The test came just a couple of weeks after the teenagers returned from an extraordinarily successful foray to England, where Newgarden, 17, from Hendersonville, Tenn., became the first American ever to post a victory in the Formula Ford Festival Final at Brands Hatch and Daly, 16, from Noblesville, Ind., followed up by becoming the youngest ever winner of the Walter Hayes Trophy Formula Ford event at Silverstone.
For both youngsters the test provided their first experience of a modern carbon fiber chassis, six-speed sequential gearbox and 240-horsepower Mazda "Renesis" rotary engine. To no one’s surprise, they acquitted themselves well.
"We knew Conor as he has tested [an F2000 car] with us in the past, and the team all love him, but it was also great getting to know Josef," said Andersen Racing Team Manager Michelle Kish. "The test went very well, and both drivers showed why they had such great results in the UK."
In addition to displaying a good turn of speed, Daly and Newgarden gained a better appreciation for some of the challenges they will face as they progress toward the pinnacle of the sport.
"The Star Mazda car was a very different experience compared to the Formula Ford," noted Daly. "It was bigger, faster and responded very quickly. The car was much more physically demanding than the Formula Ford as well. By the end of the day I was feeling the pain in my neck!
"It was a really great day overall; I enjoyed every bit of the car and I learned a lot in preparation for next season," continued Daly, who will most likely contest the 2009 Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear after earning a place on the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development team following his victory in this year’s BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda.
"The car was an absolute dream to drive and has definitely been the best car I have driven thus far in my career," added Newgarden, who is still evaluating his options for the 2009 season. "The car was very poised and forgiving which made driving it a blast. The power and grip were not overwhelming but it sure was a handful on cold tires!
"I want to thank everyone involved in the Team USA Scholarship program and Andersen Racing for making this test possible, along with Andersen’s wonderful staff and crew for making it so enjoyable."
The Sebring test represented the second year in a row the Team USA Scholarship has been supported by the Andersen Racing Team which provides a ladder of opportunity for aspiring open-wheel stars by fielding programs in Formula Ford 2000, the Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear and the Firestone Indy Lights Championship.
"It has been my great pleasure to be a small part of this excellent program," said team principal Dan Andersen. "To see this year’s representatives perform so brilliantly in the UK gave me a great sense of pride in them, the team and our country. It’s a wonderful program, and one that hopefully will continue to give deserving young drivers an opportunity to shine for many years to come."