Year three for Ed Carpenter Racing as an organization will see the team hope to ascend to a regular win contender each race, and add to the solo triumph achieved by its eponymous team principal and driver at the 2012 IndyCar season finale.
Ed Carpenter as a driver has had two distinct highlights since forming his own team, with that 2012 race win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, and last year’s pole at the Indianapolis 500.
Now, of course, he’s taken a step back to drive only at the six oval races, while bringing in Mike Conway for the 12 road and street races in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. Just yesterday, the team also announced JR Hildebrand will join in a second car for the Indianapolis 500.
For IndyCar’s newest full-season team, Carpenter feels optimistic they’re in the right place.
“We started the team two years ago. I want to be able to race as long as I can and do it well,” Carpenter said during IndyCar media day in Orlando. “At the same time the race team is something that I see as my future beyond driving, whenever that day comes. It’s certainly a business that I want to be successful for long after I’m driving.
“That’s kind of where the decision came from, just to make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly could to position the team well and in a strong place to deliver for all our current partners, Fuzzy’s, Chevrolet, and hopefully to grow the team in the near future.”
Conway will have a busy slate, with his 12 IndyCar races (nine weekends) dovetailed with a full FIA World Endurance Championship program in an LMP2 class ORECA 03 Nissan for Millennium Racing. He’ll also serve as Toyota’s reserve driver, a role that has huge potential for the future.
But in the races he’ll race in IndyCar, he should transform the team’s road and street course program. Carpenter only once started higher than 18th on a road or street course in 2013, with 14th at Brazil.
“I think that Mike and I are both capable of winning in our respective disciplines, so to speak, or strong suits,” Carpenter said. “I feel really strongly about the capabilities of our team. I feel like we should be in the mix everywhere we go.
“With that being said, the strength of the series, teams and drivers right now, is at a really high level. It’s no easy feat, but we’re definitely going to give it our best shot.”
Perhaps Carpenter’s best shots, of his six oval starts, will be the three Fuzzy’s Triple Crown races at Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana.
Carpenter is one of the series’ best 500-mile racers, and it would not be a surprise to see him win one or more of those events this year. And with the Verizon IndyCar Series’ points change revealed yesterday that will see the 500-milers offer double points, suddenly Carpenter could threaten the top-10 in the overall standings if he succeeds as he should on those circuits.
“500-mile races are fun,” he admitted. “They’re more fun than the shorter races just because of how much more that goes into it. You have more opportunities to figure out how to win the race and you also have more opportunities to mess it up.”
The No. 20 car won’t have either of its drivers figure into the driver’s championship challenge at year’s end, but there’s a good chance we’ll hear from both of them depending on the type of circuit this year.