Ed Carpenter Racing

Getty Images

Ed Carpenter Racing set to move shops at end of year

Leave a comment

SONOMA, Calif. – Ed Carpenter Racing made a 2018 driver announcement on Wednesday with confirmation Spencer Pigot is set to move into a full-time seat in the Verizon IndyCar Series, replacing JR Hildebrand.

Carpenter’s got another move of a bigger variety about 2018 coming up at the end of the calendar year.

NBC Sports can confirm the team will move shops from its hub on Main St. in downtown Speedway, Ind., at 1255 Main St., in the shadow of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to the former Forsythe Racing shop located at 7231 Georgetown Rd., in Indianapolis next season.

Carpenter said the team will have to vacate its existing shop in Speedway by December 31, and is scheduled to move into the old Forsythe shop before January, 2018. The team’s staff has been informed of the change of location.

That Forsythe shop most recently housed the Nissan LMP1 program, which was shuttered in December, 2015 after racing only once at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Wink Hartman, the former co-owner of the team then known as CFH Racing following the 2014 amalgamation of the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing teams, owns the building in Speedway. Hartman is now running for Governor of Kansas and ceased being an official team co-owner once CFH Racing dissolved following 2015, and the team revived the Ed Carpenter Racing name before 2016.

A new tenant is likely for 2018, with rumors swirling it could be either Carlin, which has not formally announced a step-up to the Verizon IndyCar Series from its Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires program, or Harding Racing, which leased space in Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s shop in Indianapolis this year for its initial three-race entry with driver Gabby Chaves.

Carlin’s Indy Lights team is based in Delray Beach, Florida.

Carpenter’s team concludes the 2017 season with Pigot and Hildebrand this weekend, in Hildebrand’s home race not far from his hometown of Sausalito, Calif. and in his last scheduled drive with the team he’s been with over parts of the last four seasons.

Hildebrand reflects on difficult 2017 IndyCar season

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

When Ed Carpenter Racing confirmed that Spencer Pigot would assume full-time driving duties in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, thoughts subsequently jumped to the future of that entry’s current driver, JR Hildebrand.

Hildebrand, who previously raced with ECR in part-time efforts for the IndyCar Grand Prix at Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500 from 2014 to 2016, signed with the team as a full-time driver of the No. 21 car last year, and expectations were high that they could achieve results similar to his predecessor, Josef Newgarden.

In looking at the results on paper, it’s clear that things did not materialize as they hoped. Though the team’s short oval program remained stout, with Hildebrand finishing third at Phoenix and second at Iowa, ECR’s lone podium finishes of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Hildebrand’s finishes on road and street circuits suffered. He never finished higher than 11th (Long Beach, where he coincidentally suffered a broken hand after last-lap contact with Mikhail Aleshin that forced him to rest the next race at Barber Motorsports Park), and was often outpaced by Pigot, especially on race days.

Results on road and street circuits were hard to come by for JR Hildebrand and Ed Carpenter Racing. Photo: IndyCar

In a blog entry posted earlier today, Hildebrand discussed what has been a troublesome season, and acknowledged the lofty expectations he and the team had when he signed.

“The chance to race in the Series full-time again was one that I was proud to earn and optimistic about taking advantage of,” Hildebrand wrote. “There were clear and reasonable expectations: we’d capitalize on our existing strengths at places like Indy and Iowa where we knew we could be highly competitive, while we’d work to develop and show progress elsewhere — we would need to learn and grow through the year.”

Still, with new personnel on board – lead engineer Justin Taylor, for example, came over from Audi Sport’s LMP1 program in the World Endurance Championship – Hildebrand acknowledged that there was always going to be a learning curve.

“As a team we entered the season with a bit of general uncertainty as the primary roles on the No. 21’s engineering staff were new faces and many of us would be working together in full-time capacity for the first time,” he continued. “Though I expected these differences to create for a revised learning curve, I looked at that less as a concern and more as a chance for us all to develop together — new perspectives and abilities are often behind movement forward, after all.”

The new personnel and the diversity of their backgrounds ultimately resulted in new experiments regarding car setups, an approach that ultimately one that proved problematic.

“While the No. 20 car often stayed close to the team’s traditional direction of setup, particularly on road and street circuits, we often diverged to seek new answers in the hopes of finding something that would give both of us a better chance to compete for 5th instead of 15th. Unfortunately neither approach was able to give us an entirely clear direction to build on as a group weekend to weekend,” he detailed.

Further, trying to do so with limited testing and practice time hampered their efforts.

