The newly merged team is preparing for what they hope is a successful 2015 season.
The youngest merged team in the Verizon IndyCar Series - CFH Racing - is beginning to find the blend line in its team makeup and manner of doing business. When Ed Carpenter Racing (ECR) and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) decided to work together it seemed an excellent synapse of identities in INDYCAR.
A reunion of sorts
They’d worked together in the past, when Carpenter drove for SFHR and won, taking victory in the penultimate race of the 2011 season at Kentucky Speedway, with Ed Carpenter beating four-time series champion Dario Franchitti at the stripe. That race, of course, turned into the season finale when Dan Wheldon had his massive accident at Las Vegas and that race was deemed undone and never run.
Carpenter began his own team the following season as the series segued to a new Dallara DW12 chassis and engine competition; Fisher’s team acquired the services of Indy Lights champion, American Josef Newgarden.
Their victory together marked the first in the series for both Carpenter and Fisher - and they never failed to recognize the strength of their bond.
The driver lineup
In August of this year they announced the merger that would bring the two one-car teams together to race Chevrolet-powered (and aero-kitted) Dallaras on Firestone tires for 2015 and beyond. Carpenter will continue in the driver’s seat of one car with the possibility of having Mike Conway (or another driver, maybe even JR Hildebrand, who drove for ECR at Indy this year) doing road/street courses; Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden enters his fourth season racing the former SFHR car in all races.
From the driving perspective, it appears that there will be much give-and-take between Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden as each has skills that can benefit the other: Carpenter is one of the series’ foremost oval drivers while Newgarden’s skills on road and street courses are exceptional. He can certainly use the benefit of Ed’s oval capabilities and vice versa.
The intent of this merger is to take two strong single-car teams and make them an even stronger two-car squad. This past year, ECR captured three Indy car victories (two for Conway and one for Carpenter) while SFHR came oh-so-close to that magical top step on the podium several times with Newgarden showing maturity throughout the short and intense season.
ECR had been leasing space in INDYCAR president of racing operations Derrick Walker’s facility on the near north side of Indianapolis; it has moved its property to SFHR’s brand new location just steps away from Indianapolis Motor Speedway and next door to Dallara, certainly a prime property. The conjoined team intended to test a few weeks ago at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with Conway and Newgarden in their two cars; the weather scotched that so they’ll have another go at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama the end of the month.
The logistics of it all
According to CFH Racing team manager Tim Broyles (who had the same title at ECR), the big thrust right now is construction to make plenty of room for the teams to operate in their 40,000 square-foot facility. There are six chassis available for use and, once the team has knowledge of the 2015 season’s length and breadth, they can begin prepping those Dallara chassis to accept the new Chevrolet aerodynamic kits for testing and racing purposes. Each group intends to use three chassis throughout the season, as they did last year. “With the tight schedule of races and some of them being doubleheaders,” Broyles notes, “the extra chassis came in handy as we prepared the cars each week.”
A third car at Indy?
The CFH crew intends to continue that preparation aspect for 2015 as it “also gives us an extra car for the Indy 500 as we look to expand our 500 program next May,” Broyles said. He expects to see some longer hours - particularly with the upcoming test - but is trying to keep the crew’s extra work time to a minimum. “We are trying to have everyone learn about each other early in this growing process,” he said. “We have experienced personnel that know what it takes to produce a successful operation. We want to be ready when testing starts in 2015 as well as with the first race,” which at this time is set for Brasilia in early March.
Fisher, the sole female team owner in the series expects her new, larger team to “be at the front of the field on a regular basis in 2015. I think everyone here at CFH Racing believes we have the organization to win races and battle for championships,” she said.
Conway's uncertain future
Still to be determined is whether Conway returns to CFH Racing for 2015 or whether his commitment to the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Toyota Racing will supersede his desire to race Indy cars. The two-time 2014 victor has been a test driver for Toyota’s WEC two-car squad and raced for them at Circuit of the Americas last month. He did not, however, participate in last weekend’s race at Toyota’s Fuji home track, where Toyota finished 1-2.