Aug 18, 2014, 10:17 AM EDT
In a Verizon IndyCar Series world where several teams have acronyms – CGR, SPM, KVSH, BHA and RLL to name but a few – there’s been another new acronym added to the lexicon as of this weekend, with the announcement of CFH Racing for 2015.
C in this case is not for cookie, but for Ed Carpenter; the F for Sarah Fisher and the H for Fisher’s team co-owner Wink Hartman, who formalized their partnership going forward this weekend.
It means the end of the road for ECR (Ed Carpenter Racing) and SFHR (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing) as separate entities after this season’s finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
The process of merging the teams makes a lot of sense on paper, and at first reaction should be a general positive for both organizations.
Fisher and Carpenter are throwbacks in a sense; they have ties to the previous all-oval era of the IndyCar series, and both grew up racing short track and dirt track ovals before they made their debuts in 2000 and 2003, respectively.
Since then, their driving commitments have scaled back. Fisher stepped out of the cockpit of her own team after 2010 to focus on family and business; Carpenter’s full-time driving career was temporarily halted in 2010 but then reborn, a bit, when he drove for Fisher’s team in 2011. Together, they won their first race at Kentucky Speedway, in a popular upset triumph over Dario Franchitti.
Carpenter branched out on his own to form ECR in 2012, with Fisher then bringing Hartman in as team co-owner that year, and the team signing Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden to a three-year deal.
Both teams stand at the crossroads in 2014, which is why the move makes sense now.
For Carpenter this year, he opted in the best interest of his team, thinking in a business sense, to bring in a road/street course ace in the form of Mike Conway. And Conway’s delivered with a pair of wins in Long Beach and Toronto; Carpenter, with a win of his own at Texas, has won on his own.
Fisher, meanwhile, has continuously struggled to garner and maintain a primary sponsor for each of Newgarden’s three seasons beyond a handful of one-off races. Hartman, who’s provided financial stability for the team for three years, can’t continue to do this forever on his own.
So, we’re partying like it’s 2011 all over again as these two come together. Newgarden, a free agent, has impressed this year and the potential of him being part of this at least two-car operation is a good one.
Here’s Carpenter and Fisher, in separate interviews with MotorSportsTalk, on how they plan to move forward from here, with Carpenter offering a bit more insight:
“I don’t know if we envisioned (a second car) it happening like this, but we’re excited. We have a lot of respect for one another. It was a group effort to bring us together,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter admitted this came together “relatively quickly” but was born of discussions they’d had for years.
“You have all sorts of discussions, but this happened relatively quickly,” Carpenter said. “Going back to the 2013 season even, it didn’t really make sense with where each team was, with certain contracts. I don’t think either of us were interested back then. The stars are aligning right now.”
Fisher added, “We’re only going to get stronger from here.”
Both spoke highly of Newgarden.
“Josef has been so great for us as an organization, and we’re still working to keep him. We’ve built a stellar team,” Fisher said.
Carpenter added, “I think Josef’s a really special talent. I’ve been so impressed with how he has developed on a single car team. I hope we can get a deal done with Josef. I think I can help him a lot on the ovals. Hopefully Mike or whoever can come through on the streets too. But all of that is just speculation right now.”
The things to iron out from here, of course, are personnel, engine manufacturers, sponsorship and moving shops. It promises to be a busy time period and in some respects, having a “longer” offseason should help.
If there is a cautionary tale in this story though, it’s that single-car teams in IndyCar may soon be on borrowed time.
With this merger, it leaves just three teams who have fielded a single car full-time in 2014: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Bryan Herta Autosport.
Both RLL (National Guard) and BHA (Integrity Energee Drink) will have lost their primary sponsor by the end of the season. Foyt, fortunately, has enjoyed a healthy, long-term relationship with ABC Supply Co., and frequently mentions the possibility of a second full-time car.
Still though, the merger reduces the number of full-time teams from 11 to 10, and it also combines two of the three newest teams in the sport. Fisher founded her own team in 2008 and Carpenter in 2012; Herta’s team made its IndyCar debut in 2010.
The long-term problem IndyCar faces, if not the existing teams gaining more cars, is that there don’t appear to be any new teams entering on the horizon. And from that standpoint, it creates a domino effect where fewer seats become available, and fewer drivers get chances. The ones who do, as ever, largely need to bring budget.
Newgarden is now the last Indy Lights champion with staying power. Tristan Vautier got only one season before his funding ran out and Sage Karam has had only one appearance, this year’s Indianapolis 500.
So in this offseason, the CFH Racing announcement should serve as a wakeup call to the business model of sustainability for smaller teams in IndyCar, but it appears to be a boon for the organization in most aspects.
Oct 2, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT
Sebastian Saavedra ends last among full-time IndyCar drivers for the second year in a row.
Oct 2, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT
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Oct 2, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Carlos Huertas ends P20 in his first IndyCar season, with that freaky Houston win.
Oct 2, 2014, 11:06 AM EDT
Dale Earnhardt Jr. plays Knight Rider in “Funny or Die” video.
Oct 2, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT
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Oct 2, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Category four typhoon could force the race to be held on Saturday instead of Sunday.
Oct 2, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT
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Oct 2, 2014, 9:03 AM EDT
Titles on the line at the TUDOR Championship finale in Atlanta.
Oct 2, 2014, 12:05 AM EDT
Graham Rahal ends P19 after a tough season, but he was better than the stats would indicate.
Oct 1, 2014, 11:59 PM EDT
Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens to run in FP1 at Suzuka.
Oct 1, 2014, 11:35 PM EDT
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Oct 1, 2014, 10:57 PM EDT
Jack Hawksworth overachieved in his first Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Oct 1, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne check in on the Contender round of the new Chase format.
Oct 1, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Jimmie Johnson not a fan of the “under the radar” terminology.
Oct 1, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT
A P2 penalty issued to No. 20 NASCAR Truck team upheld after appeal.
Oct 1, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Bailiffs seize goods at Leafield, but Caterham issues a statement saying that it is business as usual.
Oct 1, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT
Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America goes in-depth with all 12 drivers in Round 2 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, also known as the Contenders Round.
Report: Australian-owned team, driver and sponsor to debut in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015
Oct 1, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT
While Marcos Ambrose is returning to his native Australia after this season, a new Australian-owned team is set to make its debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series next season, complete with an Australian-born driver and Aussie primary sponsor.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT
Bill Elliott figured real estate would be a good investment many years ago, and did that belief ever pay off for the soon-to-be NASCAR Hall of Famer.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT
Kawasaki officially announced that reigning supercross champion Ryan Villopoto will head to Europe next year to race the MXGP series. Davi Millsaps and Wil Hahn will replace him on the American Monster Energy Kawasaki team.
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