Q&A With Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

West Allis, WI – Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing is working hard at becoming a player in the IZOD Indy Car Series.

The team, formed in 2008 by then driver Sarah Fisher, has benefited since 2011 by partnering with Kansas businessman Wink Hartman who has helped them on the business side as well as with finances.

Now running young Josef Newgarden full time on the Indy Car circuit, Fisher would like to expand to two cars in the future, but she and her driver are both satisfied with a single car effort for now.

In a recent interview at associate sponsor Direct Supply of Milwaukee, Sarah and Josef talked about the team, their new Indy facility, the future, NASCAR and even Danica.

Racing Nation: How hard was it to step out of the car and take a management role with your team?

Sarah Fisher: “It was a big picture decision and a lot of factors went into it. As our team was growing, new cars were coming on board in the series and we were in transition from a sponsor standpoint. We wanted to start a family at the same time; it was still a hard decision but one I’ve enjoyed immensely.

RN: Will you ever get back in a race car again?

SF: “Probably not. I mean geez. I think where we’re at from a team perspective. I’m doing a much better job now growing the team and being able to assemble the right people to win races. It was more difficult to do those things when I was driving.”

RN: What’s been the impact on your team since Wink Hartman came on board as a partner?

SF: “Oh my gosh. It was a long-time dream to have our new facility in Indianapolis. He’s 100% responsible for what we’ve done there. It was always where we wanted to be. The stock car world has done a great job of involving their fans and that’s what we want to do. Indy Car doesn’t really have that kind of a destination outside of a venue (like the Indianapolis Speedway). We want to open up to the fans at certain times and also have a retail shop to engage them.

“Having been an athlete there are a lot of things I’ve learned by doing. But he’s brought so much credibility and so much business knowledge beyond being a financial partner.”

Josef Newgarden: “I think that it’ll take some time to implement it (the new shop), and all the advantages it will give us. I think from a performance standpoint we can do a lot of things in house that we had to outsource before. You can control a lot of things on your team better. So many more capabilities are still to come. They’ll be fully seen in the future.”

RN: So, when might we see you enter two cars full time?

SF: “I would love that, but you know right now we need to find a primary sponsor for our #67 car. Once we do that we could consider a second car option. In 2010 we bit off more than we could chew. I was driving and owning the team; we got too big too fast. I learned a lesson from that. Two cars are where we want to be, but not right now.

“Century 21 Real Estate was a one-off sponsor for us at the 500, but we’re in talks with them to continue. There are a couple of venues that they’re interested in for this year, but to really have an impact we’re focusing on next year with them.”

RN: Josef, how did Sarah find you after your three years in Europe as a Formula Ford driver?

JN: “It was after my Indy Lights championship in 2011; it put me on the performance stage. It shows what you’re capable of doing for Indy Car teams. Then I was contacted by Sarah and Andy (O’Gara, her husband), and eventually Wink, and they put something together for 2012 at the end of our Lights season in ’11.

RN: How’s Sarah to work for?

JN: “She’s like a sister to me. She’s been a race driver before so that makes my transition to Indy Car a lot easier for a young guy who’s trying to learn. She’s gone through this before and she’s still young and that makes it easier to talk to her and learn things.”

RN: From a road racing background, how much do you enjoy racing at Milwaukee?

JN: “I love the Milwaukee Mile. I was here once in Lights and last year in Indy Car. It’s a fun track with no banking you really have to hustle the car. You’re trying to go flat out and that’s difficult to do here in traffic. It requires a lot of car control and skill from the driver.”

RN: How has Direct Supply been to deal with over the years?

SF: “They’ve been here since day one with us. Having sponsors and partners involved in our business for a long time says a lot for who you are as a company and the job you’re doing. The Hillis family (Direct Supply CEO and founder Bob Hillis and his wife Jenny) has been important to us, not necessarily from a financial standpoint, but from a sponsor engagement standpoint. They’ve engaged everyone from Dollar General to Rick Davidson at Century 21. They really try hard to use the leverage they have to help us.”

RN: So, what if Danica Patrick came to you to do a one-off drive for Indianapolis and needed a ride?

SF: “I would definitely consider that. She did a lot for our sport. She brought in a lot of new fans and new interest. She’s a different brand than I am. But what she’s doing now-oh, boy. It’s really tough what she’s trying to do in NASCAR. You know, we miss her in Indy Car and if there’d be a way to get her back I would be definitely interested.

RN: Finally, what’s your role on race day in the pits?

SF: “It’s more from the business end. I’ve been able to hire people who are smarter than I am to plan race strategy and tuning cars from an engineering standpoint. On race day I oversee the company whether that’s the corporate side or putting out fires. Everything on the track should be in place already. If I have to have input by that time-we’re in trouble.”

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