Jordan King was at a crossroads in his racing career.
The Brit had spent two years as a development driver for the now-defunct Manor Racing Team in Formula One and the last three seasons competing in FIA Formula 2 (formerly known as GP2 Series).
When exploring possibilities of where to race for 2018, King sought advice from Mark Blundell, a fellow Brit, former F1 driver and three-time Indy car race winner who counts King among his driver management clients. Ultimately, it led to the Verizon IndyCar Series, where King will pilot the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing on the road and street courses this season.
“I think with Mark, he was very straight to the point with me,” King said Thursday on a media teleconference after being named by ECR to drive the car for the 11 non-oval races on the schedule. Team owner/driver Carpenter will continue in the car on the ovals.
King paid attention to Blundell’s advice, coming from someone who left European racing and thrived in Indy cars.
“We sat down numerous times during the season in 2017 and talking about my next options for the following year,” King said of Blundell. “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.”
King also relied on advice from Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi, who teamed with King at Racing Engineering during their time in F2 in 2015 before making his own successful transition to INDYCAR. (They are shown in the photo above from that season.)
Now primed to enter the series in a “reset” year with the debut of the universal aero kit headlining preparations for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March, the new territory has King keeping an open mind for his rookie campaign. ECR has three road-course tests tentatively scheduled in February for King and Pigot to become acclimated.
“For the season, I'd like to keep myself a little bit more open,” said King, 23. “I don't want to put blinkers on myself straightaway before I've got in the car. I want to be like a sponge, absorb everything I can, try everything I can and certainly, if I can win races, perfect.
“But it's very much going to be a learning year for me, and the longer goal is to become a full-time INDYCAR driver and work towards greater things in the future. For me, it's really just being a sponge next year and having the best success I can have in my rookie year.”
A champion in British Formula 3 in 2013, King is slated to be one of 12 drivers to make an INDYCAR start in 2018 who have competed at least one race in the junior formula category. The others are four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais, three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves, 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, reigning Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, Max Chilton, Jack Harvey, Ed Jones, Charlie Kimball, Matheus Leist, Robert Wickens and Stefan Wilson.
Ed Carpenter Racing has enjoyed success with another Brit and Blundell client, Mike Conway. Also running on only the road and street courses at ECR, Conway collected two wins in 2014.
Carpenter looks to rekindle similar success with his newest driver. King and Carpenter will share the No. 20 Chevy alongside Spencer Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion, who will be competing in his first full-time stint in the Verizon IndyCar Series in the sister No. 21 entry.
“Obviously as a team, we have expectations to win races,” Carpenter said on the teleconference. “We under-performed in that regard last year. But at the same time, I think we have to be realistic with Jordan. I think we'll all have a better idea and be able to set some goals for himself and us as a team as we get further into this process of working together and with the new car.
“But I always have an expectation of winning races, and from my viewpoint, Jordan wouldn't be a part of the team if we didn't feel like he was the caliber driver to be able to make that happen.”