IndyCar's two little-teams-that-could have merged into a potential spoiler in the 2015 season. Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing have combined their resources and will now fly under the flag of CFH Racing. The two car team will run Chevrolet power and will see a familiar face around IndyCar get an extended stay in the series that he has long been waiting for.
2014 Ed Carpenter Racing Review:
Poles: 1 (Indianapolis).
Final Championship Position: 8th (The #20 in the Entrant champion). 22nd (Ed Carpenter). 23rd (Mike Conway). 26th (J.R. Hildebrand).
2014 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Review:
Best Finish: 2nd (Iowa).
Best Start: 2nd (Texas, Mid-Ohio, Sonoma).
Final Championship Position: 13th (Josef Newgarden). 31st (Alex Tagliani).
The Tennessean finished a career best 13th in the championship and finished the season with three consecutive top ten finishes. He had a rough stretch in May and June but he and SFHR made their own success, working pit strategy into their favor at Pocono where they finished eighth and taking tires under the final caution at Iowa, which led to a charge from the back of the top ten to second in the final nine laps. He would make his own success again at Milwaukee, after going a lap down when taking his final pit stop, Newgarden charged from 12th to fifth and unlapping himself in the process in the final dozen laps.
Numbers to Remember: 25. As in 25 drivers who took more than 51 starts to get their first career victory.
51. Josef Newgarden has made 51 career IndyCar starts. St. Petersburg will make his 52nd career start.
67. Amount of career starts Newgarden should have if he qualifies for all 16 races in 2015.
14. Amount of drivers who took more than 67 career starts to get their first career victory.
10.588. Newgarden's average starting position in 2014.
17.526. Newgarden's average starting position in 2015.
Prediction/Goals: Newgarden has to win a race in 2015 as he enters his fourth season. He has had plenty of track time at each track and based off last year, he now has an advantage with the Chevrolet engine. The aero kits could negate the advantage in engine but that still remains to be seen. The merger with Ed Carpenter Racing should only help in his quest for his first career victory. I think Newgarden will breakthrough for that first career victory and will be a contender for a top ten finish in the championship.
Ed Carpenter's first season of running only the ovals paid off. Second consecutive pole position for the Indianapolis 500, victory at Texas, two podiums, three top fives and four top tens. He finished ten points ahead of Mike Conway, who made 12 starts in the #20 Fuzzy Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet in 2014. He finished 29 points behind Sebastián Saavedra who started every race in 2014.
Numbers to Remember: 8.333. Carpenter's average start in 2014.
9.666. Carpenter's average finish in 2014.
122. Carpenter led 122 laps in 2014, sixth most in IndyCar.
98.1. Carpenter completed 98.1% of a possible 1448 laps across the six oval races in 2014.
Predictions/Goals: Carpenter's goal should be convincing Pocono, Fontana, Texas, Milwaukee and Iowa to stay on the schedule for a long, long time and his next goal should be to convince IndyCar to work out deals with Phoenix, Michigan and Richmond so he can add more races to his schedule. As for on-track, Carpenter should aim for six top tens in six oval race and of course should be aiming for victory at the Indianapolis 500. Carpenter definitely can win a race but with so few chances it would not be surprising if he doesn't get a victory in 2015. He will definitely be in contention in a few races though.
Mike Conway has moved on to become a full-time driver in Toyota's FIA World Endurance Championship program and this has opened the door for Luca Filippi to finally get his much awaited substantial IndyCar program. The Italian has made eight IndyCar starts, four with Bryan Herta Autosport in 2013 after Alex Tagliani was fired and four with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing last year at the Houston and Toronto doubleheaders. His best finish is tenth at Houston 1 in 2013.
Numbers to Remember: 12.91. Mike Conway's average finish in 2014.
7.66. Luca Filippi's average start in his four starts last year.
4914. Amount of days between the last IndyCar victory for an Italian and St. Petersburg. The last Italian victory was Max Papis at Laguna Seca on October 14, 2001.
310. There have been 310 IndyCar races since Papis' Laguna Seca victory.
1. Mike Conway made one Firestone Fast Six appearance in 2014 (Belle Isle). Luca Filippi made one Firestone Fast Six appearance in 2014 (Houston).
Prediction/Goals: Filippi has the talent to win in IndyCar and having an extended time with one team and engineers should benefit the Italian. Having a teammate will also play into Filippi's favor. Filippi will get a few top fives and will make a few appearances in the Firestone Fast Six. Conway scored 252 (38.8%) of a maximum 648 points last year. Filippi's goal should be to score at least 40% of the maximum points, which would be 236 of 590.
The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series seasons gets underway on Sunday March 29th. ABC's coverage will begin at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag at 3:30 p.m. ET.