Firestone extends backing of IndyCar race at Texas

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Texas Motor Speedway president/general manager Eddie Gossage has confirmed that Firestone, the official tire supplier of the IZOD IndyCar Series, will remain the sponsor of the series’ summer event at TMS.

“Another great partner @FirestoneRacing announces a 3-year extension of our June @IndyCar race, the #Firestone550 ! Very proud 2 work w/ them,” Gossage tweeted earlier today.

In a statement, Firestone Racing executive director Al Speyer said that his company was thrilled to continue working with TMS through the 2015 season.

“In my opinion, the IZOD IndyCar Series at Texas Motor Speedway features some of the best racing on the planet and the Firestone brand is proud to be associated with it,” he said.

Since the 1997 season, Texas Motor Speedway has put on 24 IndyCar races, which have perennially been amongst the best-attended in the series outside of the Indianapolis 500. But the track’s presence on the open-wheel circuit was put into danger following the death of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — which features similar characteristics to TMS’ 1.5-mile, high-banked oval.

A palpable sense of anxiety amongst the drivers surrounded last June’s race at TMS, which was the first on a high-banked oval for IndyCar since the Wheldon tragedy. But a new aerodynamic package that put more control in the drivers’ hands helped break up the previous form of pack racing and the ensuing race was a bonafide barn-burner that saw Justin Wilson take the checkered flag in dramatic fashion:

That outing may have saved TMS’ open-wheel legacy, as toward the end of last summer, it was announced that the IndyCars would return to Fort Worth in 2013.

Now, with Firestone’s extension, it appears the IndyCar faithful will get to enjoy “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race” for a few more seasons.

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.