Ed Carpenter has reaffirmed his and his team’s commitment to the IndyCar Series after Ed Carpenter Racing lost a major sponsor in the form of Fuzzy’s Vodka. The brand, which has been involved with Ed Carpenter Racing since their debut in 2012, will not return for the 2019 IndyCar Series.
Losing a title sponsor can be very difficult for teams in motorsport, especially non-manufacturer backed entries that often rely on sponsorship money to survive. Despite this, Carpenter today commented that he is “confident” in the team that he is built and that he and the team are still “firmly committed” to IndyCar.
“It is like the end of an era,” Carpenter said in an interview today with IndyStar. “But at the same time, I look at it as starting a new chapter for the team. I’m really thankful for all of the support that they’ve given us. I’m proud of what we’ve done together.”
“I’m confident in the group we have here — all the people on the team — especially from the ownership part of the team. We’re all still firmly committed to building this and operating as a two-car team. To lose a sponsor, it’s never something you want to deal with, but we all firmly believe IndyCar is going in a good direction.”
Today’s news of Fuzzy’s Vodka’s departure comes a few weeks after a positive announcement for ECR. The team confirmed earlier this month that they have partnered with Scuderia Corsa for one of their two 2019 entries. The #20 Ed Carpenter Scuderia Corsa will be shared between Carpenter himself and Ed Jones; who will contest all of the street and road course races. The #20 car will be, once again, joined by the #21 car, which will be driven by Spencer Pigot.
Other than the loss of Fuzzy’s Vodka, Ed Carpenter Racing seems to be at a fairly stable point. The team remains as one of the best of the ‘midfield’ squads in IndyCar, with the team often in contention to be a dark horse for podiums, poles and race wins throughout the season.
To date, the team has secured five race wins during its time in IndyCar, but whilst the team has returned to the podium since an ECR driver has not stood on the top step since Josef Newgarden won for the team at Iowa Speedway in 2016.
Despite a fairly lengthy winless streak, ECR could be a great team for sponsors to get behind; especially due to the team’s usual pace at the biggest race of the season; the Indianapolis 500. Ed Carpenter has now taken pole position for the event on three separate occasions, with last year being a particularly standout performance for the squad after all three of their entries made it into the shoot-out for pole position. Carpenter took the top spot on the grid, with Spencer Pigot and the returning Danica Patrick qualifying in sixth and seventh.
Pigot went on to underline ECR’s oval competitiveness later in the season by taking his first career-podium in IndyCar at Iowa Speedway. However, the team are not just fast on the ovals. Throughout 2018, both Pigot and his team-mate Jordan King showed flashes of great pace on road courses and street circuits, with Jordan managing to set a new track record during qualifying for his debut race at St. Petersburg in March.
“Of all times to be in a position where we have some space available on the car, now’s definitely a better time to be dealing with and managing it than other times over our history,” Continued Carpenter, “It’s not ideal, but at the same time, we’re on solid footing.”
“We’re not going anywhere. Our plans aren’t changing at all from what they would have been if Fuzzy’s was returning to our team. Externally, any time something like this happens, there will be some people who start predicting our demise. That’s not the case as I see it. I can’t sit here today and tell you we know when we’ll have an announcement about what will be on my sidepods come May [For the Indy 500] — or other races for that matter — but I’m confident we’ll fill those holes.”
Carpenter went on to compare his team’s current situation with the aftermath of Chip Ganassi Racing losing their essentially iconic long-term sponsor Target at the end of 2016. The team were forced to run a host of different liveries for Scott Dixon, featuring different title sponsors throughout the 2017 season. Thankfully, the team were soon able to locate a new full-season sponsor to replace Target, announcing a deal with PNC Bank for the 2018 season; a year which ultimately saw Dixon take the championship victory for the fifth time.
“I feel like it’s similar to the situation Chip was in a couple of years ago with Scott (Dixon’s) car.” Carpenter said today, “Hopefully, we don’t run a fully white car as much as they did, but at the same time when that happened, I don’t think anyone had any question about whether they were going to continue. And that’s how I feel about our situation.”
The 2019 IndyCar Series will kick-off with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 10. Pre-season testing is expected to begin in January, with the first official group test taking place later on at the Circuit of the Americas from February 12 to 13.