By: Tanner Watkins
February 7, 2019 | 4:00 PM
In the latest edition of “Trackside” on ESPN 107.5 FM/1070 AM, Indianapolis native Ed Carpenter shed some light on his plans for Ed Carpenter Racing in the month of May and how those decisions will affect a partnership with McLaren’s entry.
In speaking with Kevin Lee, Carpenter was asked whether or not his team will support or be affiliated with the McLaren entry that Fernando Alonso is scheduled to pilot in 2019. Carpenter would effectively rule out a partnership with McLaren this May and noted that his team is comfortable with their current arrangement.
“I don’t see anything happening other than what we have announced with our three cars – myself, Spencer (Pigot) and Ed (Jones)” said Carpenter on the February 6 show.
“We are in February now and our testing and development planning is well underway. Any time that we have done anything extra – whether it was fielding a car for J.R. (Hildebrand) or Danica (Patrick) last year, it has to make sense to us from a business standpoint. And more importantly, it has to make sense to us competitively.
“At this point, with where we are with our preparation for everything else,” continues Carpenter, “we are in that window that even with a guy like Fernando and an organization like McLaren, we are in the thick of it now where we have our resources and we have our plan. Altering that would jeopardize our team goals, so I think what you see out of us now is what you will see in the month of May.”
The alleged ties between Ed Carpenter Racing and McLaren began to flow when the traditional Formula One entry announced their move to Chevrolet power in December.
With ECR’s strong resume at the Speedway – and the perceived notion that Team Penske would not share resources with McLaren – Ed Carpenter’s team became the frontrunners to pair with McLaren for their Indianapolis one-off.
This revelation brings McLaren to a precarious place with three months to go before the month of May begins. While the Woking-based team has planned to staff the Indianapolis program with their own employees, the need for affiliation with an existing team still remains.
It would be very difficult for McLaren to begin Indianapolis 500 practice with little-to-no data in their notebook (their previous Indy foray was with a different manufacturer and a different aero kit) and so this is what makes affiliation with an existing team so important.
The remaining full-time Chevrolet-powered teams on the grid are A.J. Foyt Racing, Carlin, DragonSpeed, and Juncos Racing. DragonSpeed is a first-year entry while Carlin will be driving in their second year at Indianapolis. Juncos is facing funding issues (along with Carlin) and the only top-10 Foyt has picked up at Indy since 2009 came with Carlos Munoz at the helm in 2017.
Considering the full-time options remaining and the part-time entries expected to participate in the month of May, expected one-off participant Dreyer & Reinbold Racing could be the next target on McLaren’s shortlist. While DRR has lacked qualifying speed in recent years, their race pace has been stout and driver Sage Karam has demonstrated an ability to push to the front in Dreyer & Reinbold cars.
It will be interesting to see how the next couple of months unfold as McLaren begins to announce additional pieces to their Indianapolis puzzle. With Ed Carpenter Racing out of the mix, the month of May could be a challenge for the two-time Formula One world champion and his England-based racing team.
Header image by James Black/INDYCAR.