INDIANAPOLIS – If you’re scratching your head and puzzled on how two drivers without any North American racing experience landed part-time rides in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018, you’re not alone. On Thursday, Jordan King was announced that he’d fill the part-time role with Ed Carpenter Racing in splitting time with owner Ed Carpenter in the No. 20 Chevrolet. King, will contest on all road/street events in 2018.
Then, on Friday, Juncos Racing added Rene Binder to their fleet as the Austrian will make four starts with the new team in the upcoming season. Binder, will make all four of his scheduled starts on road/street courses, debuting in the season opener at St. Pete in March and also racing at Barber, Toronto and Mid-Ohio.
But, how are two drivers virtually unheard of here in the United States landing rides in the toughest series in the world. There’s no doubt, competing in the Verizon IndyCar Series is as difficult as any series in the world. The gap from first to last is normally less than a second. The margin of error is slim to none. These drivers are by far better in INDYCAR than any other. They compete on ovals, large and short, street courses and natural road courses.
Still, the gap is minimal.
So, in the season opener, drivers with no experience here like King and Binder will have rides while there’s a possibility of talented drivers like Conor Daly, Carlos Munoz, JR Hildebrand, Sage Karam, etc that will be on the sidelines.
The reason though?
The new car.
Don’t believe me? Just listen to what the team owners are saying.
“The timing is right for a talented driver like Rene (Binder) to join, as everyone will be starting over with the new INDYCAR aero kits,” said Ricardo Juncos, owner of Juncos Racing. “I want to thank Rene for choosing Juncos Racing for his INDYCAR debut, along with his sponsors and family for this opportunity.”
Ed Carpenter said virtually the same thing 24 hours earlier about his new driver.
“It’s a good time for Jordan (King) 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,” Carpenter said, owner of Ed Carpenter Racing. “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.”
What they’re saying is not wrong either.
Everyone is saying that this new car is going to race so much differently than the last one. With majority of the drivers left that currently don’t have rides, all they know was the old DW12. Even the veterans that were around prior to 2012, they’re going to be hitting the reset button themselves. If there was ever a time to hire an inexperienced yet talented driver to race in the top series in the world as far as competition goes, this is it. Everyone is on the same level playing field in 2018. No one has any more information or feel of the new car than the others. It’s the same learning curve for literally every driver. Whoever learns it quicker and adapts their driving style will have the quickest results.
Who’s to say King or Binder won’t have a better feel for the new car than anyone else?
While I say it’s a farce that Daly, Karam, Munoz and others don’t have rides, this is the time for new drivers to see what they can do too.