It was a season of highs and lows for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2021. The highlight of the season of course came in the month of May when second year driver Rinus Veekay snagged his first career win at the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. It was the first win in IndyCar at IMS for Ed Carpenter Racing. The momentum would carry into the Indy 500 which saw Rinus Veekay become the youngest driver ever to qualify on the front row. During the 500, Conor Daly would lead the most laps in the race, Veekay would lead 32 laps and finish inside the top 10 and Ed Carpenter would charge late in the race to recover from a slow pit stop and finish in 5th.
In 2022, Rinus Veekay will continue with the team in the #21 Chevy. Ed Carpenter will switch to a different number for the Indianapolis 500 and with eleventh hour sponsorship from BitNile, Conor Daly will return for his third season with the team, this time driving full time in the #20 Chevy on a two year deal.
RINUS VEEKAY: VeeKay got off to a hot start in 2021. He brought home the win in Indy in the midst of scoring seven top 10 finishes in the first eight races. VeeKay found himself tied for 5th in the points standings after the double header weekend in Detroit. The following day VeeKay was injured in a cycling accident, suffering a broken clavicle causing him to miss the race at Road America. Rinus never returned to his early season form after the injury. Post injury, VeeKay could only salvage a best finish of 16th place at Mid-Ohio.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: VeeKay has been hot or cold at Ed Carpenter Racing. It’s hard to say how much the injury bothered him in the second half of 2021, but consistency and not over pushing the car could be areas to build on. Rinus is a mega talent, he’s shown flashes of that and we all just need to keep in mind he is barely 21 years old.
PROJECTION: Rinus continues to polish the talent we know he has. When you come in as a rookie during a pandemic season it’s not all going to be perfect. He returns for his third season with the team and with the right luck and better qualifying results, VeeKay can contend for the title. He has the talent to do so and has one of the best engineers in the paddock in Matt Barnes.
CONOR DALY: In early December it looked as if Conor Daly wouldn’t be back in IndyCar in 2022. Air Force decided to take their sponsorship dollars elsewhere, leaving the Noblesville, IN native scrambling to try and find the funding to run a partial schedule for Ed Carpenter Racing. Insert BitNile, who specializes in cryptocurrencies and innovations in the emerging field of decentralized finance, and boom, Daly is now full time for the next two seasons in the #20 for ECR.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: For the first time in his career Daly has a multi-year deal in IndyCar with the same team. He’s technically been full time the last two seasons, swapping cockpits from ECR to Carlin Racing. Knowing that he is set for two years should ease his mind and allow for better results. Finishing weekends will be key while keeping the car up front after good qualifying runs. He’s had some of the worst luck in the paddock the last two seasons. Great results early in the season could go a long way for a strong performance in the month of May.
PROJECTION: With a ride secured for the next two seasons, Daly has his best opportunity to find a rhythm over a full season and not have that rhythm disrupted by flip flopping between teams. A better qualifying effort at Indy is a must while improving his performance on road and street course should be the goal. Daly didn’t crack the top 10 last year and finished outside the Top 15 on all but one road course. With zero distractions when it comes to a contract, Daly should be fully focused on maximizing the car to go along with his talent. These two seasons will make or break his future in the sport.
ED CARPENTER: When the green flag flies on the 106th Indy 500, Ed Carpenter will be piloting a new number. When that green flag drops, he will more than likely be starting up front. Carpenter started 4th and as mentioned charged to a 5th place finish at the 500 in 2021. He has been the ultimate bridesmaid at the 500, qualifying inside the first two rows in five of the last six races. This will be Ed’s 19th Indy 500, putting him tied for 8th on the all time starters list.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Putting a full 500 miles together. To win at Indy, you have to be damn near perfect on the day. Qualifying in the first two rows again will be huge for Ed’s chances. If he can pounce on restarts and have consistently quick pit stops he will be in contention in the 500.
PROJECTION: Ed will again contend at Indianapolis and qualify up front. Can he finish the deal and win the Indy 500? I think I speak for all when I say it would be an incredibly popular win. After all, the Indy 500 has turned into an old man's race over the last twenty years, so maybe Ed’s best chances are still ahead of him.
CHAMPIONSHIP PROJECTION ODDS
RINUS VEEKAY +2200
CONOR DALY +5000
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