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Carpenter confirms only one car for St. Petersburg opener

NTT DATA Qualifying - Firestone 600

FORT WORTH, TX - JUNE 05: Ed Carpenter, driver of the #20 Fuzzyâ™s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet, prepares to drive during NTT DATA qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 5, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

Patrick Smith

As expected, Ed Carpenter Racing will only focus on a single car for Josef Newgarden at this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Newgarden’s No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet is the team’s lone full-season entrant and confirms what team owner Carpenter, now the solo owner with the departures of Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman during the offseason, has indicated for most of the offseason.

From the team’s advance release:

“ECR will shift their focus to one car for St. Petersburg, the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet of Josef Newgarden. Newgarden will compete in all 16 Verizon IndyCar Series events in 2016 while team owner Ed Carpenter will run the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet in the five oval races.”

Most recently at the Phoenix Test in the West, Carpenter told me it was highly unlikely the second car would run a full season as he didn’t want it to detract from Newgarden’s full-season effort.

There had been rumors percolating in the last couple weeks that Pastor Maldonado, formerly of Lotus’ Formula 1 team but bounced just before the season for Kevin Magnussen, could garner enough of a budget to run with Carpenter. More here from Diario Motorsport.

But with Maldonado now not in the frame, and with other rumored candidates James Jakes and Will Stevens having both been confirmed to Manor’s FIA WEC program, it made the options less intriguing.

This will mean the IndyCar grid for St. Petersburg will be 22 cars - 21 full-season, plus the other confirmed partial season entry of Spencer Pigot.

Meanwhile Luca Filippi is expected in Dale Coyne’s second car, the No. 19 Honda, but per the team last night, not yet officially confirmed.

The full ECR team preview for the 2016 season is linked here.

Follow @TonyDiZinno