INDIANAPOLIS – We already saw a storybook ending to the Last Row Shootout last weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. David slayed Goliath when Kyle Kaiser and his small Juncos Racing team knocked out Fernando Alonso and his giant McLaren Racing team of the Indianapolis 500.
Now, will we see it again for Sunday’s 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network)?
The last qualifier in Kaiser pulled it off in dramatic fashion last Sunday afternoon. It now would only be fitting if one of the three Ed Carpenter Racing drivers passed one of the drivers from Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing or Andretti Autosport/Bryan Herta Autosport for the win on the final lap of the race this Sunday right?
I get why some may say that ECR isn’t necessarily the David to those “Big 3’s” Goliath. But, in comparison of the two, they really are. ECR pales in comparison to those three teams’ resources.
Yes, they’ve been so good in qualifying on the famed 2.5-mile oval lately, but they have struggled some in the race itself.
That’s why Penske and Andretti have combined to win each of the last five Indy 500’s. Between them and adding Chip Ganassi Racing to the mix, they’ve won in 16 of the last 19 years combined including 12 of the last 14.
Heck, if you want to go back to just the start of the 2016 NTT IndyCar Series season, Penske has won 27 times in that time frame. Andretti has reached victory lane nine times with Ganassi scoring six wins themselves.
How many does ECR have in that time frame?
They’ve scored seven career wins in the history of their organization but the last came at Iowa in July 2016. In fact, their last three wins came from Josef Newgarden who’s since departed for a seat at Team Penske.
Ed Carpenter on pit lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – INDYCAR Media Site
So, if Ed Carpenter, Spencer Pigot or Ed Jones can cross the yard of bricks first on Lap 200 on Sunday, then a popular celebration would ensue. It honestly is the sleeper team knocking off the giants.
Plus, ECR is located here in Indianapolis with Butler Graduate Ed Carpenter owning the team. Carpenter, the son of Tony George, would be the most popular winner of the trio. He grew up in the shadows of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and has scored three poles in the last six years here. Unfortunately though, he’s never won from the pole.
Carpenter, had his best race last year when he lead a race high 65 of the 200 laps but finished second to eventual race winner Will Power. That was his first top five finish here since 2008. It was also his first top 10 result in the last five years.
This Sunday, could be different than those struggles in the past. Carpenter, qualified his No. 20 Chevrolet second for his fifth top two starting spot in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in the last seven years. The question is, can he do something with it?
He was in the top 10 in three of the five practices so far this month and has shown to have a good race car for this weekend’s race.
Spencer Pigot pulls out of pit lane during qualifying last Saturday – INDYCAR Media Site
So has Spencer Pigot. He starts third in his No. 21 Chevrolet after being in the top eighth on the speed charts in three of the last four practice sessions this month. Pigot, also started sixth last year too but only finished 20th. While he’s never scored a top 15 finish at Indy before, this is his chance to do so.
You also can’t count out Ed Jones. He will roll off fourth in his No. 63 Chevrolet and is looking for redemption. See, last year Jones was driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. Unfortunately, it was an experiment that didn’t work.
In 2017, Jones was a rookie in the series driving for Dale Coyne Racing. He started 11th that year and finished third. It was a season he should have won Rookie of the Year for the race but some guy named Fernando Alonso stole the show.
After a successful rookie campaign in the series overall, he had a handshake agreement to return to his seat with DCR last year. But, when Chip Ganassi Racing didn’t retain Tony Kanaan for the seat in the No. 10 Honda and they found out Jones hadn’t officially signed a deal with DCR yet, they came in and swooped him away.
They didn’t give him much time to grow though as he was just in his second season in the series overall. He had a disappointing Month of May where he started 29th and crashed in Turn 2 resulting in a 31st place finish. It was the beginning of the end for him.
CGR didn’t bring Jones back for 2019 leaving with high and dry. ECR came in and signed Jones for a limited deal to share the seat with Ed Carpenter on all road and street courses in 2019 including a one off on an oval at Indy.
Ed Jones pulls out of his pit stall during practice this month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – INDYCAR Media Site
Jones, is getting the last laugh. He has been fast all month with being in the top 10 in four of the five sessions including being quickest of the day last Thursday. On the no tow chart, he was third, first and first respectively too.
This is the same Jones who finished third in 2017. Now, he has a better car and a better opportunity. The guy replacing him in the Ganassi ride has struggled this month being as he crashed last week and qualified 29th, same spot as Jones last year.
So, for the second consecutive year, ECR put all three drivers in the Fast Nine but this time will have three cars in the top four of the starting lineup.
If they can stay out of their own way, this is a race winning team this weekend.