Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden will be part of the Rising Star Racing group in 2014, which seeks to assist in promoting deserving talent to the next level of Indy car racing through funding, support and guidance. The 22-year-old Tennessee native will be the ambassador and mentor to drivers for the program, which was announced at the Performance Racing Industry trade show in Indianapolis.
“It can be really challenging to move up in this sport,” said Newgarden, who enters his third IndyCar Series season with SFHR next year. “When you are young and working so hard to make it happen, the stars have to align perfectly. I think that Rising Star Racing is going to help show that it is possible and how it can happen.”
Pro Mazda Championship drivers Spencer Pigot and Neil Alberico are in the inaugural Rising Star Racing class.
“The driving is just one side of what we do,” Newgarden added. “Having a skill set that allows you to be effective on the marketing and business side can be just as important as what you are capable of doing in the car. I was fortunate to have the help and advice that I did as I moved up, and it is important to me to try to provide that kind of help to Spencer and Neil, and whomever else that comes into this program. I want it to be successful for a very long time.”
Pigot, 20, from Orlando, Fla., in 2014 will compete in his second season in Pro Mazda, having secured fourth place in the championship with a victory and four podium finishes. Alberico, 21, of Los Gatos, Calif., will be making his rookie run in the Pro Mazda, having finished the 2013 season as runner-up in the USF2000 championship on the strength of his series-high six wins and eight podium finishes.
“It’s a great opportunity for me and helps with aspects I’ve struggled with in my career,” Pigot said. “The Mazda Road to Indy is a fantastic program. If you win the championship, you’re set. But as I’ve learned the last two seasons anything can happen in racing and one little thing could ruin your chances to win. To have constant support from a group like Rising Star is amazing for a young driver. I think it’s a really good program and I’m really excited to be part of it.”
Rising Star Racing is the idea of Indianapolis businessman Art Wilmes, a lifelong fan of Indy car racing who wanted to help talented racers advance.
“We are looking for drivers who are long on talent but short on resources,” Wilmes said. “Our goal is to provide talented young open-wheel drivers with the support they need and allow their talent to win out. We want to help them get to IndyCar, the highest level for American open-wheel racing. Our goal is to bootstrap a few hand-picked candidates, develop their business and professional image and allow them to reach their potential. We will market our drivers as a package to attract funding from both B2C and B2B sponsors to make this a sustainable program that will continue to look for new drivers and growth in the future.”