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Reports: Wink Hartman set for IndyCar exit

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The oil market has been a big story over the last several months, with dwindling oil prices and barrels a big topic.

That storyline hasn’t really entered motorsports until now, but it appears set to happen in a big way for 2016.

Wink Hartman, an oil man, joined Sarah Fisher Racing first as an associate sponsor, then a primary partner for the renamed Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing prior to 2012 in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

It led to a late 2014 merger with Ed Carpenter to create Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing for 2015 – or CFH Racing for short.

But now, Hartman is set to leave the sport for 2016, per multiple reports.

NBCSN IndyCar contributor Robin Miller wrote earlier Wednesday that the Fisher-Hartman partnership would be “in jeopardy” for 2015, and Wichita CBS affiliate KWCH dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s later Wednesday night, confirming Hartman is exiting ahead of the new year.

“It was just a matter of, racing takes millions and millions of dollars. It’s not wise for me to jeopardize what I’ve worked all my life to build over racing,” Hartman told KWCH in a phone interview, although he did not rule out an eventual return to racing down the road.

The bigger story at play: last October, as part of the merge process between Carpenter and SFHR, the team moved into Fisher’s newer 40,000-square foot team headquarters in Speedway, Indiana (1255 Main St.). Equipment and personnel were amalgamated into the much bigger space.

Carpenter, under its previous guise as Ed Carpenter Racing, worked out of Derrick Walker’s shop instead.

With only one full-time car for Josef Newgarden and Carpenter himself only expected to drive selected oval races, including the 100th Indianapolis 500, it’s a likely net loss of one car for the 2016 season barring any unforeseen further investment to bring the No. 20 car back to full-time status.

What happens to that space and property remains to be seen, if the reduced, and likely re-rebranded, Ed Carpenter Racing were to move out again into a smaller shop.

Coupled with the loss of KV Racing Technology’s second full-time car, leaving only the KVSH Racing No. 11 car for Sebastien Bourdais, it means the IndyCar full-time grid will likely be only 21 or 22 cars.