Ed Carpenter returned to the podium tonight at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, finishing 2nd in the last oval race on the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series calendar. As Carpenter competes exclusively in the oval events, tonight’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 marked the conclusion of his 17th season of Indy car competition. He would end his season in style, working his way through the entire field to earn his best finish of the year. Spencer Pigot had raced his way into the Top 10 before contact with another competitor would bring his night to an end just after the midway point of the race.
The weekend did not start easy for Ed Carpenter Racing. Of 22 cars entered in tonight’s race, Carpenter finished Practice 1 in 20th and Practice 2 in 22nd. Qualifying was a struggle as well. The team owner would only earn the 17th starting position while Pigot qualified 13th. However, both had gained nearly mile an hour of speed from practice to qualifying, the beginning of the weekend’s upward trend.
On only the second lap of the race, Carpenter narrowly avoided the sideways car of Marcus Ericsson which brought out the first caution of night. Once the race restarted, Pigot settled into 12th and Carpenter into 15th. Both remained in those positions throughout their first stint and were two of the first cars to pit. Pigot made his first stop on Lap 47; Carpenter was in the following lap.
The second caution flag of the night flew as Will Power got high in Turn 4 and made contact with the wall on Lap 55. Pigot and Carpenter were beneficiaries of the wave-around and got back on the lead lap. During the yellow, Scott Dixon entered the pit lane with an issue and both ECR drivers picked up the position. For the restart on Lap 69, Pigot was 11th and Carpenter was 14th.
Alexander Rossi worked his way around Pigot after the Lap 69 restart, dropping the No. 21 Autogeek Chevrolet back to 12th. Carpenter remained in 14th, positions they would again hold for the duration of the stint. Again, they would pit within one lap of each other as Pigot came in on Lap 95 and Carpenter was just behind on Lap 96.
On new tires, both surged forwards. Pigot passed race leader Santino Ferrucci, putting himself in a position to easily regain lead-lap status. Carpenter was the next car behind Ferrucci and as pit stops cycled through, both were scored on the lead lap again starting on Lap 119. Quick work by their crews, as well as fast in and out laps, would help Pigot gain three positions to move up to 9th while Carpenter was up one to 13th.
The caution flag flew again on Lap 121 as Ericsson brushed the Turn 4 wall. Pigot and Carpenter split strategies on Lap 124 as Pigot ducked into the pit lane under the yellow for fresh tires. He only lost three positions, coming out in 12th. Carpenter moved up to 10th by staying out.
The race would only go back to green for three laps as Pigot was unfortunately the next car to make contact. While working to pass Charlie Kimball heading into Turn 3, the two touched, which sent Pigot slamming into the wall. He was quickly out of the car under his own power and was checked, cleared and released from the infield care center. The No. 21 sustained too much damage to be repaired and was retired from the event. Pigot would be credited with a 21st place finish.
Carpenter brought his No. 20 Autogeek Chevrolet in under Pigot’s caution, one of only two cars to pit. The move would put him down in 15th place, but with additional fuel over the rest of the field. As everyone else made their next pit stops, Carpenter steadily cycled forward. He was preparing for his fourth pit stop when the last caution flag of the night flew on Lap 192. All but four cars were trapped one lap behind the field; Carpenter was 3rd. He came in when the pits opened on Lap 194, but as he was on the lead lap, he retained his position. The wave around would put all but three cars back on the lead lap.
The race was restarted on Lap 205 and Carpenter held off charges from championship leaders Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi. Newgarden continued to close on Carpenter, but was unable to make the pass. Ferrucci would eventually work around Newgarden and set his sights on Carpenter, but Carpenter would not give up the position. Using years of experience to his benefit, Carpenter saved the best for last. With only five laps remaining, Carpenter charged past Tony Kanaan for second. Coming to the checkered flag, Carpenter sent his No. 20 to the outside of Takuma Sato and trailed him to the line by only .0399 of a second. The margin was the closest of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season and in the 10-year history of Indy car racing at WWT Raceway.
Carpenter switched to just oval events starting with the 2014 season, splitting the No. 20 between himself and a second driver for the road and street course events. Tonight’s finish was his first podium result since a second place in the 2018 Indianapolis 500. WWT Raceway is now the shortest track that Carpenter has scored a podium finish at, measuring 1.25 miles. Prior to tonight, Carpenter’s best result of 2019 was 6th in this year’s Indianapolis 500 and just six days ago at Pocono Raceway. In his 17th season, the 38-year-old finished in the Top 6 in three of five races.
The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 was the second in a string of three back-to-back race weekends. From Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania last weekend to tonight’s race just across the river from St. Louis, a cross-country trip to Portland, Ore. is next. Ed Jones will step back into the No. 20 and race alongside Pigot in the penultimate round of the 2019 season. The Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway will be contested on September 1, 2019.
ED CARPENTER, No. 20 SONAX Chevrolet, Finished 2nd: “Even just another straightaway, I maybe could have gotten Takuma! Qualifying so bad didn’t help us, but we were really good on the long runs tonight. Early in the race, the guys asked me what I needed and I said clear track more than anything. The car was really good and we had made really good adjustments. Days like yesterday are really tough and dejecting for the whole team. We kept our heads down and did not gave up; we came back strong tonight and got a result. This is a great way to finish the year. It would have been a little better if we could have gotten a win, I definitely gave it all I had! It was fun to be back up at the front again.”
SPENCER PIGOT, No. 21 Autogeek Chevrolet, Finished 21st: “I had a good run coming out of Turn 2. Charlie Kimball had gotten past me but was struggling for momentum. He went to the inside going into Turn 3. I thought I was far enough up alongside him to get some respect and get some space, but he turned in and I was there. It’s an unfortunate end to the day; I feel bad for all of the guys. I thought we had a pretty good car and were making good gains towards the front of the field.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!