NBC Sports takes a look through the teams competing in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series. Back to just Ed Carpenter Racing for 2016, it’s a big year ahead for the mostly single-car team and for the team’s star driver, Josef Newgarden.
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Engine/aero kits: Chevrolet
Sponsors: Fuzzy’s Vodka (Nos. 20, 21)
Wins: 2 (Newgarden 2)
Podiums: 5 (Newgarden 4, Filippi 1)
Pole Positions: 1 (Newgarden 1)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 701 (Newgarden 431, Filippi 182, Carpenter 88)
Laps Led: 348 (Newgarden 345, Filippi 2, Carpenter 1)
Championship Position: 7th (Newgarden), 21st (Filippi), 27th (Carpenter)
2016 LINEUP (Engineer in parentheses)
20 Ed Carpenter (Matt Barnes)
21 Josef Newgarden (Jeremy Milless)
Considering there was a fusion of Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing prior to the season, you would have hardly figured it was a new, merged team situation because the team clicked well as CFH Racing. Newgarden finally got the 0-for-career win monkey off his back at Barber and added a second win at Toronto for good measure, leading a 1-2 over Filippi. He also led the field in most laps led, which was an incredible achievement. Carpenter had a tough year in the cockpit, and various factors contributed to a business change in the offseason with a reduction back to ECR and with the second car unlikely to run beyond the five ovals.
Carpenter’s a smart businessman and still one of the best oval drivers in the series, and as he’s got Newgarden for possibly just one more year, this marks driver and team’s best – and perhaps last – chance to go get a title together. Newgarden’s big change this year is with a new strategist, expected to be Brent Harvey, replacing Andy O’Gara. Newgarden proved last year he can win and his qualifying also was among the best in the field. If he can get to three wins and add a few more podiums, he can contend for a title in his fifth season. Both he and Carpenter himself need better months of May after a nightmare scenario last year where they both crashed in the run-up to race day. You also wonder if JR Hildebrand will make his now-usual month of May appearance with the team in a potential third car, which would be a benefit to all parties.