Sarah Fisher will now have a backup car behind her IndyCar efforts, thanks to a gift from Wink and Libba Hartman of Hartman Oil. During a surprise press announcement Monday, Fisher was presented with a backup car from the Hartmans, one of her sponsor partners, during a ceremony at her Sarah Fisher Racing headquarters in Indianapolis.
Fisher entered her race shop like any other day after spending the morning with her trainer. When she walked in the door she was quickly blindfolded and led into the race shop she co-founded with her father- in-law John O'Gara and husband Andy O'Gara. Hartman removed the blindfold and presented Fisher with her No. 67t car with a flutter of emotion for the four-time Most Popular Driver, in front of a crowd of family, friends and Indianapolis media, all gathered to see her reaction to the news.
"Oh, my gosh! I'm absolutely shocked," said Fisher, through tears of joy. "I just got a brand-new car; I felt like I was on the 'Price is Right'."
Hartman Oil joined SFR in May 2008 during the turmoil of losing the team's primary sponsor, serving as a white knight in what was an otherwise a disastrous month for the newest IndyCar Series team.
"I'm so excited to surprise Sarah," said Hartman, who flew in from Wichita, Kan., for the surprise event. "Libba and I are so honored to be a part of this team; we feel like they are our second family. Once you meet Sarah Fisher not only is she an excellent racecar driver and team owner, but also she's a great person that is very unique. It's people like Sarah that make the world great."
SFR joined the IndyCar Series in February 2008 with a schedule that included three events: the Indianapolis 500, Kentucky and Chicago. After losing their primary sponsor for the Indianapolis 500, Fisher's fan base launched a grassroots gorilla marketing campaign to garner funding for her car, totaling more than $50,000. Along with backing from her fan base, SFR racked up sponsorships from a number of corporate partners including a Hollywood power couple, Everybody Loves Raymond
's Patricia Heaton and actor David Hunt.
Fisher was crashed from the Indy 500 field that year on Lap 106, ending what most believed to be the existence of the IndyCar Series only female owner/driver team. SFR emerged nearly a month later with backing from Dollar General, the largest discount retailer in the U.S. by number of stores, to allow SFR to compete at Kentucky and Chicago to round out the team's first year of business.
The team returned in 2009 with initial backing to compete in four IndyCar Series events, and later Dollar General added two more events to Fisher's 2009 plans, giving the team 100 percent growth in its second year of business.
For Fisher to finally have a backup car is a huge step for one of the smallest IndyCar Series teams and another notch on the belt of the youngest team owner in the paddock.
Fisher's current primary car, which is seven years old and the oldest in the Series, will be raced for the final time as the primary car at ChicagoLand Speedway for the Peak Motor Oil & Antifreeze Indy 300 on Aug. 29. Her new back up car is a 2009 Dallara and is car No. 2 from Dallara Italy. Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan took delivery of the first chassis and finished third with it at Kentucky Speedway earlier this month. SFR hopes to bring the backup car into the fold as the primary car at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the season-ending race in October, perhaps with a top- five of their own at a track that holds Fisher's best IndyCar Series finish of second.
"To have a spare car, it means we can be more aggressive and be able to put it on the line even more," continued Fisher. "Imagine what we'll do now."