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Newgarden, SFHR make fan engagement connection

Feb 10, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

Photo courtesy Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Photo courtesy Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

A cool story out of IndyCar from a fan engagement perspective. Josef Newgarden and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing surprised one Indiana family, to help create an even more direct connection to the sport. Here’s the full story, via SFHR:

When IndyCar fan Lesa Tennant heard a voice scream “Go,IndyCar!” out of a vehicle window passing by her Bargersville, Indiana home, she assumed a few kids were acting silly.

Tennant didn’t realize inside the vehicle sat IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) mechanic Danny Klotz. The two were driving back to Indianapolis from Sweetwater Lake, where the SFHR team enjoys spending time away from the track during the summer.

Newgarden saw Tennant wearing an IndyCar shirt. After yelling from the window, both Newgarden and Klotz decided to make a U-turn and surprise Tennant.

“I didn’t recognize Josef at first,” Tennant said. “They pulled in my driveway and said, ‘We saw you are an IndyCar fan, and we like to meet IndyCar fans.’”

Said Klotz: “We talked about the Indianapolis 500. Lesa asked us where are seats are, and Josef responded with ‘Having the best seat in the house.’”

When Newgarden finally revealed himself, a shocked Tennant ran inside to get her husband, Leroy, an avid race fan.

“I was on the treadmill in the front room, and I thought he looked like Josef,” Leroy Tennant said. “But then I thought there’s no way Josef Newgarden would be in my driveway. When my wife came and told me Josef was out there, I just couldn’t believe it. That kind of thing doesn’t happen.”

Newgarden and Klotz have continued their relationship with the Tennants. Leroy and his son Kevin attended the IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway just weeks later, and they walked the grid with the team before the race.

Leroy, Lesa and their family recently made a visit to SFHR’s race shop, just minutes down the street from the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“These types of opportunities that you happen to stumble across are really neat,” Newgarden said. “The Tennants were able to see what we do more closely, and hopefully they tell five other people who tell even more people. Hopefully it gets the word out about IndyCar racing.”

Said Klotz: “I think any time you can get someone like Josef, who’s already a media magnet, out to meet people on a personal level, it can really bring true fans to the sport. Lesa was a Tony Kanaan fan, and I think Josef has her heart now. Something like this is heartfelt and goes a long way.”

A family who already shared a passion for racing has an even more direct connection to the sport.

“We love interacting with people,” Newgarden said. “We are not too sheltered to where we can’t talk to anyone from the outside or bring anyone from the outside in to what we’re doing. We want to be very involved with our fans. We’re just regular people who love racing, and meeting other people who like racing, too, is really cool to us. We welcome anyone to check out our family group here.”

Said Leroy Tennant: “I’ve been a race fan for a long time. But it’s great to root for somebody who’s like that. They’re just good people.”

  1. testover6370 - Feb 10, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    No one ever recognizes Newgarden. I saw him in the paddock at Fontana in 2012 and went up and talked with him for a bit. He still had the wrist brace from his bad Sonoma wreck. Great guy to talk to, really fun, and he did seem to appreciate that someone actually knew who he was. I hope they do more videos where he walks through the crowd and asks fans what they think of that Newgarden kid.

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