By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
With the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season rapidly approaching, Motorsports Tribune is previewing each of the teams competing on the tour. The site’s IndyCar staff will break each team down, laying out their results from the previous season while previewing the year to come for the organization and their driver(s).
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
What Happened Last Year: Simply put, the 2017 season was one with a heavy dose of growing pains.
It was the first year without Josef Newgarden, who left for Team Penske and cemented the decision by winning his first ever IndyCar title. However the move did allow team owner Ed Carpenter to put Spencer Pigot front and center for the future, while also navigating the waters with J.R. Hildebrand as Newgarden’s replacement.
For Pigot, the focus was a part-time schedule filled with only road and street circuits. Although that role stunted some growth, it didn’t prevent him from putting in stout performances. The notable run of the year came early at Long Beach, where he had a potential top five in sight in the closing stages. A late mistake cost him, but he still managed a career-best eighth. Despite missing five races, he still ended the season 20th in the championship standings.
Hildebrand saw his return to full-time duty filled with various struggles. However, he demonstrated the potential with a podium on the 1-mile oval in Phoenix and finished second in Iowa. Regardless of the flashes, it wasn’t enough to keep him from finishing 15th in the championship and without a ride come season’s end.
The oval-only program was once again the focus for Carpenter, who finished seventh at Phoenix and even landed a front row starting spot for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500. However Lady Luck remained somewhere else as he was stricken with finishes just outside the top 10 in the five remaining races, including 11th at Indy.
2018 Breakdown: Like other teams, there is a lot of optimism at ECR. The development of the new universal aero kit has brought on significant help, including being one of the four teams chosen for manufacturer testing – two each for Chevrolet and Honda. With Pigot now progressing into the team’s full-time driver after two partial seasons, the seat time has been vital for his own maturation.
The commitment from the team to run Pigot for a full campaign means he is the focal point and now even greater expectations are expected. Many believe that the 2018 universal kit behaves similar to the Indy Lights chassis, the IL-15, which Pigot drove to a title in 2015. For that reason, there is a lot of upside and the aforementioned optimism for the pilot of the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.
In addition to Carpenter continuing his oval rendition, the team added Jordan King, who comes over after three years in FIA Formula 2 (formerly GP2 Series). A former Formula 1 development driver, King will share the No. 20 with his team owner and run a concentrated effort on road and street circuits.
Also, it has all but been officially announced, but Danica Patrick revealed at the Daytona 500 that she will be running her final professional race with Ed Carpenter Racing at this year’s Indy 500. With everything seemingly going that route, the combination of Patrick in ECR equipment is an intriguing one as both have put in strong efforts on the 2.5-mile superspeedway in the past.
Overall there is a lot to like about the potential of Carpenter’s squad. It will really come down to if they have done their homework with the 2018 package and can get up to speed quickly when they unload for a race weekend.