Wink Hartman became a sponsor of the Sarah Fisher Racing Team in 2008, but after a few years of limited involvement, he discovered it wasn’t satisfying his competitive nature.
So this year Hartman, a local developer and business owner, amped up his role in the Fisher organization in the IndyCar Series. He joined the ownership group, which was renamed Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, and is hoping to help lead the team to success at the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.
The team features two rookie drivers, Josef Newgarden and Bryan Clauson, who surged to fast times in pre-race time trials and are darkhorses in the Memorial Day weekend race. Newgarden qualified seventh Saturday; Clauson crashed in his qualifying attempt but will try again today, likely in a backup car.
"I played polo for 45 years, Hartman said. "Finally the back just gave out and I had to have surgery. My wife (Libba) and I don’t play golf, so it’s a hobby. We fell in love with Sarah and her family. It’s something my wife and I do together to stay competitive. I thrive on that. I found something to continue to stay competitive and hopefully I can lead this team to many, many wins in the future."
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Fisher started her team in 2008 and stopped racing two years later. She holds the female record for Indy 500 starts with nine, and she was the youngest woman to compete in the race when she entered in 2000 at age 19.
Hartman’s initial involvement helped give the team financial stability, and he has made further contributions as part owner, adding a part-time second car, the No. 39, raced by Clauson.
Though he is continuing to learn the nuances of the sport on the technical side, Hartman has done his best to let the engineers make decisions regarding the cars while he focuses on financial aspects of the team.
"I do certain things well and I do certain things very poorly," Hartman said. "As far as the two cars, the engineering and the true mechanical parts, I stay 100 percent away from that. I do everything I can to have no opinion and say positive things.
"The business side is where I shine, working with sponsorships and the money aspects of it. I work with the public and the media."
Newgarden, the 2011 champion of the developmental Indy Lights series, drives the Fisher Hartman primary car, the No. 67 Honda. The 21-year-old made a splash at early Indy 500 practicing, finishing among the top three speeds on five days and setting the pace three times days before his impressive qualifying performance. Clauson also had his moments, practicing among the top three twice.
Hartman’s hands-off approach to the mechanical side of the business doesn’t mean he’s not invested in the outcome, and he sees a bright future for the two up-and-coming drivers the team employs.
The team will spend the next week adjusting the cars, and the combination of superior aerodynamics and tire control could help Newgarden and/or Clauson surprise at Indy.
"To be quite frank, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we had a shot to win this thing," Hartman said. "You’ve got to have speed and a driver with a cool head, but it also takes a lot of luck. How good you are in the pits. There’s a lot more to it than just flat-out speed. At some tracks, speed will get you a win. But at Indy, you’ve got to be very intelligent about fuel usage, tire usage. There’s a lot more going on here than just going fast."