance.
“It's funny you ask,” she said. “The manufacturer we're currently with is so focused and engaged with their anchor team (Ganassi Racing), we continue to ask them to think of the teams they have in their overall camp, and they just aren't doing it that way. They need to sign [a new] anchor team and I'm abiding by that…that's all I'll say.”