Daly and Newgarden Look Ahead with Continued Optimism

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I have to start out by saying that while a disclaimer might not be necessary, I felt the need to tell you all that I wanted to get these answers to you much sooner… but, sometimes life has other ideas for my calendar! I assume most of you can relate. So without further adieu, I want to thank those of you that submitted questions for last week’s IndyCar Media Day pressers, and for your patience while I carved out some time to get this organized for you!

Please note: If you submitted questions but you don’t see them listed below, know that I am still holding on to them and will get them answered for you at the next opportunity.

Rich from Michigan asked what Conor Daly’s rookie status will be for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Specifically, if Conor will be eligible for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award.

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Conor discussed how his full-time ride came to be, noting that the road there kicked off in Long Beach last year when he jumped in the car just prior to qualifying, after a call from Dale Coyne. He went into how that weekend was where his relationship with the whole team started to take root. “Apparently, there was a scheme where they weren’t going to run me at any other races so I could maintain my rookie status.” Conor laughed, saying that he was not aware of that long-term strategy and just found out about it 6 months ago! I asked him to confirm if that strategy had worked, given the additional races that he did end up running throughout the 2015 season. The Indiana-native stated that while there are a couple different interpretations of it (eligible rookie status), as far as what he has been told, yes, 2016 will be his rookie season and he will be eligible for Rookie of the Year honors.

Anthony from Columbus, OH asked about my sense of the mood in regards to the transition from Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing to Ed Carpenter Racing, how Josef Newgarden seems to feel about it, and how they are working through the changes.

There wasn’t a lot of discussion on the racing company’s name change. I wouldn’t say it was swept under the rug, but there wasn’t an excessive amount of light shone on the intimate details either. Company changes are hard enough to navigate, so when the dramatics can be left out, I think that’s best for everyone involved. In fact, Josef didn’t even address it. According to Carpenter however, though it may seem like a big organization change, it wasn’t big internally, expanding on things by saying,

“We had operated as ECR from 2012 through 2014, merged with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing to form CFH Racing (for 2015), and then as we got into (this) off-season… all sorts of things we don’t need to get into related to different things – partnership changes, structure changes – really precipitated us going back to ECR when everything shook out.”

Carpenter stressed that the team’s plans have not changed, “We’re in good shape. We have all our people essentially back in key positions. We’re excited for a strong 2016.”

wp-1455197346905.jpgCircling back to Newgarden – he was in very good spirits and was also in his normal mode of entertaining those within ear shot. The “young gun” from Tennessee is definitely not afraid of a live mic, joking about his social media content and how a certain Instagram photo from “123 weeks ago” (source: James Hinchcliffe) makes him a hypocrite when it comes to the whole #ShirtsForSage campaign. I found it necessary to track down this evidence, and while I couldn’t find anything incriminating at that exact week mark, I did come across 3 shirtless posts from Josef, and I feel confident in saying that this is the one referred to by The Mayor.

Staying within the Ed Carpenter Racing family, Joseph Hall wanted to know what the team plans are, in regards to number of cars for ECR’s season, and also for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Oil?

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Carpenter confirmed that they will run Josef full-time and that he (Ed) will be running ovals again like last season. The hope is to run the No. 20 at a full-time level, and while they aren’t quite at that point yet, they still have a little bit of time left to try and make it happen. They have been in discussions with Luca Filippi and his management, but again, nothing is solidified for the No. 20 being on road courses and street circuits this year.

When I asked about the 500, Carpenter replied, “We are planning on running two cars. Things can always change. But until they do change, I’m not really totally focusing on that. There’s always conversations going around, different things. You take every phone call. Obviously, I talk to Hildebrand a lot and would like to get him more ingrained in our team. Until things happen, we’re focused on what we’re going to be doing, which is running Josef for the Championship and running the 20 car on ovals.”

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