Hulman-George family told to keep IndyCar, IMS

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According to the Associated Press, the Boston Consulting Group has suggested that the Hulman-George family retain possession of both IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

BCG was hired following the end of the 2012 IndyCar season to assess the series and the legendary race track, and to offer ideas on how to strengthen them in the years ahead. Per the AP, suggestions from the group — which the family is under no obligation to follow — range from a 15-race IndyCar schedule over 19 weeks to a three-race playoff with a season finale on the IMS road course.

Also in the report were ideas from focus groups on how IndyCar could distinguish itself from other series — particularly NASCAR, which has fallen from its lofty heights in the early to mid-2000s but still remains America’s most popular form of racing by a considerable margin.

“Focus groups suggested that marketing strategies should be geared to ‘positioning IndyCar as having the most skilled, daredevil drivers and not theatrical off-track personalities,'” the AP’s Jenna Fryer wrote. “They indicated they valued fast cars over science and engineering; winning over points challenges; suspense through lead changes over entertainment through crashes; and the diversity of track types rather than ovals.”

Fryer also wrote that BCG called IndyCar “the best pure racing motorsports league in the U.S….but the series suffers from lack of awareness.”

As for the Brickyard itself,  BCG has suggested more use of the facility (only 21 of the 132 days the track was used in 2012 were for “major-revenue generating events”) and a reworking of its ticket price tiers.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.