It was the best of times and the worst of times for Josef Newgarden and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing at the start of last year's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Best, in that the then-rookie started alongside polesitter Dario Franchitti on the front row at the prestigious street race (ABOVE); and worst, in that Newgarden was edged off course as he vied with Franchitti for the lead into Turn 1, ending his race as soon as it had begun.
SFHR returns to Long Beach eager to make good on the promise of last year, and is buoyed by its first top-10 finish last time out at Barber Motorsports Park.
"Not being able to run the race last year and getting knocked out into Turn 1 on the first lap was difficult," Newgarden admitted. "So I'd like to run the whole race and hopefully do well."
After a ninth-place finish in Alabama on April 7, SFHR is confident that California will bring continued success.
"Long Beach is going to be so important to continue the momentum that we have," Newgarden said. "We really want to come into Indianapolis with a steady stretch of good results, so it's super-important that we go to Long Beach and score solid points and continue the consistent streak."
New Firestone tires for all of the IndyCar drivers will further challenge each team on the 1.968-mile street course, Newgarden added.
"The tires are different this year, so that's going to be a variable that most people have to deal with," Newgarden said. "I am excited because we had a really good car in Long Beach in 2012 and I think we'll have an even better one this year."
Since his first top-10 finish at Barber Motorsports Park, Newgarden said his team has turned a corner and is working on continued improvement each day.
"We're working on pit stops continuously," he said. "I'm working on my in and out laps and trying to make everything as smooth as possible leading up to pit stops."
Beyond this weekend, the team is putting the finishing touches on its new race shop on Main Street in Speedway, Ind. The new HQ will be fully operational for the Indianapolis 500, where Newgarden will run in the colors of new backer Century 21 Real Estate.
Andy O'Gara, the team's general manager, told IndyCar.com he aims have everything moved so the mechanics can prepare the car for the next round of the IZOD IndyCar Series at Sao Paulo, Brazil at the new locale.
"Our goal is that when the guys get back from Long Beach it is ready to rock," team co-owner Sarah Fisher said. "There's a lot that goes into it."