“Learning quickly enough to translate those processes into high-level execution during race weekends, with few tests days or breaks to supplement our effort, proved to be a tall order that would simply require more time and specialized focus in my estimation,” Hildebrand asserted. “Getting the most out of a known setup with a known driving approach is a task that requires substantial effort; the necessary bandwidth to implement and break down new strategies in either driving or engineering on top of that became a difficult thing to find within the season’s compact schedule, despite the clear value doing so might have.”

Though frustrated that things did not go according to plan, Hildebrand is no less proud of the effort he and the No. 21 group put forward and believes there are plenty of positives to take away from the year, even if the results don’t show it.

“I’m not happy with the overall results we produced this season, but for my part, I do not regret approaching the year like I did,” he held. “While testing my own methods was trying, there are now things that I will forever do differently and better with greater awareness going forward for how to take those gains further. While we did not always arrive at critical insights quickly enough to turn our weekends around, I’m not disappointed that we experimented with new ideas as much as we did on the 21.”

A second-place at Iowa Speedway was Hildebrand’s best result of the year. Photo: IndyCar

The 29-year-old Hildebrand now enters the off-season without a contracted ride for 2018 and faces an uncertain racing future. But, for the time being, he isn’t concerned and is putting all his energy into ending the year on a high note.

“I’m ready to get on track this weekend and finish this thing strong, so how about this for now — if you don’t stress about it, I won’t either,” he finished.

Hildebrand enters Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) 15th in the championship standings.

Follow @KyleMLavigne

 

Pigot confirmed full-time with Carpenter

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

Spencer Pigot has been close to a full-time seat in the Verizon IndyCar Series for at least a couple months now, and has been confirmed today by Ed Carpenter Racing for that to become a reality.

The team release with full information is below.

After two seasons as the road and street course driver of Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20, Spencer Pigot will move to the No. 21 in 2018 and race full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The 23-year-old’s first full season of Indy car competition is the next step in a career which has seen him collect multiple championships along the Mazda Road to Indy prior to joinin­­­g ECR during the 2016 season. In 2017, Pigot became the first driver to retain the road and street course seat of the No. 20 for a second year and will continue with ECR as the driver of the No. 21 for the entirety of the 2018 season.

“To say I am excited about 2018 would be an understatement. I have really enjoyed my time so far with Ed Carpenter Racing and this is the next step in what I hope is a long, successful partnership with the team in the Verizon IndyCar Series,” said Pigot. “I am very thankful to Ed Carpenter, Tony George, Stuart Reed and everyone at ECR for their confidence in me to deliver the results the team deserves. It is a privilege to represent Fuzzy’s Vodka, Preferred Freezer Services, Direct Supply and all of the other partners of ECR in 2018.”

In his sophomore season, Pigot’s name has become synonymous with the ability to race his way through the field. He is credited with over 50 on-track passes for position this year, but unfortunate circumstances have limited him to three Top 10 finishes. He was running 5th in St. Petersburg when a brake rotor ignited; a misfire of the engine at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway dropped him from 6th; and he had climbed to 8th at Road America when he had to make two lengthy pit stops for repairs to the suspension. In Toronto, Pigot gained seven positions in the first 15 green flag laps but was relegated to the rear of the field after one of his tires was cut by another competitor. He has continually improved throughout the season, matching his best qualifying position to date just two weeks ago at Watkins Glen International and leading the first laps of his Indy car career.

“It is very exciting to be announcing that Spencer will be competing in a full-time role for ECR in 2018. Spencer made significant strides from his rookie season into his sophomore year and we see much more potential in his ability,” stated Ed Carpenter, the only owner/driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Carpenter continued, “Spencer has worked very hard to improve in all areas of his driving and we feel the time has come to give him a chance to compete for the championship. I look forward to his continued development and reaching the top step of the podium in 2018.”

All but four of Pigot’s 21 Indy car starts have been with Ed Carpenter Racing. The Orlando, Fla. native was awarded a three-race scholarship after winning the 2015 Indy Lights championship, which was carried out with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. After competing in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 with RLLR, Pigot joined ECR as road and street course driver of the No. 20 for the remainder of the 2016 season. He retained that role for 2017, the first driver to do so since the ride became a shared seat with Carpenter in 2014. Since the No. 20 is piloted by Carpenter in the Indianapolis 500, Pigot reunited with Juncos Racing in May of 2017 for the opportunity to race in the legendary event for the second time. Pigot’s 2015 Indy Lights title and 2014 Pro Mazda championship came while competing for Juncos.

