The most improved team in the Verizon IndyCar Series is no more. CFH Racing quietly dissolved on Thursday, with the team reverting to the old name of Ed Carpenter Racing and co-owners Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman leaving the organization. A press release issued Thursday made the demise official.
Josef Newgarden will stay on with ECR, and change his car number from No. 67 to the No. 21 he has run previously, with Century 21 taking over from Hartman Oil as Newgarden’s primary sponsor.
Carpenter will remain in the No. 20 for street and road courses but has yet to locate a driver to sub for him on the oval courses (as is his usual custom) with the start of the season roughly two months away. According to Racer, ECR might even consider just running one full-time car with Newgarden behind the wheel.
Fisher “will continue to assist ECR with sponsorship development and work with existing team partners,” according to the release, but she and her husband Andrew O’Gara – who had left CFH prior – are now focusing on Speedway Indoor Karting, their other business venture that’s about to open its doors in April.
But not having her as a team owner and involved in the day-to-day is a huge loss for the team and also for IndyCar, just as CFH’s on-track fortunes seemed to be going up. Newgarden won not one but two races in 2015 as well as his first ever Verizon P1 Award, and was one of the final six championship contenders.
“I may never have had the chance to race an IndyCar if it was not for Wink Hartman, Libba Hartman, Sarah Fisher and Andy O’Gara. They really were a huge turning point in my career and helped me break into the professional level. Their support was everything and more that a young driver could ask for,” he said in the release.
Fisher, who has been a fixture on the open-wheel circuit since she made her Indy Racing League debut in 1999, became the youngest owner in IndyCar history when she co-founded Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing in 2008; she was also the sport’s first female owner. Aside from everything she did on the track, off-track she has been a fantastic representative of IndyCar and great member of the community. And while at least she won’t be going far, her loss will definitely be felt.
She and Hartman decided to merge SFHR with Ed Carpenter Racing following the 2014 season, hoping that the two smaller teams could create something bigger as a united front. While the results did show up on track with Newgarden’s two wins, there were also some struggles in other events and it appears that the ultimate killer – the finances – did the promising team in after just one season.
Hartman Oil’s situation saw Hartman pulling back his financial commitment, per another Racer report, and it’s money from sponsors that ultimately keeps the lights on, as other teams have reminded fans this season with developments like KVSH Racing reverting to a single-car effort and Chip Ganassi Racing first cutting its fourth car, then possibly reviving it.
Still, the demise of CFH Racing is a blow to IndyCar. There’s always the search for that smaller team that can land a blow to the big guys, and with the successes of Newgarden and Graham Rahal, competitive parity looked to be on the way up. Now the Verizon IndyCar Series won’t quite be the same.