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Not really.

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing jumped at the chance to sign Newgarden after Ed Carpenter left to form his own team after last season.

Part of the reason was money. As the first Mazda Road to Indy graduate, Newgarden was given a $1 million scholarship by the series to shop his services. Fisher saw a talented, young driver, too.

Newgarden began pursuing racing seriously at age 13, and won multiple World Karting championships from 2005-2007. In 2008, he became the first American to win the International Formula Ford Festival in the Kent Class. The next year, he moved to the British Formula Ford Series, where he wound up second.

And in 2011, Newgarden emerged as the next big thing in IndyCar by winning five of the 14 Indy Lights races and finishing in the top three 10 times. He ran away with the points title and established himself as a force to be reckoned with.

Josef’s got a lot of experience on ovals and Sarah Fisher did a really good job on that car and Josef really nailed it in qualifying,” said Simon Pagenaud, a former Champ Car driver who is fifth in the points as he heads into his first 500. “It’s a combination of a lot of things.”

This year’s rookie class is one of the 500’s most unusual.

There is Newgarden and Wade Cunningham, the Freedom 100’s only three-time winner. There is Pagenaud and Katherine Legge, Champ Car veterans but 500 newcomers. There’s Bryan Clauson, Newgarden’s teammate and a USAC star, and James Jakes, who was in Indy last year but failed to qualify for the race.

Plus, there’s 2002 U.S. Grand Prix winner Rubens Barrichello and Alesi, who have combined for 523 career Formula One starts.

All of them except Newgarden and Barrichello (10th) are starting in the second half of the field.

Alesi’s advice to the young American is simple.

“When you’re young and in a good position, you want to enjoy it, but you have to realize the race is long and not to get too excited by the first lap and the crowd,” Alesi said. “I remember when I was young and made a mistake at the beginning of the race and I had to watch the rest of the race on TV. You have to remember the race is long.”

It’s a lesson Newgarden will heed come Sunday.

“I think that’s great advice,” he said. “I’ve heard that from other people, too, and that’s what this race is all about, making it to the finish.”