UPDATED: Carpenter, SFHR IndyCar squads to merge, become CFH Racing

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Ed Carpenter Racing has confirmed the report from Robin Miller earlier Saturday morning that it and the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team will merge starting with the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Here’s a link to the full release.

Pieces of note from the release:

The team will be based in Fisher’s shop, at 1255 Main St. in Speedway, Ind. Details on the future of CFH Racing, including personnel, suppliers and sponsors, will be announced in the near future. The two will combine efforts during the winter months after continuing as separate operations through the final three races of 2014.

Carpenter on the merger: “I look forward to getting started with this new team and continuing to add to the success that each of our teams have had in the past. There will be a lot of work to do this offseason to bring the two teams together to form one new team, but we feel that it is a great opportunity for all of us to grow and reach new heights of success. There are a lot of details we will need to finalize after the season comes to a close, so for now we are focusing on finishing this season on a high note for Ed Carpenter Racing.”

Added Fisher: “The merger of the two teams is a big-picture plan. At the nucleus of all parties, there is a lot of synergy that has great potential for the future. Working with Ed, and capturing that first win, was a foothold in our team, and I look forward to the many more that will come as a result of bringing all the parties together.”

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Per NBCSN IndyCar insider Robin Miller in a story posted to RACER.com, the pair of single-car Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing teams will merge for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Fisher confirmed the merger to Miller and her team co-owner Wink Hartman, did likewise for the Indianapolis Star’s Curt Cavin. Hartman told MotorSportsTalk shortly afterwards that, “We’re moving forward.”

Miller’s report indicated that the team is likely to operate out of Fisher’s new shop in Speedway, just outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. An engine decision on whether Honda or Chevrolet would be pending.

Carpenter drove for Fisher in the 2011 season, and won both his and the team’s first career race at Kentucky Speedway.

Carpenter’s single No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet currently features a ride-share between Carpenter on ovals and Mike Conway on road and street courses. Meanwhile Josef Newgarden is in the third year of his current rookie contract; Newgarden does not yet have a confirmed contract for 2015.

Both teams expanded to from their single car to add a second for the Indianapolis 500; JR Hildebrand (ECR) and Alex Tagliani (SFHR) were the additions.

The engine variable is the most intriguing part of the deal, assuming the merger is formalized.

This season, the 22 full-season entrants have been split between 12 Honda and 10 Chevrolet. Fisher’s team currently runs a Honda while Carpenter’s runs Chevrolets.

If Chevrolet is the choice, that could potentially open up another Honda lease, and that suddenly makes tomorrow’s Andretti Autosport announcement more intriguing.

While Andretti’s announcement is more likely to confirm an existing driver and sponsor already within the Andretti umbrella, this does open the potential of a fifth car under the team with a new driver and sponsor.

Fisher’s team was born as Sarah Fisher Racing in 2008, and was renamed Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing after Hartman bought in as a partner before 2012, with Newgarden coming on board to drive. Carpenter’s squad is the newest full-season team in IndyCar, having joined up in 2012.

This would reduce the number of teams in the IndyCar paddock from 11 to 10.

Either way, silly season in IndyCar just got more interesting.

Castroneves snatches Road America pole in Penske 1-4 sweep

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Helio Castroneves has done it again, pulling another final lap flier to secure the pole position for Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) from Road America.

Castroneves has secured his third and Team Penske’s sixth pole position of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, with the Brazilian dropping a 1:41.3007 best lap on his final lap.

This is also the 50th pole of his career, which breaks a tie with Bobby Unser for third on IndyCar’s all-time list.

That supplanted Will Power in a Penske-dominated qualifying session, continuing the team’s form this weekend. Power looked set to have the pole at 1:41.3611, but that ended just behind.

The remaining two drivers of the Team Penske, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, completed the team’s top-four sweep – its third straight session where all four Penske Chevrolets locked out the top four positions.

Team Penske did this most recently in qualifying at Sonoma Raceway for last year’s season finale, except there it was Pagenaud on the pole over Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Power.

This is the second time this year Penske has gotten four cars into the Firestone Fast Six shootout, having also done so at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course earlier this year. Pagenaud missed it there while Montoya, in his only road course outing of 2017 in the team’s fifth car, made it in.

Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal upheld Honda’s honor with fifth and sixth place on the grid, but significantly off the pace.

Dixon was 1.6 seconds off while Rahal didn’t put in a representative time in the final session. Rahal didn’t use a set of Firestone’s red alternate softer compound to save a set for the race on Sunday.

Max Chilton was seventh and best of those who didn’t make it into the Fast Six, with Marco Andretti best of Andretti Autosport’s quartet in eighth.

Elsewhere Ed Jones advanced into Q2, an impressive feat for the rookie with Dale Coyne Racing and his Chicago Bears tribute helmet, while Alexander Rossi was a surprise driver to not advance out of Q1, and will start 15th.

Esteban Gutierrez is 17th and Mikhail Aleshin 19th ahead of their returns, Gutierrez after missing Texas and Aleshin after missing Friday’s practice sessions.

Times are below.

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Road America (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues from this weekend at Road America, ahead of Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass is also along for the ride, and this week features interviews from the longest track on the calendar, the 4.014-mile Road America.

Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show from Elkhart Lake, and catches up with a number of winners.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Texas winner and defending Road America winner Will Power, Texas polesitter Charlie Kimball and American veteran Ryan Hunter-Reay.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Alonso, Vandoorne’s Azerbaijan GP grid drops grow through Saturday

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Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso’s Formula 1 grid penalties for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix grew through Saturday as the stewards confirmed both McLaren drivers had taken additional power unit parts ahead of qualifying.

Vandoorne and Alonso entered the Baku race weekend anticipating grid penalties after replacing parts on their Honda power units, which have lacked both reliability and performance throughout the season.

Both drivers were handed 15-place drops on Friday ahead of practice due to initial changes, only to receive further drops in the lead up to qualifying.

Alonso currently sits with a 40-place drop to his name after an overhaul of his power unit, while Vandoorne is to drop 35 places after also taking a gearbox change before qualifying.

McLaren ailed to its worst qualifying display of the season so far in Baku as both Alonso and Vandoorne dropped out in Q1, finishing 16th and 19th respectively.

However, Alonso was not too disheartened by the result, saying it has set McLaren up nicely for the race on Sunday.

“We did a good job today in terms of preparing for the race: we only used one set of tires, put in low fuel and did some checks,” the Spaniard said.

“We know we’re not competitive around here, but the race is going to be long and demanding. We’ve seen many mistakes from almost every driver, and we need to avoid making any of those tomorrow.

“In these kinds of grands prix, we need to try and finish the race, get some data for the team, and keep developing the car.

“We need to make sure we keep away from the walls tomorrow. Let’s also hope we can end up in the points.”

Due to a strange quirk in the regulations, Alonso and Vandoorne will not share the back row of the grid in Baku – and the latter will, in fact, gain a place.

As Renault’s Jolyon Palmer failed to post a time during Q1 and therefore did not qualify for the race, he will start P20.

By virtue of having a greater grid drop than Vandoorne, Alonso will take 19th on the grid, with the Belgian starting just ahead in P18.

Stroll feeling ‘comfortable’, ‘confident’ in car after Baku Q3 run

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Lance Stroll delivered the most impressive qualifying run of his fledgling Formula 1 career so far in Baku on Saturday, charging to eighth place on the grid for Williams.

Stroll, 18, made his F1 debut at the beginning of the year with Williams after stepping up from Formula 3, but endured a baptism of fire as he failed to score any points through his opening six outings.

The Canadian charged to his maiden points finish last time out at his home race in Montreal, finishing ninth overall, and carried that momentum through to qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Stroll reached Q3 for the second time, beating his Chinese Grand Prix display by taking eighth spot, as well as outqualifying teammate Felipe Massa for the first time.

“It was a good day, and it has been a good weekend. I am comfortable and confident in the car,” Stroll said.

“I like the circuit and today everything fell into place. I missed a bit in Q3, and I think there was some more that was possible there, as we were four-tenths off compared to my lap in Q2.

“In Q3, because the track temperatures had dropped, it was hard to get the tires ready in one lap and also because of the red flag, we only had time to do one push lap.

“Sometimes around here it is better when you do one push lap, then another prep lap and then another push lap. But it is still a great result and I am just happy for the team.”