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King Of England To Drive An IndyCar in 2018

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 6 2018

Jordan King will drive for Ed Carpenter Racing during the upcoming IndyCar season.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Armed with sage advice from Mark Blundell and Alexander Rossi, Englishman Jordan King’s open-wheel career has been steered from Formula One to the Verizon IndyCar Series beginning with the 2018 season.

Indianapolis-based Ed Carpenter Racing completed the lineup of the team’s No. 20 Chevrolet earlier this week with the addition of King. A 23-year-old native of Warwickshire, England, King will compete in the 11 road and street-course events in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet. Carpenter, the only owner/driver in the series, will continue to wheel the No. 20 during all six oval races.

King’s transition to Indy car is the next step in a career that has seen him ascend through the European motorsports ranks. While King has not yet competed in a USA-based racing series, he joins INDYCAR with numerous accolades, including the FIA Institute’s 2015 Driver of the Year and the 2013 British Formula 3 championship.

“I don’t want to put blinkers on myself straightaway before I’ve got in the car,” King said during a national teleconference with Carpenter. “I want to be like a sponge, absorb everything I can, try everything I can, and obviously do…certainly if I can win races, perfect. But it’s very much going to be a learning year for me and the longer goal is to become a fulltime INDYCAR driver and work towards greater things in the future.”

Beginning in karts in 2005, King progressed into single-seaters in 2010. After two years in Formula Renault, King claimed the 2013 British Formula 3 championship in his debut season with three wins and eight podium finishes. He has spent the last three seasons in Formula 2, previously known as GP2. While serving as a development driver for Manor F1 in 2015 and 2016, King participated in several tests and drove in practice sessions at the 2016 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Most recently, King competed for MP Motorsport in the 2017 FIA Formula 2 Championship, collecting top-10 finishes in over half of the races. “After winning at Silverstone in 2016 and being able to drive in F1 practice, 2017 was not what I was hoping for,” King said. “Going into the new season, I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity with ECR to work towards our collective goals.”

Carpenter recalled meeting King during the INDYCAR event at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California in 2015, when the Brit was exploring opportunities in the USA. “He’s a very motivated, intelligent and hungry driver, which is exactly what we’re looking for at ECR,” Carpenter said. “Jordan has had a lot of success and experience in Europe and I can’t wait to see what he is capable of with ECR in the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

Carpenter added he consulted with former F1 and INDYCAR driver Mark Blundell on King, who previously steered Englishman Mike Conway to the team in 2014.

“I’m an American-based guy that’s really just competed here,” Carpenter said. ”I follow what’s going on in European series but don’t have as deep of a knowledge, so to have someone like Mark involved that I really trust and value his feedback and guys that he brings to the table when we had an opening…he played a big role in it.

“Jordan came over to Indianapolis earlier, in December I guess it was, and we had some quality time together talking racing, talking about his career, life in general, what his goals are _ and I think we all got really comfortable with each other at that point, and here we are now.”

King, meanwhile, leaned on Blundell and Rossi for their input on the IndyCar Series. “I think with Mark, he was very straight to the point with me,” King said. ”We sat down numerous times during the season in 2017, talking about my next options for the following year. He just said, ‘Look, if it were me, this is what I would do. I’ve done it, this is why I did it, this is what happened, this is what I achieved, this is how much fun I had,’ all of those things.

“He really reassured me that it was the right path for me to take for my career, and for him it was a no-brainer. So it was quite good to hear that from somebody who I trust and I’ve known for a long time.”

King remains represented by Blundell’s UK-based MB Partners. “The focus for Jordan was to give him a platform to build from in Indy car and the opportunity with Ed and ECR is the perfect fit. Ed will be a great mentor,” said Blundell, CEO of MB Partners. “Having a full road and-street course program alongside some oval testing will allow Jordan to show his racecraft and ability in some of the most competitive open-wheel racing in the world today.”

Californian Rossi was aiming for a career in the FIA Formula One World Championship before joining Andretti Autosport prior to the 2016 season. Rossi shocked the motorsports world in May of that year when _ as an oval-track and Verizon IndyCar Series rookie _ he won the prestigious 100th edition of the Indianapolis 500 for partners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta.

His talks with Rossi, King said, also reassured him that his move to the States was wise. “There’s always a bit of skepticism changing paths, and obviously for me it’s actually moving country and a couple of things like that,” King said. “For me, someone like Alexander Rossi, he’s done it, but the other way around. He came over to Europe and I raced with him and I was teammates with him (in 2015). I kind of trust him and believe what he’s saying, so I spoke to him quite a bit.

So, just filling in all the gaps was quite reassuring to speak to someone who has done it and I know his driving style and things like that, you know? I think the most friendly advice he gave me was actually just ‘You’ll love it out here.’ More from the sense of, I think, how much he’s enjoyed himself as he was very focused on Formula 1 at one point in his life and he’s gone over there and had some great success. Yeah, it was quite nice to hear that from him.

“We spoke about the car a little bit, driving styles, the feeling you get within the car, what to expect, a little bit more technical stuff, how much it weighs, how that affects the driving style, where you can find performance in general. So it was quite nice to hear his view compared to cars that we’ve both driven before and kind of get my head around how I need to drive it when the day comes.”

