The IndyCar Series got some good news – and some bad news – from one of its teams this past Monday morning after Thanksgiving. Sarah Fisher Racing announced its team owner and namesake is hanging up her helmet after being the series’ Most Popular Driver for much of its early history and following 25 years of competition behind the wheel.Fisher was the first woman to gain an IndyCar Series pole position at Kentucky Speedway, the youngest to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and personified the initial stated goal of the sanctioning body: to promote open wheel American drivers from the midget and sprint car ranks.
As she became more team owner than driver over the past two seasons, fielding two part-time cars last season for herself, Jay Howard and, occasionally, Graham Rahal, Fisher seemed more comfortable with the business side of the sport. The driver has pursued a business degree in marketing throughout her racing career and is putting her education to good use with her team.Fisher steps aside from the driver’s seat in 2011 to allow fellow open wheel American driver Ed Carpenter the opportunity to advance his career. Carpenter earned pole position at Kentucky Speedway last year and finished second there for the second time in a row, nearly stealing the race from Ryan Briscoe in 2009. His speed, while driving a partial season with Panther Racing in 2010, was always there but the Indiana native had some poor luck from time to time.
With Sarah Fisher Racing (SFR), Carpenter will compete in both oval and road/street-course competition in nine 2011 races, flying the colors of Dollar General Stores, whom Fisher brought into the IndyCar Series. Dollar General has been with SFR for the past two seasons and wanted to enhance its program in 2011. "Sarah is a trailblazer and remains a role model. SFR has been a great partner for us and our brand," said Rick Dreiling, Dollar General's chairman and CEO. "We are excited about extending our sponsorship for the upcoming racing season."
“This change in my career is a direction I have been thinking about very hard. The timing is perfect,” Fisher said, “for the strategy of SFR in its future endeavors. I am glad to have the support of our partners, including Dollar General, who have led us to where we are today. I know this team has what it takes to perform and I am hoping, with the decision to put Ed in the seat, that we can do just that,” she declared. SFR is a family-based team with Sarah and her in-laws, the O’Gara family, running the show.Carpenter began his racing career in 1989 and has solid background in sprint cars, midgets and Silver Crown cars on American short tracks, both paved and dirt. He has a single pole position, two podium results and claims 26 top10s in his IndyCar Series career.
“I am so honored to have the opportunity to come drive for SFR and Dollar General,” an excited Carpenter said. “I have been friends with Sarah and [husband] Andy [O’Gara] for a long time and I’m really looking forward to working with their team. Sarah,” he said, “has had a great career and has done an amazing job growing SFR each year. I am confident that together, we can continue to improve the results not only on the track, but off the track as well.”The schedule for SFR and Ed Carpenter in 2011 includes the season opener on the streets of St Petersburg, FL, the 2011 Indianapolis 500, oval contests at Texas Motor Speedway and Iowa Speedway, the road course at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the mile-oval New Hampshire Motor Speedway, on the streets of Baltimore, MD, Kentucky Speedway and the season closer on October 16th, the venue for which has not yet been signed.
© 2010 Anne Proffit