Kyle Busch overcomes penalty to win NNS at Phoenix

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Despite suffering a pit road speeding penalty in the early going, pole sitter Kyle Busch raced back up to the front and took the checkered flag in today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix.

En route to his 52nd career NNS victory (tops all-time in NASCAR’s No. 2 series), “Rowdy” also became the NNS’ all-time lap leader on Saturday. His 142 laps led brings his grand total in the series to 11,135 circuits paced.

Busch was leading the way up to a caution for a Dexter Stacey spin on Lap 39, and was hit with the penalty one lap later. That knocked him back to 22nd on the subsequent restart, but Busch charged up the pylon until he re-took the point on Lap 89.

Busch went on to beat Brad Keselowski to the stripe by almost two seconds, with third place going to Justin Allgaier, and Trevor Bayne and Elliott Sadler rounding out the top five.

It was Busch’s first NNS victory since September of 2011 at Richmond’s 3/4-mile bullring.

“I was almost nervous, feeling like it was my first win, although it’s win No. 52 in the series,” he said. “It’s nice to be back.”

He’ll now shift his attention to Sunday’s main event for the Sprint Cup Series on the Phoenix mile. Busch was second-fastest in final Sprint Cup practice on Saturday afternoon and will start fourth for the Subway Fresh Fit 500k (Sun., 3 pm ET).

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.