Two-car effort taught us a lot
Recently our team, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, fielded two cars for the GoPro Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway with our partner RW Motorsports. For the first time this season, our full-time driver, Josef Newgarden, had a teammate, a goal we had set our sights on for some time.
Lucas Luhr, who is known as one of the best sports car drivers around, was our second driver. It was Lucas' first IndyCar race, so there were a lot of unknowns going into the weekend. From the management side, it was a whirlwind with double the equipment and double the people, but it was rewarding. Though our results may not have shown it -- Lucas finished 22nd and Josef was 24th -- we learned a lot and really grew as a team.
Racing requires a lot of planning and preparation. There was certainly extra stress making sure we had every angle addressed and prepared for, and because the results weren't reflective of the work that we put in, it was a little disheartening for everyone who contributed to the program.
On the other hand, when I look at the big picture, there were so many positives! What impressed me the most was how quickly our team worked together on the second-car effort. Looking back, there is always room for improvement, which is exactly why we wanted to explore a two-car program this year. I think we came away from the weekend with the ability to eliminate some growing pains for our next two-car effort.
All in all, the weekend was incredible. You can't beat the opportunity to develop and learn together when you have twice the data. All of our guys -- our engineering staff, mechanics and everyone who makes it all come together -- worked well with one another.
For me, there were quite a few differences throughout the weekend. I was torn about where I should be, but I knew the best way to help our team would be by spending most of my time in Lucas' pit. It was so much fun to help on the strategy side there, and I know ultimately that second team will be just as strong as the first. Sometimes I caught myself just smiling from looking at the car, Lucas, Brandon Fry (Lucas' engineer) and the people who all pitched in. I can't tell you how incredible it feels to look at a giddy, excited driver who can't wait to get behind the wheel and know that you were a large part of why he is there. It was just special.
It also helped that Lucas had such a great attitude. He's insanely competitive and 100 percent a racer at heart. He fit in really well with our group, as he knows our goals and wants to have a place in IndyCar. I couldn't have asked for a better fit because of his approach, his communication and his attitude toward our team. Josef seemed appreciative of the opportunity to work with a teammate and was gung-ho from the start to work with everyone to see an improvement in the team. I sincerely think he would benefit from having a teammate and that he wants to see that happen in the future.
The entire process was long, with two test days and spending two weeks in California without my 2-year-old daughter, Zoey. When Zoey isn't there, it isn't that I don't want to be at the races, but that natural happiness from being around her isn't present. (It also makes me understand the crew guys missing their own families!) It's a different type of happiness and focus with a big job at hand for the weekend. All the guys got along well and worked together, which made it pretty easy to smile anyway.
Thanks to RW Motorsports, we were able to have more than one think tank behind the development of our race cars in Sonoma. I am pushing for this to happen more often so we can continue growing and prospering. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about!