Though he has not been behind the wheel, Pigot has attended every oval event with ECR since joining the team in 2016. In an effort to learn as much as possible, Pigot has been on Carpenter’s timing stand during each practice and qualifying session and has observed the races from the spotter’s stand. Outside of Indy car, Pigot has continued to hone his skills by competing for Mazda Racing in the endurance races of the IMSA Weather Tech Sports Car Championship.

Pigot is looking forward to racing alongside Carpenter for the first time as both his team owner and teammate. “I will still have a lot to learn as 2018 will be my first full season in Indy car, but I know I have the team and teammate with Ed to help me as I get used to regularly racing on ovals again.” Carpenter will continue to drive the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet on ovals in 2018 for what will be his 16th year of Indy car competition. The road and street course program for the No. 20 is still under consideration.

At the most recent event at Watkins Glen International, Ed Carpenter Racing celebrated its 100th race. Formed in late 2011, ECR entered the Verizon IndyCar Series full-time in 2012. The team has proven its versatility by collecting seven wins on each type of track the series competes on – street and road courses, short ovals and speedways. ECR Chevrolets have started on the front row of the Indianapolis 500 four of the past five years, including Carpenter’s two pole positions in 2013 and 2014 and this year’s qualifying effort that landed him in the middle of the front row. The Speedway, Ind.-based team has 22 Top 5 finishes to date, 17 of which have been podiums.

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season will conclude this weekend with 85 laps around the natural terrain road course of Sonoma Raceway. The GoPro Grand Prix will take place on Sunday, September 17, then Carpenter and Pigot will begin an extensive off-season testing program to prepare for 2018’s universal aero kit.

Pigot: ‘The important thing is people see the potential’

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Like many drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Spencer Pigot doesn’t have his 2018 plans sorted, and probably won’t for at least several more weeks.

Pigot matched his car number, 20, in terms of career starts his most recent outing in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course slightly more than a month ago.

Heading into this Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the two-time Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires champion has a point to prove results-wise as he looks to solidify his status in the series beyond being a perennial part-timer, sharing the car with his team boss.

“It’s not been the ideal situation, but the series schedule is somewhat compact that I’m racing fairly often,” Pigot told NBC Sports. “This has been biggest downtime, between Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen. Doing the long distance races with Mazda has kept me fresh as well. You just try to take advantage of all the sessions to get back into the swing of things.”

The Rising Star Racing-supported driver would like to continue with Ed Carpenter Racing and is working towards that retention. Carpenter’s team had a significant change this year with both Josef Newgarden and engineer Jeremy Milless moving on; JR Hildebrand and Justin Taylor came in on the No. 21 side, respectively. Pigot was retained for 2017.

“The next year is always in back of my mind, to try to continue in IndyCar. Finding a full-time ride and being there every weekend is the goal,” he said.

“I’m very happy with where I am. I want to stay with Ed Carpenter Racing. After Sonoma will be the time for talks.”

Pigot’s second season has been more cohesive than his first (all with Carpenter with the exception of the Indianapolis 500 for Juncos Racing), and he’s one of a handful of drivers on the grid where results have not showcased his performance in race weekends.

Just this year alone, Pigot has executed more than 50 on-track passes for position, but has been caught out by a myriad of unfortunate circumstances throughout the year. While running fifth in St. Petersburg, a brake rotor ignited; a misfire of the engine following a pit stop in the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway dropped him from sixth; and he had worked his way up to eighth at Road America when he had to make two lengthy pit stops for repairs to the front suspension. In Toronto, Pigot gained seven positions in the first 15 green flag laps but was relegated to the rear of the field following unscheduled pit stop after another competitor cut one of his tires.

“I think it’s a tough situation to be in. Our top-10s could have been top-fives. Or 11th or 12th places could have been top-10s,” said Pigot, who’s banked three top-10s this year but in those races at St. Pete, Indy, Road America and Toronto, he finished 20th, ninth, 12th and 18th.

“The important thing is people see the potential and some of the races that we’ve had have been pretty impressive. The amount of cars we passed or pace we ran was good. Even if the end result hasn’t shown it, we’ve shown we can be competitive. We’ve shown if we’re behind a car, we can get by.”

The Floridan is a bit perplexing in these two points: he’s shown that aforementioned excellent race craft and bravery on the PFC brakes, as witnessed by his overtaking numbers. But the fact he’s needed to do so has come from poor qualifying positions, still yet to make his first appearance out of Q1 in a road or street course qualifying session.

Pigot worked to explain this dichotomy when talking about his comfort level on the brakes, and how he feels he has improved in qualifying anyway (and the stats back that up – he has improved his qualifying position in all but one of his starts this year at tracks he raced at last year, although his best start is 13th) having had an extra session on Friday to run on Firestone’s red alternate tires, which was a new introduction this year.

