Fisher hands car keys to Carpenter

By Arni Sribhen

When the IZOD IndyCar Series raced at Kansas Speedway earlier this year, someone asked Sarah Fisher about her car.

Fisher, whose Sarah Fisher Racing team was fielding two cars for the first time, responded with a detailed report on the No. 66 car, which had been damaged in a practice crash and not her own No. 67 car.
And as the year went on, Fisher found it more and more difficult to separate her jobs as owner and driver for Sarah Fisher Racing.

So she made the decision to step out of the seat of the No. 67 Dollar General-sponsored car and focus on her role as team owner. On Nov. 29, she announced her retirement and that she’d hired Ed Carpenter to drive the car for at least nine events in 2011.

“Being both an owner and a driver is both time consuming on both sides,” said Fisher, who recently turned 30. “I really want to see this team move forward and to have one driver who does all the races – ovals and road courses. It’s just very hard to do both.”

Fisher’s 25-year driving career includes 11 years as a competitor in the IZOD IndyCar Series with Walker Racing, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Kelley Racing and Sarah Fisher Racing, which she started in 2008. Fisher, who was voted the IZOD IndyCar Series’ most popular driver three times, has driven a part-time schedule the past three seasons. She had seven starts this year, increasing her career total to 74 since her debut in 1999 at Texas Motor Speedway.

A former competitor in USAC and World of Outlaws sprint cars, she won one pole (2002 at Kentucky Speedway) and was runner-up in the 2001 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In hiring Carpenter, she found a driver who fits the image she built her team around.

“I really like Ed,” she said. “He’s all-American and we have the same background. We’re very much similar on all fronts, so it seemed like a natural fit to move forward with him as the driver. I think in the big picture for the team we didn’t want to introduce a new driver with new team right before the new car came out. It gives us a year to figure things out, and when the new car comes out we’ll be even more prepared.”

Carpenter will compete in all the domestic oval events, with the exception of Milwaukee, and the road/street events at St. Petersburg (the March 27 season opener), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Streets of Baltimore. Fisher hopes to find additional sponsorship for the car, which will allow it to compete in the full season.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we nail that down,” Fisher said. “We’re not there yet. We have nine events and I think we can go after the oval championship and we need to lock down the international races. I think we’re headed in the right direction to make that happen. (Finding a sponsor to run the full season) is a huge focus for us. It’s really hard to accomplish that and drive the car. I didn’t get a lot of time to spend with our partners this year and I think that’s a lot of the reason why we are where we are.”

Carpenter, 29, was limited to part-time duty in 2010, running four races through a joint venture between Vision Racing and Panther Racing. The Indianapolis resident won his first career pole in September at Kentucky Speedway, where he finished second for the second consecutive season.

“It really came together quickly over the last three weeks,” Carpenter said. “I’d been working on some things with Panther and trying to carry over some of the momentum from what we did in 2010 but wasn’t sure where that was going, so I called Sarah about her plans.

“In a lot of ways, I feel like we had a deal done after that first phone call. I was blessed that I called at the right time. Working with Sarah and Andy (O’Gara) up to this point has been great. I’m excited to work with Dollar General. Seeing the work they’ve done with Sarah, I’m excited to be a part of it.”


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