Up-and-coming American open-wheel driver Josef Newgarden has signed to drive a Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship this season. The Nashville native has spent the last three years racing in Europe and had considered splitting time this year between Indy Lights and GP3, where he raced last season. Now, at age 20, he is moving back to the United States and is looking to match his European success on the racetracks in America.
“I am thrilled to be joining Sam Schmidt Motorsports at this important stage of my career,” said Newgarden, who started racing in karting at age 13. “I felt that Sam's organization would give me the best chance to be competitive this season, hopefully scoring race wins and competing for the championship. Sam has made me feel very welcome to his team and I really appreciate that. Now, I just can't wait for (the season opener in) St. Pete to get started.”
In 2008, Newgarden was the first American to win the Kent class of the prestigious BRSCC Formula Ford Festival in the 36-year history of the event. He moved to the British Formula Ford Championship in 2009 and was runner-up in the final standings with nine wins. That same year, he won two of three races he contested in the Formula Palmer Audi Series. In 2010, Newgarden moved to the GP3 Series, where he scored five top-10s, three front-row starts and one pole position in 16 rookie-season races.
“I have been watching Josef's career closely for the last four seasons, and I thought we had lost another great American prospect to the European system,” Schmidt said. “However, I believe the level of competition in those series will only strengthen his ability to perform in the U.S. going forward. We are very much looking forward to the opportunity of developing and promoting this young star in the IndyCar series.”
The signing of Newgarden is the final piece of the 2011 Indy Lights puzzle for Indianapolis-based Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Teammates to Newgarden will be Brazilian Victor Carbone, Americans Bryan Clauson and Conor Daly of Noblesville, Ind., and Argentinian Esteban Guerrieri. Clauson and Daly will split driving duties in one of SSM's entries with Clauson piloting on the ovals and Daly racing on the road courses.
“This now completes what will be a very strong four-car entry list for SSM in the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights Championship,” Schmidt said.
SSM will also enter the No. 77 IndyCar of Alex Tagliani formerly fielded by the FAZZT race team, as well as several part-time entries in the IZOD IndyCar Series.