Carpenter: Potential there for ECR to fight for IndyCar entrant title

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Between the road/street course prowess of Mike Conway and the oval mastery of Ed Carpenter, the group at Ed Carpenter Racing could find their No. 20 Chevrolet fighting toward the front more regularly in the 2014 IndyCar Series.

But what about a possible entrant’s championship as well? Carpenter, a two-time IndyCar race winner, seems confident that his team can pull it off – if they can keep from making mistakes in a competitive series where problems are magnified.

“It’s a rarity, but I feel like we have all the tools and the combined talent of Mike and I and the team’s overall ability, the potential is there to make [an entrant’s championship] a reality,” Carpenter said as part of an INDYCAR offseason report. “Like everything, it’s going to come down to execution and overachieving every weekend.”

Conway will be driving the No. 20 Chevy in all road and street events this coming season, while Carpenter has relegated himself to ovals-only duty for the greater good of his franchise.

Carpenter says he really started exploring the idea of stepping out of the car for road races after the 2013 season ended, and feels like he’s made the right choice to help bolster his team’s presence in the series.

“It’s definitely going to be an adjustment,” he said. “I’m still going to have the mentality of a driver on those weekends. I think I’ll be able to bring additional help to the team and help Mike and certainly have a little more time to focus on the business side of things.

“That’s the main objective…Making sure Ed Carpenter Racing is in a position to be sustainable and be a long-standing team in the series.”

Carpenter was an observer as Conway tested the No. 20 at Sebring International Raceway before the Christmas holiday. The English driver, who won last year in Race 1 at the Detroit Belle Isle doubleheader, turned more than 200 laps during that test and all indications are that he’s fitting in nicely at ECR.

“It’s just a really good fit for what he wants to do, what his skill set is and his professional approach is really in line with how we operate,” Carpenter said of his new teammate’s role. “It’s early, but we’ll all expecting to do great things.”

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski