Although it lost Josef Newgarden in free agency to Team Penske after the 2016 IndyCar Series season, Ed Carpenter Racing still had moments of success throughout 2017.
JR Hildebrand was hired to pilot No. 21 Chevrolet, and the No. 20 competed full-time with Spencer Pigot in the cockpit for 11 races. Carpenter, the team owner, ran the six oval events in the No. 20 during the season.
In the second event of the year, Hildebrand suffered a broken hand in a crash at Long Beach on the final lap.
— Zach Veach (@ZachVeach) April 18, 2017
Zach Veach replaced him at Barber Motorsports Park and finished 19th in his IndyCar debut.
The following race at ISM Raceway was the best of the season for ECR results-wise. Hildebrand rebounded from his injury by starting and finishing third in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. It gave him his second career podium and the first since his infamous accident in the final corner of the 2011 Indianapolis 500.
Carpenter finished seventh in Phoenix. He started the event from dead-last 21st but avoided the first lap melee that occurred when Mikhail Aleshin spun in Turn 2 and took out a quarter of the field.
He led five laps and finished 11th. Hildebrand finished 16th as the last car on the lead lap.
June was an uneventful month for ECR. Hildebrand finished in the top 15 only once in four races, while Pigot finished 10th and 21st at the weekend at The Raceway at Belle Isle. Carpenter raced at Texas Motor Speedway and finished 11th, one spot ahead of Hildebrand.
Like Phoenix, Iowa Speedway was a friendly track to ECR. In 2016, Newgarden won at the short track with a broken hand. This time around, the No. 21 still had speed as Hildebrand started and finished second. Carpenter started fourth and finished 12th. The short ovals were the team’s greatest strength throughout the year.
— Ed Carpenter Racing (@ECRIndy) July 10, 2017
After Iowa, the rest of the season was dreadful. Hildebrand failed to finish better than 13th in the final six events while the No. 20 had a top finish of 12th twice. Carpenter earned the finish at Pocono Raceway and Pigot at Watkins Glen International.
As a mid-pack team, it was a successful season because they had one of the best packages on the ovals, topping the likes of Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing. In 2018, Carpenter will continue his role as the oval racer in the No. 20 while British racer Jordan King will compete on the road and street courses. King, 23, signed with the team last week. He was the 2015 FIA Institute Driver of the Year and the 2013 British Formula 3 champion as well as a development driver for the now-defunct Manor F1 team for two years. He raced in last season’s F2 championship with MP Motorsport.
Pigot will be the full-time driver of the No. 21. The team has gone separate ways with Hildebrand, who is not currently signed with any team for the upcoming season.
Hildebrand finished 15th in the 2017 standings. The goal this team should aim for is breaking the top 10 with Pigot, who had an average finish of 15th in his 11 starts. Better finishes will help this organization get more recognition it deserves. Although it was lackluster on the road and street courses, the team is always an underlying threat on the ovals. Maybe the new aero kit will benefit the two-car team.