Southsider Voice correspondent
Beech Grove’s Andy O’Gara, team manager of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, was speechless in pit lane Saturday at the end of the first round of action-packed time trials for the Indianapolis 500.
He was asked about the late-day drama under a new format in which a call by SFHR team co-owner Wink Hartman resulted in Josef Newgarden making it into the Fast Nine.
“That’s enough (drama) for one day,” said O’Gara, who was fighting tears of happiness and forced his words slowly. “That will be it right there; that was tough.”
O’Gara then added, “Wink Hartman gave us what it takes to build this team and the opportunity to do that. It’s all good.”
Under a unique format of unlimited qualifying Saturday, Hartman decided to pull Newgarden’s No. 67 Hartman Oil/SFHR Honda from one line in pit road, which negated his previous qualifying speed of 229.637 mph. Newgarden was 13th fastest and outside the Fast Nine, which battled Sunday for their official positions on the 33-car race day grid.
Hartman and the team wanted their maturing driver to go for the Fast Nine with only 10 minutes left in Saturday’s time trials. Newgarden responded with a qualifying sting of 230.033, eighth fastest and bumping Ryan Hunter-Reay from the Fast Nine.
“He (Hartman) is the guy who made the call; they pulled one out of their hats, unbelievable,” Newgarden said. “They put on a different setup, and we definitely went for it … When this place wants you to be fast, it lets you be fast.”
The gamble was worth the reward for team founder and co-owner Sarah Fisher, who is married to O’Gara. They live in Franklin Township and have a daughter, Zoey, 2. Fisher is expecting to give birth to the couple’s second baby, a boy, in mid-June.
There was no gambling Sunday on Newgarden’s run to improve his spot in the front three rows during the second round of time trials.
Newgarden, who was eighth fastest Saturday, remained eighth Sunday with a four-lap speed of 229.893 mph, slightly slower than his 230.033 Saturday. “We went down swinging, that’s for sure. We tried as much as we could do and probably went a little too far.”
The team has two cars in the 98th Indianapolis 500.
Alex Tagliani of Canada is 24th, outside the eighth row after qualifying Sunday at 229.148, considerably faster than his 227.813 Saturday in the No. 68 SFHR/RW Motorsports Honda.
Chip Ganassi Racing development driver Sage Karam, 19, is the latest in a prestigious line of drivers to race for team co-owner Dennis Reinbold, who is teaming with Kingdom Racing to field the No.22 Dallara/Chevrolet.
Karam, a high school senior, missed his prom Friday night in Nazareth, Penn., so he could be at the Speedway for Fast Friday and qualifying.
Driving a car co-sponsored by country singer Brantley Gilbert, Karam was 21st fastest with a speed of 228.650 mph on his only qualifying run Saturday.
“We’re in the Indianapolis 500, and that has been a dream of mine as long as I can remember,” said Karam, who is a graduate of the Mazda Road to Indy, including championships in 2010 in USF2000 and 2013 in Firestone Indy Lights.
Karam, who qualified at 228.436 Sunday, starts his first 500 from inside the back row with Colombian Sebastian Saavedra and 1996 winner Buddy Lazier.