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IndyCar: Ed Carpenter Racing 2018 Review

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Editor’s note: MotorSportsTalk continues to review how each organization in the IndyCar Series performed in 2018 and also takes a look ahead to 2019.

Thus far we have featured Juncos RacingMeyer Shank RacingCarlin Racing, Harding Racing, AJ Foyt Racing, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan and Dale Coyne Racing.

Today we feature Ed Carpenter Racing. 

Ed Carpenter Racing 2018 IndyCar Review

Ed Carpenter Racing endured an up and down 2018 season. Ed Carpenter scored a pole at the Indianapolis 500 and then finished second, but he wasn’t much of a factor on the other ovals.

Jordan King made the Firestone Fast Six in his IndyCar Series debut on the streets of St. Petersburg, but he failed to finish inside the top 10 in any of his 11 starts. And Spencer Pigot had finishes of second at Iowa Speedway and fourth at Portland International Raceway, but languished in 14th in the standings at season’s end with nine finishes of 15th or worse.

Regardless, Ed Carpenter’s small team is a heavy fan favorite, especially at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and they have all the potential to be title contenders…if the consistency is found.

Spencer Pigot

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Team: Ed Carpenter Racing, No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet
Years in IndyCar: 3
Career wins and podiums: 0 wins, 1 podium, 2 top fives, 8 top 10s
2018 final standing: 14th
2018 final stats: 17 starts, 1 podium, 2 top fives, 5 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 2nd (Iowa Speedway)

Spencer Pigot is one of the bright young stars of the sport and he continued to improve in 2018, taking his first top five finishes and his first podium finish. However, as previously described, nine finishes of 15th or worse hamstrung his efforts and prevented him from finishing higher in the standings.

With that said, 2018 was his best IndyCar season to date, and continued year-on-year progress for the 2015 Indy Lights champion.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Pigot, who returns to ECR in 2019, will look for more results like Iowa and Portland, and could even take aim at his first IndyCar win, while also trying to finish in the top 10 in the standings.

QUOTE (following his second-place effort at Iowa): “What a race. Right from the get-go, we had a good car based on how we were getting through traffic. As the stint went on I thought we just got stronger and stronger. To find our way up near the front there was a little unexpected to start the day, but I’m really proud of everyone at Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet – I mean they gave me a great car. We didn’t have a great day yesterday, but everyone kept their heads down and kept pushing and we’re on the podium. I’m very excited and very proud of everyone here at the team. (On his first Verizon IndyCar Series podium finish). It feels great. My first podium in INDYCAR, hopefully, the first of many. What a tough race. It was really physical out there. It was hot and a lot of hard racing, so many close moments, but so much fun racing here in Iowa.”

Ed Carpenter

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Team: Ed Carpenter Racing, No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet
Years in IndyCar: 16
Career wins and podiums: 3 wins, 8 podiums
2018 final standing: 20th
2018 final stats: 6 starts, 1 pole, 1 podium, 1 top five, 4 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 2nd (Indianapolis 500)

The highlight of Ed Carpenter’s season came at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he scored his third pole in the “500.” He then had one of the fastest cars in the race, finishing second to eventual winner Will Power.

However, the other five races in Carpenter’s season left a little to be desired. Though he scored three other top 10s, he failed to win a race for the fourth year in a row.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Carpenter will look to end his winless streak and take an elusive Indy 500 victory.

QUOTE (following his second-place effort at the Indy 500): “I’ll feel pretty good about this in a couple days, I think. The team really did a great job all month long, all day long, really. Pit stops were really good. It was almost like being out front early probably hurt us a little bit, just because guys started saving fuel a little earlier. We got behind on the fuel save. Track position was everything we thought it was going to be coming into the day. You heard the drivers talk all week. Just couldn’t quite get it back from him. We were saving fuel through the middle part of the race when everyone was essentially trying to cut out a stop. That was a little odd. You never know how these races are going to unfold. I thought for the most part the team executed well. I thought there’s only a couple little things that I can reflect on in the short term right now that maybe could have made a difference. All in all, I thought Will (Power) won the race and we ended up second, and we’ll be happy with that. We’ll come back stronger next year.”

Jordan King

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Team: Ed Carpenter Racing, No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet
Years in IndyCar: 2
Career wins and podiums: 0 wins, 0 podiums
2018 final standing: 22nd
2018 final stats: 11 starts, 0 podiums, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 11th (Toronto)

Jordan King showed a lot of promise. He made the Fast Six in St. Petersburg and ran inside the top five at Portland. However, results just never came for the British driver and he failed to score a top 10 despite the strong pace.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Assuming he returns to ECR, he’ll look for his first top 10 and to become a regular front runner on the road and street courses.

QUOTE (following Sonoma, where he finished 13th): “The first couple of laps were uneventful really. I kind of wanted something to happen, but nothing really did. It was really kind of follow-the-leader, which was a bit rubbish. I managed to get past (Max) Chilton, which then kind of started my race really. I was able to catch the group in front of me, but I was still down at the back of the field. We were on blacks (Firestone primary tires), everyone else was on reds (Firestone alternate tires). We short-stopped the first stint and managed to jump a load of people. We had a really good couple of stints on red (tires) to gain track position and made it up to midfield. It was tricky at that restart, we almost crashed into about six people. There was so much going on. There’s a couple of war wounds on the car but it was good fun. It was one of those races where you had to dig deep into your box of magic tricks and work out how to drive fast but save fuel, save tires but overtake people, save fuel but not get overtaken. I enjoyed my last few hours of the season! Finishing 13th doesn’t look great but considering where had had to come from, the very back around a circuit that’s hard to overtake, we did a pretty good job.”

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American Flat Track puts emphasis on fans in building 2020 schedule

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American Flat Track put an emphasis on fans and feedback from other series while also acknowledging everything is tentative while hammering out its schedule for the 2020 season.

The 18-race schedule over nine weekends will begin July 17-18 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida, about 20 miles from AFT’s headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The dirt track motorcycle racing series, which is sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, shares a campus with its sister company, NASCAR, and American Flat Track CEO Michael Lock said the series closely observed how it’s handled races in its return during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and also built AFT’s procedures from NASCAR’s post-pandemic playbook of more than 30 pages.

SEEKING HISTORY: Shayna Texter wants AFT championship

“I speak personally to the committee within NASCAR that has been put together for the restart, regularly talking to the communications people, general counsel and other relevant operations departments,” Lock told NBCSports.com. “So we’ve derived for Flat Track from NASCAR’s protocols, which I think are entirely consistent with all the other pro sports leagues that are attempting to return.

“Obviously with NASCAR the scale of the business is completely different. There were some times more people involved in the paddock and the race operations for NASCAR than the numbers of people at flat track. Our scale is much smaller, and our venues are generally smaller. So we can get our hands around all of the logistics. I think we’re very confident on that.”

While NASCAR has had just under 1,000 on site for each of its races without fans, Lock said American Flat Track will have between 400 to 500 people, including racers, crews, officials and traveling staff.

But another important difference from NASCAR (which will run at least its first eight races without crowds) is that American Flat Track intends to have fans at its events, though it still is working with public health experts and government officials to determine how many will be allowed and the ways in which they will be positioned (e.g., buffer zones in the grandstands).

Lock said capacity could will be limited to 30-50 percent at some venues.

American Flat Track will suspend its fan track walk, rider autograph sessions for the rest of the season, distribute masks at the gates and also ban paper tickets and cash for concessions and merchandise. Some of the best practices were built with input from a “Safe to Race Task Force” that includes members from various motorcycle racing sanctioning bodies (including Supercross and motocross).

There also will be limitations on corporate hospitality and VIP access and movement.

“I think everything the fans will see will be unusual,” Lock said. “Everything at the moment is unusual. We will roll out processes that are entirely consistent with the social distancing guidelines that will be in place at the time of the event. So we’re planning for a worst-case scenario. And if things are easier or better by the time we go to a venue, it’s a bonus.”

Lock said the restrictions are worth it because (unlike other racing series) AFT must have fans (even a limited number) for financial viability.

“We took a decision fairly early on in this process that it was neither desirable nor economically viable to run events without fans,” Lock said. “I can think of some big sports like NFL or like NASCAR where a huge chunk of that revenue is derived from broadcast, which means that your decision making as to how you run an event, where you can run an event has a different view than a sport like ours, or even like baseball, for example, that needs fans. Because the business model is so different.”

Broadcast coverage is important to American Flat Track, which added seven annual races over the past five years and can draw as many as 15,000 to its biggest events.

Lock said AFT ended the 2019 season with more than 50,000 viewers for each live event, making it the No. 1 property on FansChoice.TV. This year, the series has moved to TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. “We’re expecting a really strong audience from Day 1, particularly with all this pent-up demand,” Lock said.

NBCSN also will broadcast a one-hour wrap-up of each race (covering heat races and main events).

Because the season is starting three months late, the doubleheader weekends will allow AFT to maintain its schedule length despite losing several venues. And there could be more, Lock said, noting that there still are three TBA tracks.

“There may still be some surprises to come from one venue or another of delay or cancellation,” he said. “But we are intending to run as full a season as possible.”

Here is the American Flat Track schedule for 2020:

July 17-18 (Friday-Saturday): Volusia Speedway Park, Barberville, Florida

July 31-Aug. 1 (Friday-Saturday):  Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, Ohio

Aug. 28-29 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, Northeast United States

Sept. 5-6 (Saturday-Sunday): Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, Illinois

Sept. 11-12 (Friday-Saturday): Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Sept. 25-26 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, Texas

Oct. 2-3 (Friday-Saturday): Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, Georgia

Oct. 9-10 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, North Carolina

Oct. 15-16 (Thursday-Friday): AFT season finale, Daytona Beach, Florida