IndyCar Media Day Roundup: Ed Carpenter

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Ed Carpenter says the story behind the changing of Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing’s name to simply Ed Carpenter Racing isn’t as big deal as one’s imagination would lead them to believe.

“Seems like big changes, but organizationally not huge internally,” Carpenter said during his availability at the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Media Day on Tuesday. “Seems dramatic, like there’s a whole lot going on.

“We changed names, but everything going on in the race shop, employees, preparation, plan, it’s been ongoing. Changing logos around. Key positions, management, structure, for the most part it’s the same.”

Those plans include running Josef Newgarden full-time in the No. 21 and Carpenter entering his fifth season serving in an owner-driver capacity in the No. 20 when the series competes on ovals. The 2013 and 2014 Indianapolis 500 pole winner said they want to run the No. 20 full-time, but that the team is “not there yet.”

When Carpenter wasn’t in the No. 20 on road courses and street courses in 2015, the job fell to Luca Filippi. The Italian driver’s best result was second at Toronto.

“We’re looking at all scenarios,” Carpenter said. “I talk to Luca and his management team frequently. I wouldn’t say that’s off the table. It’s trying to find the right deal and a deal that we all feel comfortable with.”

Carpenter also made note of JR Hildebrand, who competed for Carpenter in both Indianapolis races in 2015.

“Obviously, I talk to Hildebrand a lot and would like to get him more ingrained in our team,” Carpenter said. “Until things happen, we’re focused on what we’re going to be doing, which is running Josef for the full championship and running the 20 car on ovals.”

ECR will look to capitalize on Newgarden’s breakthrough season in 2015 as the 25-year old driver won his first two career races, at Birmingham and Toronto.

“As the season went on, he came into his own and was more consistent whether we were at a short oval, Speedway, road course, street court,” Carpenter said. “He had speed and raced well everywhere. At the end of the season at Sonoma, he was one of seven guys that were still eligible for the title.”

Newgarden finished the Grand Prix of Sonoma in 21st and ended the season seventh in points, just ahead of Tony Kanaan. His previous best result was 13th in 2014.

“That was really, I think, important for him to know that he can be in that discussion, be a part of that championship mix,” Carpenter said. “He is one of the few guys in the series that has the versatility as a driver and the pace on all circuits to be able to contend for a championship.”

Newgarden earned four podiums last season, with two of them coming on ovals at Iowa Speedway and Pocono Raceway in runner-up finishes. In his previous three seasons he only earned two podiums.

While Newgarden will start the season with the rest of his competitors on March 13 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, his teammate and now sole boss in Carpenter will make his first start not in the Indianapolis 500, but at Phoenix International Raceway on April 2.

PIR is a track Carpenter spent a lot of time at growing up and first competed there in 1999.

“I was there for the last IndyCar race in 2005,” Carpenter said. “I have a lot of fond memories.

“I haven’t been back since they made some changes. We’ll be there testing on Monday. I’m excited to get reacclimated with the track.”