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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New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”