Fuzzy’s Vodka ends seven-year sponsorship of Ed Carpenter Racing

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Ed Carpenter Racing will no longer be sporting the familiar green-and-white colors of Fuzzy’s Vodka.

The IndyCar Series team announced that after seven seasons, Fuzzy’s will not return in 2019 as primary sponsor for either team owner Ed Carpenter’s Chevrolet-powered car nor the car of Spencer Pigot.

According to a ECR media release, “Fuzzy’s Vodka will concentrate on business initiatives outside of motorsports moving forward.”

However, the team also noted that Fuzzy’s pullout will not affect its 2019 plans for Carpenter’s No. 20 or Pigot’s No. 21.

Carpenter will once again compete in the series’ five oval track races, Pigot will drive in all 17 races, and newly-signed Ed Jones will drive on road and street courses that Carpenter does not compete in, as well as race in the Indy 500.

Fuzzy’s departure marks the end of a relationship that began in 2012 and included 118 races and produced 16 podium finishes, including two wins apiece by Carpenter and Mike Conway, and one triumph by Josef Newgarden.

Fuzzy’s also was on Carpenter’s car when he qualified first for the Indianapolis 500 three times (2013, 2014 and 2018). Carpenter also finished a career-best second in this year’s 500.

“I am very appreciative and proud of the relationship between ECR and Fuzzy’s, really going back to before the team began,” Carpenter said in a statement. “It has been a good run and I wish them nothing but the best with their future endeavors.

“Tony George, Stuart Reed and I started ECR together back in 2012 and we are still committed now as we were then to winning Indy 500s and competing for IndyCar Series championships.

“Our plans for 2019 and beyond remain unchanged and I cannot wait to see what we accomplish together moving forward.”

In addition to Carpenter – the only owner/driver in the IndyCar Series – and Pigot returning for 2019, Jones has replaced Jordan King, who was not retained.

Jones will drive under a new partnership between ECR and Scuderia Corsa for the 12 road and street courses on the 2019 IndyCar schedule, as well as in the Indy 500.

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Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”