Since 2014, the No. 20 has been split between Carpenter on the ovals and a second driver at the remaining events. Spencer Pigot became the first driver to retain the No. 20’s road and street-course seat for a second season when he drove the car in both 2016 and 2017. The 24-year-old from Orlando, Fla., has been promoted to fulltime driver of ECR’s No. 21 Chevrolet entry for the 2018 season, providing King with the opportunity to become the road and street-course specialist for the No. 20.

Carpenter, 36, will mark his 16th year of INDYCAR-sanctioned competition in 2017. Testing is well underway for the series’ new universal Dallara chassis that will be powered by Chevrolet and Honda twin-turbocharged V-6 engines. While the new chassis theoretically will place all teams on a level playing field, Carpenter said King will be limited to the road and street-course events in 2018.

“There’s no plans for Jordan to be doing any of the oval races,” Carpenter said. “But we do have a plan and are working on plans to get him in the car on an oval, to start developing that part of his career…like he mentioned, he wants to be able to run fulltime at some point in INDYCAR. So that was an important part of the process, knowing that we could get him in the car for some oval testing.

“We’re still nailing down when exactly that’ll be, but he will get the opportunity to do a little bit of oval testing to get his feet wet with that. I think it’ll be a good drill to go through, also, just to give him a better idea of what the total capabilities of the car are, even if he’s not racing on ovals, just to have an understanding of what the car is capable of when it comes to some of the higher speed road courses, as well.”

King is scheduled to climb into the No. 20 on Feb. 5 at Sonoma Raceway, ECR’s first test of the new year. The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season will open March 11 on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

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Veteran motorsports official Kyle Novak has been appointed INDYCAR’s new race director for the Verizon IndyCar Series. Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations, made the announcement Friday.

As race director, Novak will lead operations in Race Control at all Verizon IndyCar Series events. Race Control utilizes a variety of video, audio and data communications to oversee all aspects of competition to assure a safe, timely and competitive event. Novak also will work in conjunction with INDYCAR’s race stewards to initiate reviews of on-track incidents, though it will remain with the panel of stewards to decide whether a penalty should be levied against a driver or team.

“Throughout our extensive search for a race director, one name was mentioned repeatedly _ and that was Kyle Novak,” Frye said. “We have been aware of Kyle’s work for the past couple of years. He’s clearly impressed those he’s worked with and, after meeting with him, we knew he would be a great fit for our Race Control team.”

Novak replaces Brian Barnhart, whose long and multi-layered tenure with INDYCAR’s competition staff ended last month with his appointment as president of Harding Racing. Barnhart, whose second tour as race director began in January 2015, went to work with Indianapolis-based Harding Racing on Dec. 18.

Novak has spent the past three years as either a race director or steward for various sports car series sanctioned by IMSA, but the 36-year-old attorney by trade has a lengthy motorsports resume. It began in drag racing, where for years he has joined his father and brother in amateur Bracket racing competition near their home in Dexter, Mich., outside Ann Arbor. They own two race cars.

Novak’s introduction to Indy car racing came as operations manager and director of operations for the group promoting Champ Car races in Cleveland, Denver and Houston from 2004-08. His jobs in the years that followed were as a program manager for the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Series with the Sports Car Club of America; a team manager for the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup Series now sanctioned by INDYCAR; and then IMSA, where he has been race director for the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge, while also serving as a race steward for IMSA’s top series, the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Novak said the chance to work with Frye and other staff members he already knows simplified the decision to join INDYCAR. “Jay and I hit it off immediately; it’s the fresh outlook he brings that is a huge part of it (for me),” Novak said. “Ironically enough, three people who work in INDYCAR Race Control are some of the first people I met in the industry, and that goes all the way back to 2004. Those are among the key people I’ll be working with on a day-to-day basis. There’s a great deal of familiarity with them.

“Motorsports is such a small industry that many of the people who have helped me over the years have stayed with me as industry colleagues. But INDYCAR has always been at the forefront of professional motorsports in North America, and I had the opportunity on several occasions to witness that first-hand, since many IMSA races are run in conjunction with INDYCAR events. I can’t thank the people at IMSA enough for the opportunities I was given and for their assistance in making this a smooth transition to INDYCAR. I can’t wait to get started.”

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Rookie Pato O’Ward will pilot the No. 27 Mazda for his first full season of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition with Andretti Autosport. O’Ward joins a team roster alongside returning Andretti drivers Colton Herta, Dalton Kellett and Ryan Norman. 

An 18-year-old native of Mexico, O’Ward impressed throughout his 2016 Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires season, finishing second in the championship standings. O’Ward earned six victories in the first seven races in 2016 en route to compiling seven wins, five poles and nine podiums.  

Veteran Indy Lights driver Kellett and sophomore drivers Herta and Norman all made strides during the 2017 season. Each driver started all 16 rounds and collected a combined two wins, nine podiums and six poles.

The 2018 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season kicks off March 10 with Rounds 1 & 2 on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 6 2018
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