Ed Carpenter Racing fastest in IndyCar’s first league test at Phoenix

JR Hildebrand and Ed Carpenter were the two fastest drivers in IndyCar’s first tests at Phoenix Raceway, edging out ex-teammate Josef Newgarden.

Maybe 2017 will be Ed Carpenter Racing’s year after all. JR Hildebrand and Ed Carpenter topped the charts after the Verizon IndyCar Series‘ first two days of league-wide testing at Phoenix International Raceway.

Behind them was none other than Josef Newgarden, who left ECR in the offseason to join Team Penske.

Hildebrand, driving in his first full IndyCar season since he was with Panther Racing in 2012, had the best single lap over four sessions at 19.04 seconds. That beat the existing Phoenix Raceway track record but it can’t be considered a new record since the lap wasn’t recorded during qualifying or a race.

Carpenter’s fastest lap was 19.12 seconds on Saturday afternoon, with Newgarden clocking in at 19.16 seconds.

Asked about the surprising results afterward Carpenter attributed his team’s success to what the team was able to do in 2016.

“We had good cars here last year,” he said at the post-test press conference. “It’s a continuation from last year … We were fortunate enough to be part of the tire test team here last fall, so you know, in that regard I think we had a little bit of a jump start on this tire, maybe relative to some of the other guys. That’s always nice to get that opportunity. We’re thankful for Firestone to do that. So we had been here on this tire. Obviously JR hadn’t, but the team has done a good job.

“We’ve gone through some changes, but the guys have kept their heads down,” he continued, discussing Ed Carpenter Racing’s outlook going into the season. “We still have the same goals of competing for race wins, competing for the championship, [the] Indy 500, and this [at Phoenix] is an important race. It’s the first oval of the year. You want to come and set of set the tone for the ovals here just as St. Pete is important to kick off the season and set the tone for the road and street courses.

“The guys have been working hard, and it doesn’t really count, doesn’t mean much today,” he added, “but at the same time it is fun to be up at the top and reward the guys for hard work this offseason.”

You can watch the full remarks from Ed Carpenter and JR Hildebrand below:

Underneath the ECR duo on the combined speed charts were none other than the cars of Team Penske. Newgarden was followed by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves (19.195 seconds) and 2016 championship runner-up Will Power (19.198 seconds). Reigning champion Simon Pagenaud was the only Penske car outside the Top 5; he came in eighth with a single lap time of 19.27 seconds.

“We’ve accomplished a lot with the Verizon Chevy,” said Newgarden, who is taking over the No. 2 car from Juan Pablo Montoya. “The car was good early on yesterday, so that was definitely nice.

“The transition is going very well, actually. [Engineer] Brian [Campe] is getting used to my terminology and my sensitivities and the other way around. This [test] has been great. We’ve been able to log a lot of track time and work through a ton of things.”

“It was great to be back in the PPG Chevrolet,” agreed Pagenaud. “We’ve had a great test so far. We’ve been able to work on a lot of different things and compile some good data. It was a long offseason. That was good for me, but now I’m ready to go.”

Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi was one of only two drivers to have his name show up on the speed chart twice, but he also crashed early on Saturday and was introduced to the Turn 2 wall.

“I’m not completely sure what happened because the car felt fine — it just got loose and snapped,” he remarked afterward. “The car was good going into Turn 1. I went down to the bottom and the back end came out.

“The test has been productive overall, so this is a pretty big setback. The car has been great this weekend and I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made ahead of this incident. This was my first real contact with the wall — better here than in qualifying or the race — and it won’t stop me from pushing hard.”

Below are the Top 10 drivers from the IndyCar Phoenix open test, based on combined results from the four test sessions over the weekend:

1. JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing, 0:19.04 (193.234 MPH)
2. Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing, 0:19.12 (192.404 MPH)
3. Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 0:19.16 (191.932 MPH)
4. Helio Castroneves, Team Penske, 0:19.195 (191.668 MPH)
5. Will Power, Team Penske, 0:19.198 (191.637 MPH)
6. Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, 0:19.25 (191.079 MPH)
7. Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing, 0:19.26 (190.973 MPH)
8. Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 0:19.27 (190.842 MPH)
9. Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing, 0:19.32 (190.399 MPH)
10. James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, 0:19.34 (190.184 MPH)

Ed Carpenter Racing will be conducting an additional team test at Sonoma Raceway on Tuesday that’s open to the public; IndyCar fans can find more information about that here.

But if they’re posting these kinds of speeds, the ECR drivers could mix things up in the 2017 IndyCar season.

This article originally appeared on