Walker: Focus on speed for ECR year two

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Ed Carpenter Racing ended 2012 on a high, as owner/driver Ed Carpenter posted his best ever road or street course qualifying result in Baltimore, then won the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

For year two of the program, Carpenter seeks increased speed to go along with his reliability that was a good part of 2012. He finished 14 of 15 races, Baltimore incidentally the only exception as he contacted the wall.

Team manager Derrick Walker expanded on what team and driver need to do in the group’s second year.

“We sat down at the end of the season and asked where we should focus our resources and all of our energy to be more successful in 2013,” Walker said. “The team has executed that flawlessly in the winter, and we are anxious to see that focus show up at the race track. I think we have done a good job of maximizing our human resources and our intelligence over the winter.”

Carpenter’s innate strength has always been on the ovals. Walker noted how Carpenter was close to wins in both 500-mile oval races – Carpenter ran in the top three late at the Indianapolis 500 before a spin – and has another full year of road and street course racing under his belt.

“The focus now has all been about speed,” Walker said. “I think he has come a long way in that area.  We worked with Vision Racing a while back and he has improved quite bit from those days. We have a former driver, Lee Bentham, a former Atlantic champion, who helps us. Lee is very good as a spotter and he assisted Ed in certain areas.  Ed has benefited from just hard work and the feedback he receives from Lee. Road circuits are not our stronger suit right now. But we are improving.”

Not only has Bentham aided Carpenter’s road and street course development, but ECR also has worked in partnership with Andretti Autosport this offseason. Ryan Hunter-Reay drove Carpenter’s car for a few laps at a test in Sonoma at the end of February.

INDYCAR: Honda Indy GP of Alabama postponed until Monday due to rain

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After two red-flag race stoppages due to rain, hydroplaning and several on-track incidents, Sunday’s INDYCAR Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama has been postponed until Monday.

The race will resume at 11:30 a.m. ET at the 2.3-mile permanent road course of Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. The race was stopped at Lap 22 Sunday afternoon. It had originally been scheduled for 90 laps, then was cut to two hours, and efforts had been made to hopefully get at least one full hour of racing in.

All of those efforts failed due to Mother Nature. It’s expected that the race will resume somewhere around Lap 25 on Monday after two pace laps.

However, there’s more bad news: Rain is also in the forecast for Monday in the Birmingham area.

Josef Newgarden, who is the defending winner, also started the race after capturing the pole during qualifying on Saturday.

Newgarden is scored as the race leader, followed by St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe, Zach Veach, Robert Wickens, Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon and Ed Jones.

Restarting eleventh though 20th on Monday will be Jordan King, Spencer Pigot, Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Max Chilton, Rene Binder, Matheus Leist, Gabby Chaves and Tony Kanaan.

Rounding out the rest of the field are Zachary Claman DeMelo, Will Power and Charlie Kimball.

INCIDENTS:

* The race began under rain and it never stopped. Marco Andretti experienced the first incident when he spun into the grass on the last turn on Lap 3 but was able to get back underway.

* Rookie Matheus Leist had difficulty getting started, missed the pace laps and didn’t get onto the track until just before the green flag dropped.

* Gabby Chaves had to pit just nine laps into the race because his helmet visor was fogging up. He also took fuel at the time.

* Charlie Kimball spun in the final turn and made contact with the fence, causing suspension damage. It brought out a full-course yellow caution and Kimball had to be towed to the pits.

Kimball told NBCSN that Ed Jones got into the back of his car and forced him into grass and wall.

“I was just going through the corner and he ran into the back of me, and apparently the (race) stewards reviewed it and no action taken,” Kimball said of Jones. “I vehemently disagree with that.

“When you’re driving a race, especially in the wet, you have to be conscious of what the other cars are. Yeah, it’s hard to see, but at the same time that’s just a dumb move. He’s not a rookie anymore. He needs to not be making rookie mistakes like that.”

* On the restart on Lap 17, Josef Newgarden spun but was able to regain control. Not so lucky was his Penske Racing teammate, Will Power, who spun and hit the inside retaining wall, ending his day.

“I couldn’t see a thing,” Power said. “It was just hydroplaning out of control. I just can’t believe they went green on that, how bad it was and so much standing water.

“Very disappointing, but to me, very dangerous. I kept telling Roger (Penske), ‘I can’t see a thing ahead of me.’ It’s the last thing we needed. Very disappointing.”

* The race was stopped under red flag conditions on Lap 19 because there was so much puddling on the track.

* During the 37-minute red flag stoppage, Graham Rahal gave his perspective on how bad the conditions were to NBCSN:

“I’ve raced a long time and the lack of visibility today is the worst I’ve ever seen, by far,” Rahal said. “The underwing on this new car is pretty powerful and it’s just throwing water absolutely everywhere.

“We just have to figure it out. It’s not ideal right now, we need to get some of this flooding out of here, but so far I think the Firestone rain tires have done a good job and the car seems to be happy. You just have to keep it safe. I’m not kidding you: on the front straight, I can’t see my own nose cone.”

* Zachary Claman DeMelo was assessed a two-lap penalty for unapproved repairs on his car during the red-flag stoppage.

* During caution on Lap 23, Tony Kanaan had an issue getting up a hill, slipping his tires, potentially with his gearbox. After stopping, he finally got going and took his car to the pits for service.

* Ditto for Graham Rahal, who also lost a couple of positions when he spun before what was supposed to be the restart, only to see the red flag come out for a second time.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The start of the race was moved up a half-hour from its originally scheduled start time of 3:38 p.m. ET.

* Actor Channing Tatum was grand marshal and gave the command to start engines.

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