Byline: GREG AUMAN; TIMES STAFF WRITER
Sarah Fisher didn't officially retire as a driver until November, so she won't know how well she's taking being a full-time team owner until her new driver, Ed Carpenter, is riding in her car at the Indy 500 in two months.
"It's actually been pretty good. It's been okay. Ask me while I'm standing on the grid at the 500 with Ed in my car. It might be a bit different," she said. "In starting a family, I have a much bigger picture in mind.
"There's more to it than racing all the time."
Fisher's team said Tuesday that it won't run in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this week. The team will focus on oval tracks and run three road courses grouped closer in the IndyCar schedule later in the year, replacing St. Petersburg with Sonoma in California.
She said she's enjoying being a team owner more now that there's less juggling involved. She remembers thinking of business matters in the middle of races, which isn't the ideal time to be distracted.
"To be just an owner and have one mind-set, that's going to make our team do that much better," said Fisher, 30, who first raced in the Indy 500 at age 19 in 2000. "Me being in the car, it was good. I was relaxed and confident in my race car, but at the same time, thinking about ownership stuff, and that doesn't fly. At 220 mph, you need to just be worried about being 220 mph."
Carpenter, who has a short-track background much like Fisher does, will be in St. Petersburg this week, and he sees why she has been successful in running her own team.
"She's been a fan favorite forever, and now she's a fan favorite as an owner," said Carpenter, 30. "She's done an excellent job of building a brand, and first and foremost, she understands how to treat people, whether it's employees or sponsors or anyone."
Fisher is looking forward to a family of her own. She's married to her team's crew chief, Andy O'Gara, who has family members all over Sarah Fisher Racing, from mechanics to engineers to public relations.
She's pleased to have the same sponsor for a fourth season in Dollar General, though there's uncertainty for next season, when all IndyCar teams have the "fairly significant" added cost of financing redesigned cars.
Fisher will have appearances in Indianapolis when the Women's Final Four is there next week, and she and Carpenter are enjoying the success of Butler's men's team - she attended the Indianapolis school for two years, and Carpenter graduated from Butler in 2003 with a marketing degree.
They, too, hope to be a team that surprises people with its success.
"We know for sure, especially with his background, that we're going to have a very strong chance at doing very well with the oval championship," she said.
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Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
What: IndyCar season opener plus races in other series (Indy Lights, Star Mazda, USF2000 and World Challenge)
When/where: Friday-Sunday; downtown streets
Defending champion: Will Power
IndyCar schedule: Practices 10:15 a.m. and 3 p.m.Friday; practice 10:10 a.m. Saturday; qualifying 2:30 p.m. Saturday, race 12:30 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: Prices range from $10 for ages 12 and younger for Friday or Saturday, up to $110 for a three-day adult upper-reserved seat. Paddock passes and convenience charges extra. Go to gpstpete.com or call (727) 898-4639, ext. 225, for more details or to buy.
PHOTO - DIRK SHADD - Times (2010)
PHOTO - Getty Images (2010): Sarah Fisher retired as an IndyCar driver in November and now focuses on being an owner.