Carpenter pleased with Barber performance, has high hopes for Indy

Ed Carpenter says that as the defending race-winner at Barber Motorsports Park, Josef Newgarden and ECR could be content with a podium finish, but he is expecting to have two strong cars at next month’s GP of Indy.

Carpenter pleased with Barber performance, has high hopes for Indy
Winner, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet, third place Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Podium: winner Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet, second place Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, third place Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
J.R. Hildebrand, CFH Racing Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
J.R. Hildebrand, CFH Racing Chevrolet

In Sunday's race, Newgarden passed Team Penske's Will Power for second place on the opening lap, but Power's strong in-lap and a good first pitstop by the #12 Penske crew got the 2014 IndyCar champion back out ahead of Ed Carpenter Racing's #21.

Newgarden would later concede another place to the charging Graham Rahal, and fell away from Power, but then re-passed the Aussie on the penultimate lap to take third.

Carpenter told Motorsport.com: "This weekend, I'd say ultimately we finished where we should. I'd say we were as strong as Will [Power] but at different times of the race.

"He was a little bit better on reds, we were a little bit better on blacks. I'm just pleased we had the better of him at the end."

Carpenter admitted there was nothing Newgarden could have done about race winner Simon Pagenaud, nor Rahal.

"Simon's car was great, Graham was great," he said. "We didn't quite have the pace or the [ability to delay] tire drop-off like those two, so we still have a bit of work to do. But I'd say we were as good as anyone else."

The seventh edition of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama featured no full-course cautions, beyond the false start caused by collisions between backmarkers, and Carpenter admits that during the race he was in two minds about whether they would have helped or hindered his team.

"As much as we wanted a yellow to catch the guys in front, we also didn't want one because we had such a healthy gap behind us. Knowing you can't finish any worse than fourth is a good position to be in.

"But I'm glad it got exciting at the end there. "I'm not sure why Will lost so much pace in the last five laps – whether he was trying to save fuel or what. We were just trying to keep the pressure on him, whether we passed him or he made a mistake. And it worked out." 

High hopes for Hildebrand at Indy

IndyCar's next round, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course on Saturday, May 14, sees Ed Carpenter Racing expand to two cars once more as JR Hildebrand returns for the Month of May, while at the Indy 500, oval specialist Carpenter will make ECR a three-car team to tackle only his second race of the year.

In the mean time, however, Carpenter is certain that Hildebrand will be strong at GP of Indy, despite not yet having driven the 2016-spec cars.

"He did such a good job for us last year," said Carpenter. "We brought him to Barber to test, he hadn't driven a road course in a year and a half, and he was just a tenth off Josef – and this is one of Josef's best tracks.

"Then at GP of Indy last year, JR, Josef and Luca [Filippi, ECR's road-course specialist in 2015] were all good. As I recall, if we could have put the best parts of their styles and laps together, we'd have probably been P1! None of them were finding time at the same place on the track.

"So I think we'll see JR being strong right out of the box. He shouldn't have problems adapting to the aerokit.

"I'd say I'd be disappointed if we don't qualify in the top 10 and get a top five finish with JR."

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