Michael Andretti already thinking about home win at Pocono

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The IZOD IndyCar Series won’t make its inaugural visit to the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway until July, but that’s not stopping IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti from thinking about settling unfinished business at the “Tricky Triangle.”

“That’s one race I never won,” he told Chuck Curley of the Evening Sun of Hanover, Pennsylvania late last week. “It really ticks me off, to be honest with you. I should have won a couple of times, but I just had bad luck.”

The son of Mario made six starts at Pocono in his driving career, but was unable to take the checkered flag at the Pennsylvania oval. However, he’ll have four chances to finally earn a Pocono win this summer through his Andretti Autosport driving roster of reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti and E.J. Viso.

With the quirky mile at Nazareth Speedway now returning to the Earth, Pocono represents the new home turf for the Andrettis — and as any athlete will tell you, there’s nothing better than a big win at home.

As for his team’s expansion to a four-car program with the addition of Viso, Andretti is hopeful that the move will pay off.

“I think, also adding E.J., we’re going to have another shot at winning races,” he also said to the Evening Sun. “He’s a guy that’s ready to break out. He’s shown he can be very quick, but hopefully in the right situation, he can really show what he has. We’re going to give him that.”

Last October’s announcement of the Pocono round was met with largely positive response and will revive the track’s past links to open-wheel racing. Pocono hosted USAC and CART events from 1971 to 1989, with winners in that run including legends such as A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Al Unser Sr., Mark Donahue and Johnny Rutherford.

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.