“I would say they’re not quite as grabby, initially, as you don’t feel the braking power quite to the same extent as last year, but the consistency is there,” Pigot explained. “With the PFCs, through the second half of the braking zone, you can go in and trust the downforce. And you can go in quicker than you might want to.

“With the Friday red tire run, it’s a help. Qualifying will always be a bit different but now you know what to expect. The reds last year changed the balance of the car once you got to qualifying. With that kind of drastic difference now you can get some feeling with that, and get moving into qualifying.”

Pigot has worked decently well with Hildebrand this year although neither’s really had a genuine standout start-to-finish amazing weekend on a road or street course this year.

Either of the cool young Americans, who are facing uncertain futures in IndyCar, will look to pull a result out over these last two weekends. Pigot probably amplified his cool status when he sent out a tweet asking if he was the only person who hadn’t seen HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and got a widespread response including more than 300 “likes.”

“Probably my most popular tweet ever,” Pigot deadpanned.

But in all seriousness…

“We’ve had a lot of weekends that could have been a lot better. The results don’t show how well we’ve worked together and developed the car,” Pigot said.

“It’s been nice to have the continuity throughout the whole season. Having the same group of guys, seeing how they operate, helps us develop our race car.

“Last year I did a few races with Rahal and a handful with Ed, and the times I was doing those races, Graham (Rahal) and Josef (Newgarden) had largely developed the car for themselves.

“Now it’s a bit different. We’ve had more time to test and zero in on what I like this year. That’s showing in the pace we’ve shown in specific events, and hopefully the results to come.”

Hinchcliffe’s epic save goes for naught after crash with Hildebrand (VIDEO)

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

James Hinchcliffe had hoped for Pocono Raceway to be a place to turn around sagging fortunes in his Verizon IndyCar Series season, and for most of the first half of the race it looked that way.

From 12th on the grid, his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew delivered him an early excellent stop that vaulted him five positions – 10th to fifth – on Lap 26. With a risky but good low downforce setup, Hinchcliffe continued to advance forward and was into the lead by Lap 86.

But shortly thereafter Hinchcliffe locked up his tires on another stop, having overshot his box, and dropped back.

What followed in the next few laps shifted from heroic to gut-wrenching in the span of one caution.

Hinchcliffe somehow, miraculously, saved his No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda through Turn 1 when in traffic past the halfway point. While outside of Carlos Munoz on Lap 102, Hinchcliffe washed up and somehow saved his car at more than 200 mph.

“I was at Grandview Speedway watching a dirt race the other night so I guess I learned some tips,” Hinchcliffe joked to NBCSN’s Robin Miller when describing how on earth he hung on.

Alas, it all came unglued for him a bit later after teammate Sebastian Saavedra wasn’t so lucky in Turn 1, having pancaked the wall with his No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda on Lap 116.

Following the restart, Hinchcliffe washed up into JR Hildebrand on Lap 125, which took his longtime friend and competitor in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, with the two cars both having heavy contact.

Hinchcliffe took the blame after the incident, but even Hildebrand felt apologetic as well.

“It was a racing deal. There were a bunch of guys two wide (ahead); I was on inside of JR,” Hinchcliffe told Miller. “There was a bunch of understeer, and it pitched him sideways.

“Ultimately it’s my fault because we shouldn’t have been back there. Guys had a killer first stop. Had a really good race going, but I screwed up on the stop.”

The incident for Hildebrand capped off a tough weekend where he was slowest qualifier, but started 19th ahead of three drivers – teammate and team owner Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay – who were unable to complete or make qualifying attempts.

“We ran two-wide, and the guys in front of us went two-wide. I had a bunch of push. It wasn’t leaving enough room,” Hildebrand said.

“We fought the car all day. We made good fuel economy. It’s frustrating to have it end that way. And it’s a bummer to have it take out Hinch that way. We tried to find it; tried to tune the car. But it wasn’t quite there. Maybe it would have been towards the end. A really unfortunate way to end a tough weekend. We’ll get through it.”

If there’s a saving grace for Hildebrand ahead of next week’s race at Gateway Motorsports Park, it’s that the Ed Carpenter Racing team’s best performances of 2017 have come on short ovals, and Hildebrand has scored two podium finishes at Phoenix (third place) and Iowa (second).

For Hinchcliffe, Gateway represents the final oval for the SPM team to get some kind of result – his 10th place at Iowa is the team’s only top-10 result in the five oval races this season.