IndyCar's Fisher to focus on owner role
IndyCar driver Sarah Fisher is giving the No. 67 car to Ed Carpenter for the 2011 season so she can focus on her role as team owner.
''I'm pretty much retiring,'' Fisher said. ''I want to start a family.''
Carpenter will handle the driving duties next year after Dollar General agreed to serve as primary sponsor in nine races in 2011.
While the 30-year-old Fisher didn't completely rule out a return to racing at some point, she said the responsibility of trying to run Sarah Fisher Racing combined with the hope of starting a family with husband Andy O'Gara left her little choice.
Fisher drove in 83 IndyCar events during her 11-year career and had three top-five finishes and won the pole at Kentucky in 2002.
''The only detriment about being a female athlete, you can't have a family and compete in an athletic sport at the same time,'' she said.
Fisher started her own racing program in 2008 with the hopes of building it into a full-time operation. She's met with limited success her first three seasons and sees Carpenter's hire as another step in the right direction. She's optimistic about building on the nine-race commitment for next year with an eye toward 2012, when the series relaunches with a redesigned car.
Carpenter and Fisher have been friends for years dating back to their time together in midget cars and are both graduates of Butler University. She approached him about driving for her a couple months ago before things got serious in recent weeks.
Carpenter served as the primary driver for Vision Racing before the operation shuttered following the 2009 season. He did a four-race stint for Panther Racing last year, finishing second at Kentucky.
While allowing she's going to miss getting behind the wheel, Fisher called the chance to offer Carpenter a ride without asking him to bring along sponsorship a rare opportunity.
''I talked to him and he said, 'I might be able to do this or I might be able to do that,''' Fisher said. ''I said 'Stop, this is about you driving for me. You show up for these nine races and we can go from there and we're planning for it. It was an honor to make that phone call. That doesn't happen a whole lot anymore.''
The agreement with Carpenter is for the 2011 season only and is only for the No. 67 car. There are no plans to run the No. 66 car - which competed in a handful of races for SFR in 2010 - in the immediate future.
Fisher hopes the money can be found to compete in 2012 when the series relaunches with a new car that will include a new chassis and open competition among engine manufacturers. She remains concerned about the prospective cost of running a program in IndyCar's brave new world but believes a successful 2011 season would mean good things moving forward.
''I think it looks bright,'' she said. ''We just have to sort of weigh things out.''
The idea of watching from the pit box and not from the driver's seat is a notion she grew comfortable with in 2010 when Graham Rahal subbed for her in a couple of races to start the season. She realized she could have just as much fun without going 200 mph.
Though she's always wanted to be a racer, she's also always wanted to be a car owner. She's happy to remove the slash from her title as driver/owner.
''The good thing about it is I'm still going to a shop with race cars in it,'' she said. ''That's sort of what I was thinking three years ago when I started this team. It'll give me an opportunity to still be in racing and still have a family.''