IndyCar: Contract extensions, mergers leak out entering Milwaukee

2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (right) talks with team owner Michael Andretti (left).

WEST ALLIS, Wisconsin – Back in 2011, Ed Carpenter and Sarah Fisher teamed up and the reward was Carpenter’s first IndyCar Series win as an driver and Fisher’s first as a team owner.

It appears the two will be together again in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series as Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing are in discussions to merge the two teams. Currently, Ed Carpenter Racing features Carpenter on the oval tracks and Mike Conway on the street and road courses. Fisher’s driver is young American Josef Newgarden from Nashville, Tennessee.

Also, Andretti Autosport will announce on Sunday morning that 2012 IndyCar Series champion and this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay has signed a contract extension with the team. There had been rumors that Team Penske was interested in adding Hunter-Reay to the operation that currently includes IndyCar Series points leader Will Power, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and 1999 CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya.

Although Fisher would not confirm the deal and Carpenter appears to be upset that news of the impending merger has leaked out, she did talk about the benefits of having a multi-car operation that would combine the best of her team along with the best of ECR.

“It’s a difficult environment for a single car team and is very tough from a commercial standpoint,” Fisher said of the issues that face single-car teams such as hers and Carpenter’s. “It takes a while as a one-car operation to get all of your objectives done in testing. I think we have done a good job doing that this year. Our engineers and Josef have prioritized on the testing side and have been fast as a lot of places.

“Commercially it has been tough and I hope we find a solution for that.”

Fisher believes a merger would be just what Newgarden needs to go from contender to race winner. Earlier this year, he finished second to Hunter-Reay in the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway.

“Josef is a class act and he is the face of what I’m trying to accomplish,” she said. “If there is a way I can give him more tools to do my job than I need to evaluate those opportunities.”

Earlier on Saturday, Fisher said, "It’s for the betterment of our team. It gives us a two-car team and makes us stronger in a lot of areas."

Carpenter, however, was not ready for details to emerge and has been the most successful of the two teams with back-to-back Indianapolis 500 poles and three wins in 2014. Conway won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the second Honda Indy Toronto “2 in T.O.”

Fisher has an impressive facility next to the Dallara manufacturing plant on Main Street in Speedway, Indiana – just a few blocks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Carpenter currently is a Chevrolet team while Fisher uses Honda engines.

When Carpenter was the driver for Fisher’s team, the two went into victory lane together in what would ultimately be the final race of the 2011 season at Kentucky Speedway. After forming his own team in 2012, Carpenter drove to victory at Auto Club Speedway at the end of that season.

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