Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing has assumed the Honda engine lease deal previously earmarked for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, ending concerns that her squad would be left without an engine contract for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series.
The Indianapolis-based team co-owned by former IndyCar racer Sarah Fisher and Kansas businessman Wink Hartman announced back in December that it had signed Firestone Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden (LEFT) to drive its No. 67 entry. However, the team has not announced a primary sponsor, and faced going into the season without an engine as all three engine manufacturers had no more supply availability. But, RLL hopeful Luca Filippi admitted yesterday that it appeared he would be not in a position to start the season with Rahal's team and on Friday, Honda confirmed that it would supply its 10th 2.2-liter V6 turbo engine to Fisher's team after Bobby Rahal, team principal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, agreed to the transfer of the engine contract for his second full-season entry to SFHR.
“We deeply appreciate Bobby's generous offer to forgo his second full-season lease in order to ensure that Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing will be on the grid from the start of the season, and we were happy to help facilitate this change,” said Steve Eriksen, vp of Honda Performance Development. “We're pleased to be able to continue our relationship with Sarah and her growing team, and look forward to a successful rookie season from Josef, following on the heels of his outstanding championship season in Indy Lights last year.”
"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."
"Everyone at SFHR is ecstatic about competing in the entire 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season with Josef behind the wheel and with Honda engines," added Fisher. "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."
Honda will have have 10 of the 26 cars penciled into the lineup for the March 25 IZOD IndyCar Series season opener at St. Petersburg, including four from Ganassi Racing, two from Dale Coyne Racing and one each from A.J. Foyt Racing, Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Rahal Letterman Lanigan.
Chevrolet will have 11 cars: three each from Team Penske, Andretti Autosport and KV Racing Technology, and one each from Panther Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing. Lotus will have five: Two from Dragon Racing and one each from HVM Racing, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Bryan Herta Autosport.