Newgarden, SFHR make fan engagement connection

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A cool story out of IndyCar from a fan engagement perspective. Josef Newgarden and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing surprised one Indiana family, to help create an even more direct connection to the sport. Here’s the full story, via SFHR:

When IndyCar fan Lesa Tennant heard a voice scream “Go,IndyCar!” out of a vehicle window passing by her Bargersville, Indiana home, she assumed a few kids were acting silly.

Tennant didn’t realize inside the vehicle sat IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) mechanic Danny Klotz. The two were driving back to Indianapolis from Sweetwater Lake, where the SFHR team enjoys spending time away from the track during the summer.

Newgarden saw Tennant wearing an IndyCar shirt. After yelling from the window, both Newgarden and Klotz decided to make a U-turn and surprise Tennant.

“I didn’t recognize Josef at first,” Tennant said. “They pulled in my driveway and said, ‘We saw you are an IndyCar fan, and we like to meet IndyCar fans.’”

Said Klotz: “We talked about the Indianapolis 500. Lesa asked us where are seats are, and Josef responded with ‘Having the best seat in the house.’”

When Newgarden finally revealed himself, a shocked Tennant ran inside to get her husband, Leroy, an avid race fan.

“I was on the treadmill in the front room, and I thought he looked like Josef,” Leroy Tennant said. “But then I thought there’s no way Josef Newgarden would be in my driveway. When my wife came and told me Josef was out there, I just couldn’t believe it. That kind of thing doesn’t happen.”

Newgarden and Klotz have continued their relationship with the Tennants. Leroy and his son Kevin attended the IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway just weeks later, and they walked the grid with the team before the race.

Leroy, Lesa and their family recently made a visit to SFHR’s race shop, just minutes down the street from the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“These types of opportunities that you happen to stumble across are really neat,” Newgarden said. “The Tennants were able to see what we do more closely, and hopefully they tell five other people who tell even more people. Hopefully it gets the word out about IndyCar racing.”

Said Klotz: “I think any time you can get someone like Josef, who’s already a media magnet, out to meet people on a personal level, it can really bring true fans to the sport. Lesa was a Tony Kanaan fan, and I think Josef has her heart now. Something like this is heartfelt and goes a long way.”

A family who already shared a passion for racing has an even more direct connection to the sport.

“We love interacting with people,” Newgarden said. “We are not too sheltered to where we can’t talk to anyone from the outside or bring anyone from the outside in to what we’re doing. We want to be very involved with our fans. We’re just regular people who love racing, and meeting other people who like racing, too, is really cool to us. We welcome anyone to check out our family group here.”

Said Leroy Tennant: “I’ve been a race fan for a long time. But it’s great to root for somebody who’s like that. They’re just good people.”

IndyCar: Turn 5 gives drivers fits in Friday’s second practice at Barber Motorsports Park

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You’ve heard of the Fast Six in IndyCar, right?

Well, Friday’s second practice session for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama was the Frustrating Five – Turn 5, that is.

It almost might be easier to list those drivers that were not bitten by the cantankerous turn on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park layout in Birmingham, Alabama.

Close to 10 drivers in the 23-driver field suffered issues in the turn, ranging from running off the grass and back on, to getting stuck and having to be towed out, to suffering damage.

But by the time the one-hour session was over, Josef Newgarden took a big step towards defending his win from last year’s race there, being fastest in Friday’s second of two practice sessions.

Newgarden covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in a speed of 122.786 mph at a best lap time of 1:07.4345 minutes.

Spencer Pigot was second (125.599 mph/1:07.5372), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (122.129 mph/1:07.7971), Will Power (122.107 mph/1:07.8092) and last week’s winner at Long Beach, Alexander Rossi (122.065 mph/1:07.8326).

Sixth through 10th-fastest were Scott Dixon (122.044 mph/1:07.8445), Ryan Hunter-Reay (121.975 mph/1:07.8829), Takuma Sato (121.652 mph/1:08.0628), Marco Andretti (121.579 mph/1:08.1040) and Graham Rahal (121.572 mph/1:08.1076).

Now, speaking of all the incidents, here’s a list.

INCIDENTS:

* Right after rookie Matheus Leist spun early in the session in Turn 5, fellow rookie Zach Veach spun with about 45 minutes left in the session in Turn 5. Graham Rahal had to take evasive action to miss Veach.

But that wasn’t all, as Sebastien Bourdais followed in almost the same spot with a spin of his own roughly a minute later, and then Gabby Chaves also had his problems in the same turn, going into the grass but avoiding the gravel.

* Simon Pagenaud joined his Penske Racing teammate Josef Newgarden in the Turn 5 gravel. Newgarden spun into the gravel in the first practice session.

* Rookie Rene Binder, who has struggled in his inaugural season, continued to have issues, running into the wall and causing damage to the front end, needing a tow truck to get him righted.

It appeared Binder snapped part of the front suspension in the incident.

* Turn 5 saw James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan run off-track late in the session, but they were able to continue.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The third and final practice of the weekend will take place Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET, to be televised live on CNBC (with an encore performance at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, the weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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