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Carpenter Rebuilds IndyCar Driver Lineup For 2020

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 11 2019
IndyCar team owner/driver Ed Carpenter has finalized his driver lineup for next season.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Ed Carpenter Racing completed its revised NTT IndyCar Series lineup Monday with the addition of Conor Daly as driver of the No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet for the 2020 road and street course events.

Daly will share the No. 20 entry with team-owner and oval-track specialist Carpenter. In addition, Daly will compete in the 104th edition of the Indianapolis 500 as ECR expands to a three-car effort for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Carpenter and Daly will be joined by Dutchman and rookie Rinus VeeKay, who was introduced last month as fulltime driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet. 

The No. 20 will feature an all-Hoosier lineup in 2020 as both Carpenter and Daly hail from Indiana. Carpenter, a 38-year-old Indianapolis native, will be driving in his 18th season of INDYCAR competition. Daly, from Noblesville, has logged 50 races of experience spanning six years.

“As an Indiana kid, it just feels right to be getting a chance with Ed Carpenter Racing,” Daly, 27, said in an ECR news release. “This team has done such an incredible job over the years and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ed and this group. I look forward to entering a season feeling fully prepared with simulator time and testing for the first time in several years.”

Daly competed in seven IndyCar Series races with three teams in 2019, recording a best finish of sixth at Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison, Ill. He also had his most successful Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway en route to a career-best Indianapolis 500 finish of 10th in an Andretti Autosport Honda. Over the past two seasons, five different teams have called upon Daly for 11 different race weekends.

“I am extremely proud and excited to welcome Conor Daly and the U.S. Air Force to Ed Carpenter Racing,” Carpenter said. “I have seen Conor grow and mature over the course of his career and am confident that his best years are yet to come. It is a huge honor to represent the men and women who serve in the U.S. Air Force and we hope to make them proud this season.”

Daly and ECR will work alongside the Air Force in an effort to inspire young adults, communicate the service’s mission and build awareness about career opportunities. The Air Force is continuing a partnership with Daly that originated three years ago. Daly will race a U.S. Air Force Chevrolet in 13 of 17 series races in 2020.

For the 12 road and street course events, Daly’s No. 20 will pay tribute to fighter jets throughout America’s Air Force history. The car will showcase the iconic “shark teeth” war paint often carried into battle by the A-10 Thunderbolt, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-35 Lightning. With Carpenter racing the No. 20 in the 2020 Indy 500, Daly’s Memorial Day weekend entry will feature a new number and special edition livery.

“The U.S. Air Force is fortunate to have some incredible partners and ambassadors for our brand and Conor is certainly one of them,” said Major Ross McKnight, Chief of Events Marketing for Air Force Recruiting. “We are proud of the effort and appreciative of the supportive partners that have made the Air Force INDYCAR program so successful. The results and direct correlation between STEM principles, speed, teamwork, risk and precision skill drive our continued investment.”

VeeKay, 19, has replaced American Spencer Pigot in ECR’s No. 21 Chevrolet after a four-year tenure. A graduate of the Road to Indy ranks, VeeKay recorded a second-place finish in the 2019 Indy Lights championship.

Born in Hoofddorp, Netherlands, Rinus van Kalmthout began karting in 2009 at age 8. With sights set on an INDYCAR career, he transitioned to the Road to Indy in 2017 and launched his U.S. career driving as Rinus VeeKay. He found immediate success, following up a second-place finish in the 2017 USF2000 standings with the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 title. His championship season included seven wins, 10 podium finishes and the Road to Indy career advancement scholarship, which placed him one step below his ultimate goal.

During the 2019 Indy Lights season, VeeKay claimed six race wins and finished on the podium 14 of 18 times en route to a runnerup point finish. VeeKay earned 16 Road to Indy victories and 36 podium finishes in 48 races.

“It’s something we have worked extremely hard for over the last couple of years,” VeeKay said in a statement. “To step up from USF2000 to the NTT IndyCar Series in three years is really special. The number of available seats in the NTT IndyCar Series is very limited, so it’s a great honor that (Ed Carpenter Racing) has chosen me to join their team.”

VeeKay got his first taste of an IndyCar Series car in August when Carpenter selected him for an evaluation test at Portland International Raceway. A second test followed at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October. Days later, he stepped back into an Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis Memorial Road to Indy Test and set the fastest time in all six sessions.

