Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing will make it onto the grid in time for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series opener at St Petersburg with Firestone Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden at the wheel of the #67, after finally landing an engine deal with Honda for the whole of the upcoming season.
"Everyone at SFHR is ecstatic," said team co-owner Sarah Fisher announcing the news late on Friday. "My heart has been in IndyCar for several years, and I couldn't be more thrilled to enter a season as a full-time owner ... I'm really proud of the hard work by so many to pull this package together."
“I'm thrilled to get the chance to race the entire season,” agreed Newgarden. “This is a dream come true, thanks to Honda and the unwavering support of Sarah's fans. I can't wait for St. Petersburg.”
SFHR had looked set to miss out on at least the first four races
of the 2012 season when it failed to strike a deal with any of the series' three engine manufacturers before they reached their maximum supply capacity.
"We had been in discussions with Honda since last season, and I'm delighted that it finally came together," said Fisher.
The breakthrough came when fellow team owner Bobby Rahal decided to suspend his attempts to set up a second car to run alongside already-confirmed Takuma Sato in the #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan car, and offered up his suddenly-surplus Honda allocation to Fisher.
"Bobby once again personified the definition of a gentleman and sportsman, remembering how we helped his son Graham," said Fisher, who stepped down from the driver's seat of her own team in order to give Graham Rahal four races in 2010 that helped him go on to land his present seat at Ganassi Racing. "This is a wonderful example of paying it forward."
“The team did great things for Graham when he didn't have a program, and I am happy we were in a position to help her," agreed Bobby Rahal, a former Indy 500 winner. "Like the many fans of the team, we are happy that SFHR and Josef Newgarden will compete for a full season in 2012."
"When Bobby kindly offered to forego his second full season lease in order to ensure that Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing could be on the grid from the start of the season, we were happy to be able to help facilitate the matter,” added Steve Eriksen, Vice President of Honda Performance Development.
The prospect of Fisher - one of the most popular team owners in IndyCar and whose car won the final completed race of 2011 at Kentucky with driver Ed Carpenter - being frozen out of the series by a lack of engine had caused widespread indignation over the past week, and Fisher made it clear that the amount of support she and the team had received over the last few days had made the crucial difference.
“We couldn't have done it without the support of our loyal fans, who mobilised on our behalf through email, social media, texting and phone calls," said Fisher. "Their voices were heard."
As for Rahal, today's announcement means that his hoped-for second car with GP2 runner-up Luca Filippi at the wheel
now won't happen until Indianapolis in May at the earliest.
"We are disappointed that we couldn't put our second program together in time for the start of the season and hope to have that resolved by the Indianapolis 500," said Rahal.