Carpenter tests at Sonoma, with Hunter-Reay assist

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For the second straight year, Ed Carpenter enters the new IndyCar season having had all winter to enjoy being the last race winner of the previous season.

Now, the Fontana winner was back on track for the first time this year, as part of a private testing session at Sonoma Raceway in California.

Carpenter and the Ed Carpenter Racing team opted to skip last week’s test at Sebring to concentrate on the flowing Sonoma road course, which unlike Sebring, actually has a date on the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series calendar.

“Anytime there are people testing somewhere and you’re not there you feel like you’re missing something, but we’ll get our turn this week and we’re excited about that,” Carpenter said.

It wasn’t just Carpenter who had a shot at the team’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Dallara-Chevrolet. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending IndyCar champion, had a few laps in the car on Wednesday.

An ECR team spokesman confirmed Hunter-Reay was helping Team Chevy with some developments, as part of a collaborative effort between ECR, Andretti Autosport and Team Chevy. A similar occurrence came in Fontana last December, when Marco Andretti ran the car.

Carpenter struggled in road and street course qualifying a year ago, starting from 20th or worse in the first nine street and road course races. But at Baltimore, the tenth and last of the year, Carpenter and the team adeptly nailed a good enough time in the preliminary round of qualifying to advance into the second round as others hit issues. The eighth place spot on the grid is the best of his career on such a circuit.

“We felt we were getting better with our street circuit setups and Baltimore was a good qualifying performance for us,” he said. “So getting back on the road course at Sonoma will help us work on that process.  It will feel great to be back in the race car again.”

Besides Carpenter, entries from Panther and DRR (JR Hildebrand, Oriol Servia), Dragon Racing (Sebastians Bourdais and Saavedra), KV Racing Technology (Tony Kanaan, Simona de Silvestro) and Sam Schmidt’s two cars (Tristan Vautier in No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara-Honda, Simon Pagenaud in No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Dallara-Honda) tested Wednesday.

Happy 83rd birthday to “Super Tex,” the legendary A.J. Foyt

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There’s only one A.J. Foyt.

He’s a true American treasure, a legendary race car driver and multiple champion, as well as an IndyCar team owner.

And today, Anthony Joseph Foyt celebrates his 83rd birthday.

Here’s some of the celebratory messages A.J. received via Twitter: