- The first of six oval races on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar is in the books after tonight’s 250-lap Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix. Team owner Ed Carpenter matched his finish from last year’s race, bringing the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet home in the 7th position. Spencer Pigot finished 14th in the first short oval Indy car race of his career in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.
- The Phoenix Grand Prix got off to a clean start, with the field of 23 cars falling into line around the one-mile oval of ISM Raceway. Carpenter picked up two positions on the start to run 16th while Pigot settled into 20th. The USAC Silver Crown series had held a race just prior to the Indy car event, leaving a tire compound on the track not immediately compatible to the Firestone Firehawks used in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Both Carpenter and Pigot struggled with grip until the midway point of their first runs until enough Firestone rubber had been laid down on the track surface.
- Carpenter held steady in the 16th position throughout his first stint. With the leader only two cars behind, Pigot caught a lucky break with the first yellow on Lap 41 and remained on the lead lap. Both drivers made their first pit stops with the rest of the field on Lap 43. Carpenter picked up four positions on his stop and came out of the pits in 11th; Pigot gained two spots to run 18th.
- The restart on Lap 50 started an extended period of green flag running as it remained green through Lap 228. Carpenter moved into the Top 10 one lap after the restart with a pass around Scott Dixon. Carpenter made his second pit stop on Lap 114 and after all cars had cycled through, he was running 7th. When Will Power had to pit after brushing the wall, he moved into the 6th position. Carpenter’s last full-service stop came on Lap 180 and he re-entered the race in 9th.
- Pigot remained on the lead lap until his second pit stop on Lap 116, then fell one lap behind the leaders. He was keeping pace with cars running first, second and third when they began to make their way through lapped traffic. On Lap 140, Pigot got up into the marbles and a stream of cars was able to get around him over the ensuing laps, including one for position, dropping him to 17th. He maintained that position until the second and final caution flag of the race flew on Lap 229.
- Carpenter used the yellow to pit for a fresh set of Firestone Firehawks for the final laps of the race. While the top three cars did not stop, Carpenter came out of the pits fourth of the cars that did stop. At the restart on Lap 243, Carpenter was running 7th while Pigot was 15th. Pigot had also stopped for new tires and with two laps to go, Pigot was able to pass Gabby Chaves for the 14th position. Carpenter engaged in battle with James Hinchcliffe who was on older tires. Though he was able to get a run on Hinchcliffe almost every lap, Carpenter was not able to complete the pass by the checkered flag and finished in the 7th position.
- Ed Carpenter Racing will stay on the West Coast, moving to California early next week for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Pigot will be joined by Jordan King, road and street course driver for the No. 20. The third round of the Verizon IndyCar Series will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network on Sunday, April 15 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
ED CARPENTER, No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, Finished 7th: ““This was really a race where you had to race your own car. We were able to get a Top 10 out of it and stayed on the lead lap, which is really hard to do when you start at the back on a short oval. We were just trying to have a clean race, I felt like that would give us a chance to work forward and it mostly did. We just ran out of steam at the end. I screwed up a little bit on my in-lap on the second-to-last pit stop and that maybe cost us a position. Then, I just couldn’t get Hinch after that last restart. I really don’t like the blocking rules on ovals, I don’t think there’s a place for it in oval racing. We can’t seem to get away from it, but it is what it is. There’s a lot of positives to take away from this. The Fuzzy’s Vodka guys had great pit stops all night. We ended last season on some bad luck so it’s nice to be able to roll the car on the truck. We have a little more work to do on our short oval package, but I’ll take tonight’s finish.”
SPENCER PIGOT, No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, Finished 14th: “That was definitely a difficult race. At the beginning, it was so tricky and I was really on edge. We made the car a bit better throughout the race. We just struggled with having the grip and balance to get close to guys and run in the pack after the peak grip of the tires wore off. The good thing is we finished the race and brought the car home. Now we have to look forward to Long Beach and get back to running up at the front.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!