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.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”