INDIANAPOLIS – Most think that Ed Carpenter Racing’s announcement of Jordan King splitting time in the No. 20 Chevrolet this season was a shot out of left field. But, if you were really paying attention, it wasn’t. While some false reports were circulating that Esteban Gutierrez was going to fill that ride, ECR, Ed Carpenter and King were all actually saying the right things. From correct sources, King was in the mix for a while. In fact, the relationship between King and Carpenter goes all the way back to Sonoma in 2016.
“Jordan (King) and I met at Sonoma in 2016,” said team owner and driver that King will share a ride with Ed Carpenter. “A kind of mutual acquaintance introduced us then when he was just over kind of taking a look at IndyCar and what it had to offer. We met way back then.”
But, the guy to officially seal the deal between both sides is King’s representative, Mark Blundell. The former CART driver made 81 starts with PacWest Racing in the late 1990s, scoring three victories during his tenure there. All three of those wins in CART came in 1997. The England native and King, who also is an England native, have hit it off.
Blundell represents not just King, but he also represented another countrymate in Mike Conway. See, back in 2014, Conway had the same role as King did with ECR. That produced the best season for this No. 20 entry as Conway and Carpenter combined to score three wins, five top five finishes and six top 10’s that year. That’s more than Carpenter had by himself alone in that car in the two combined seasons prior.
“I think what really moved it from there was Jordan works with Mark Blundell, who I have a history with,” Carpenter said on the relationship. “We worked with Mark when Mike Conway was part of the team and the ECR family in 2014, so that connection definitely helped speed things along and give me a high level of comfort with Jordan.”
Carpenter said the trust level he has with Blundell is what led to this deal being done.
“It’s always a little hard; I’m an American-based guy that’s really just competed here, and 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, also praised Blundell in helping him reach this point of his career.
“I think with Mark, he was very straight to the point with me,” King said. “We sat down numerous times during the season, the season in 2017, and 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. And he really just 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.”
This move isn’t a one year move though. King is hoping it’s a deal that pays off towards a future in the Verizon IndyCar Series. While Formula One was his ultimate goal, his focus has since shifted.
“That was the biggest thing was just finding someone we felt like was a quality candidate that could come in and be a good teammate to Spencer (Pigot) on the road course races when I’m not in the car and try to deliver results for our team and our partners in 2018, and obviously one of the other things that I was happy to hear when Jordan and I were speaking and getting to know each other more was that he’s looking to come over here and build a career in America. It’s not a stopgap to get back to something in Europe or to redirect a career to F1. He’s looking to make a change and come over here and be a part of this series, and I think that’s the right attitude to approach this with.”
Carpenter noted that 2018 is a perfect year to bring someone without any North American racing experience over because of the new car.
“It’s a good time for Jordan to come in just because he’s going to have a lot to learn about a new car, the car, the tracks, but with everyone now there’s going to be having a bit of a reset from how you drive to car to what the cars need from a setup standpoint. It’ll put him on a little more equal footing than if he was coming in in year where we’re all picking up where we left off the year before.”
If this sounds a lot like Alexander Rossi’s transition you’re right. In fact, Rossi and King have a history together. They were teammates in 2015.
“I suppose it was more reassurance,” King said of how Rossi quickly adapted to his transition. “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, and for me someone likes 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. I kind of trust him and believe what he’s saying, so I spoke to him quite a bit. From everything down to the car, how did the car drive, what’s it feel like, all the way through to what’s it like living in the U.S.
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?”
As far as King racing in anything other than road/street courses, Carpenter said that the team had no plans for him to do any oval races but they do have a plan to get him in a car on an oval to start developing that part of his career. While there’s not a test put in place for King to test on an oval, Carpenter said because of his focus to race full-time in the series one day that they will definitely make it happen at some point this year.