As was the case before 2017, the offseason prior to the 2018 season would be an eventful one for Ed Carpenter Racing.
Spencer Pigot replaced JR Hildebrand as the driver of the No. 21 Dallara-Chevrolet, his first full-time ride in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Jordan King would be hired from the GP2 Series to drive the No. 20 car on road and street courses, a job previously held by Pigot.
Despite King’s lack of racing experience in America, he took to the series quickly. The Warwickshire, England native set a new track record in the first round of qualifying at the St. Petersburg street course.
“When I got out of the car and looked at the time screen I was a bit annoyed, but we went higher up because it was so close, and I knew there was still lap time there,” King admitted after qualifying.
He would start fourth and led five laps, but finished three laps down in 21st. Pigot would start 16th and worked his way through the field, but contact from Graham Rahal relegated him to 17th in the final running order.
Three weeks later, Pigot and owner/driver Ed Carpenter headed to ISM Raceway. Pigot again finished one lap down, but improved from his 15th-place starting position to finish 14th.
A week later, Pigot and King would take to the historic street course in Long Beach.
King out-qualified his teammate again (12th to Pigot’s 18th), but the Brit would have a late-race run-in with Sebastien Bourdais and finished 18th, while Pigot moved up to finish 15th.
Both Ed Carpenter Racing drivers would struggle the following week at Barber Motorsports Park. King and Pigot started 19th and 17th respectively, with King finishing 14th to Pigot’s 15th.
King also gave ECR its first lead lap finish on a road/street course in 2018.
The Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway began for both drivers at the INDYCAR Grand Prix, and King turned in an impressive debut at the track. He made the Firestone Fast Six for a second time in four races, starting fifth. Pigot would earn his best starting spot of the season in 15th.
Following another stellar performance in qualifying, King emphasized how much his test time in March had helped his preparation.
“Definitely (it helped), so after we did a whole day testing beforehand and the first lap this morning, I was straight up to speed,” King admitted after qualifying.
“Normally it takes a couple of runs to really get into the circuit and learn the little characteristics, but I didn’t need to do that today, so it was a good start really.”
A promising start to the weekend for the team would quickly turn sour though, as both drivers were involved in Lap 1 incidents. King would finish two laps down in 24th, while Pigot started ninth and finished 15th, a lap down.
The following week, preparations began for the 102nd Indianapolis 500. With Carpenter taking over for King and Danica Patrick returning for her first Indianapolis 500 since 2011, ECR became a team to watch.
The trio of American drivers did not disappoint as Carpenter earned his third pole in the last six years at the race, Pigot qualified sixth and Patrick would start seventh.
ECR joined the four-car effort of Team Penske as the only teams to have each driver make the Fast Nine. It was an exciting time for Pigot in his third start at the Indianapolis 500.
“It feels great to be in an awesome qualifying run here,” the California native emphasized.
“I have massively improved from every other time I’ve run in this race so I’m definitely excited about that and the potential for us here next Sunday. ECR has done a great job this year and our team is doing really well.”
Race Day was a mixed bag in terms of results for the team.
Patrick struggled with the handling of her car and crashed out on Lap 68, finishing 30th in her final race. Carpenter led a race-high 65 laps and finished second to Will Power, his best finish in the race.
Pigot, meanwhile, would lead three circuits around IMS before finishing a disappointing 20th, a lap off the pace.
From there, Pigot and King headed to the grueling street course on Belle Isle. In the first race, Pigot notched his best start on a road course and best finish of the season, starting 12th and finishing 10th.
It would be the first and top-10 for ECR on a road or street course in 2018.
King started 20th and finished 16th.
“Overall, it was a pretty solid race for us,” Pigot noted after the first Dual.
“We made improvements throughout the weekend we were able to move up during the race. Unfortunately, we had a stall on our first pit stop which cost us a little bit of time, but I don’t think it had a huge effect on the finishing position. It was nice to get our first top ten finish of the season.”
In the second race, Pigot started 15th but dropped out after 21 laps with mechanical issues. King started 11th, but faded to 18th as the checkered flag flew.
Pigot made his debut at Texas Motor Speedway a week later. He started 18th but found his way to 11th, his best career finish on an oval.
This weekend, King and Pigot make their return to the drivers seat at the demanding 4.048-mile Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Both racers will be looking to turn in the results to match the pace they have shown throughout the season.
Header image by Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR Media.