Ed Carpenter signs with Chevrolet for 2012 season

Ed Carpenter Racing signed with Chevrolet as its engine provider for the upcoming IndyCar season.

Carpenter confirmed the deal with Chevrolet to The Associated Press on Monday morning, hours before IndyCar's planned State of the Sport presentation. He was to be officially introduced as a Chevy driver during the evening events.

Carpenter, who left Sarah Fisher Racing at the end of last season to start his own team, had found landing an engine deal to be one of the most difficult elements of team ownership. IndyCar this season is going to three engine manufacturers — Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus — but supply is somewhat limited.

Chevrolet went into the offseason with four teams already signed consisting of 10 cars. Carpenter should push Chevrolet's total to 11 full-time teams, more than any other manufacturer.

But he said his first choice was always Chevrolet.

"It took a little longer to get to this point than I thought it would, it was a long process," he said. "We came to the table late compared to everyone else, and Chevrolet all through the process had been the choice for us. But everyone was trying to make sure they didn't overextend, and that they protected the teams they had already signed."

Chevrolet is also partnered for 2012 with Penske Racing, Andretti Autosport, KV Technology and Panther Racing.

The automaker is making its return to IndyCar after a six-year absence from the series. In previous participation, Chevrolet powered teams to 104 victories — including seven Indianapolis 500 wins — and six driver's championships.

"Ed is a winning driver and we hope he'll put the new Chevrolet engine back in victory lane this year. We are anxious to see Ed's new car on the track with our new partnership," said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet's vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports.

Carpenter is one of only a handful of American drivers in IndyCar, and he'll be only owner/driver in the series this year. He's got lucrative sponsorship from Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka, and Zoeller, the former Masters and U.S. Open Champion, was pleased to get the deal with Chevrolet.

"American made, American driven. Outstanding," Zoeller said. "We've teed it up a few times with the IZOD IndyCar Series in the past and now we've hit the hole-in-one with Ed and Chevrolet in 2012."

Carpenter, who scored his first career victory last October by beating Dario Franchitti to the finish on the oval at Kentucky, left SFR a few weeks after that win to start his own team. Because he put the key components together during the offseason, getting an engine package had proved challenging.

He missed the open test at Sebring late last month, and said Monday he hopes to get at least two days on the track before the scheduled March test at Sebring.

But he doesn't think his team is too far behind the competition.

"I am behind in the aspect I've been out of the car, and there's people who have started to learn the new car ahead of us," he said. "But we built our staff back in November, and our engineers are doing a good job. I feel like we are going to be really prepared when we get to the race track, and there's still a lot of people who haven't been on the track at all. So we're a couple of steps behind, but in the grand scheme of things, we're in good shape."

At least two other teams are still without engine deals as IndyCar closes in on its March 25 season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Fisher, who has teamed with IndyLights champion Josef Newgarden, hasn't announced an engine manufacturer yet. And Michael Shank Racing, which had previously been linked with Lotus when announcing its formation, is at a stand-still as the teams tries to put together a package for driver Paul Tracy's final year in IndyCar.