“I have been following Rinus’ path through the Road to Indy, especially the past two years,” Carpenter said. “It was clear to me that he deserves to be in an Indy car. After his first day in a car at Portland this past season, that feeling became even more apparent. His pace, feedback and demeanor inside the car was very impressive for such a young driver.”

Since ECR’s inception in 2012, the No. 21 Chevrolet always has featured an Indy Lights graduate. Additionally, ECR Chevrolets have started on the front row of the Indianapolis 500 six of the past seven years, including Carpenter’s three pole positions.

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Released by Dale Coyne Racing on Nov. 22, four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais barely had time to post his resume on Indeed.com before landing a new ride. 

Bourdais will contest the full 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule for JDC-Miller MotorSports with Joao Barbosa in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. The organization also confirmed that Loic Duval will join the lineup for the endurance rounds, while Christian Fittipaldi will serve as core advisor.

“Following two very difficult weeks filled with uncertainty regarding my future,” Bourdais said in a team release, “I am thrilled to get the opportunity to race a prototype again, be reunited with Joao, Ken and Brenda (Thompson of Mustang Sampling), and drive for JDC-Miller MotorSports and Mustang Sampling Racing. I want to thank Christian and everyone who made this possible. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of our Cadillac DPi-V.R.”

Bourdais, a 40-year-old native of Le Mans, France, raced with DCR in parts of four IndyCar Series seasons since his return to North American open-wheel racing in 2011. “I want to thank Sebastien for having the confidence to come back from his Formula One tour and join our team in 2011, and again for his commitment to the team during the past three years,” Coyne said in a statement. “It is not a decision we take lightly, but due to the ever-changing landscape of INDYCAR racing, we have no choice but to make a change for 2020. We wish Sebastien all the best with his future racing endeavors.”

Bourdais, who won his Champ Car titles from 2004-2007, competed for Dale Coyne Racing in 2011 and 2017 and under the DCR with Vasser-Sullivan banner for the 2018 and 2019 IndyCar Series seasons. In that span, Bourdais won back-to-back races at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, his hometown event, and scored three podium finishes. He returned from a horrific crash during qualifying for the 2017 Indianapolis 500 to win the season-opener on the Streets of St. Pete in 2018.

Bourdais also has served as an endurance driver for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing over the past four years. During that period, he won the GT Le Mans class at the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona and scored five podiums. He also won the GTE-Pro class in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans along with Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller.

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Green flag times for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season features shifts at four races _ St. Petersburg, Circuit of The Americas, Iowa and Mid-Ohio _ and the anticipated evening return to Richmond Raceway.

The four returning races represent the only significant green flag start time changes from a year ago in the 17-race 2020 schedule, beginning with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla., scheduled for Sunday, March 15. The notable changes:  

 _ The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which began at 1:40 p.m. (ET) in 2019, will have a 3:30 p.m. green flag in 2020. The race on a 1.8-mile/14-turn layout through the downtown streets will be celebrating its 10thanniversary as the series’ season-opener and be televised on NBC Sports Network.

_ The AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at Circuit of The Americas on Sunday, April 26, will have a similar shift, moving from a 1:43 p.m. (ET) green flag this past season to 4:10 p.m. (3:10 p.m. CT) in 2020. The FIA approved, 3.41-mile/20-turn permanent road-course in Austin, Texas, will play host to the fourth race of the season and be broadcast on NBCSN.

_ The Texas Indy 600 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth/No Limits, Texas, will start at 8:45 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, June 6. The 24th edition of “America’s Original Nighttime INDYCAR Race” on TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile oval will be televised on NBCSN.

_ The Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, set for Saturday, July 18, on NBCSN, will be run under the lights on the 0.875-mile oval with the green flag moving from 7:15 p.m. (ET) to 9 p.m. (8 p.m. local).

_ The Honda Indy 200 on Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course’s 2.258-mile/13-turn natural terrain layout in Lexington, Ohio, on Sunday, Aug. 16, will be the only race among the four that moves to an earlier start time. The race, which had a 4:05 p.m. (ET) start in 2019, will shift to a 12:45 p.m. green flag in 2020 and be televised on NBC.

_ The NTT IndyCar Series will head to Richmond Raceway _ only new addition on the 2020 schedule _ for the 11th race of the season on Saturday, June 27. The field will take the green flag at 8:15 p.m. (ET) for the start of the first INDYCAR-sanctioned race around the 0.75-mile oval since 2009. The race will be broadcast on NBCSN.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 11 2019
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