NASCAR’s Sprint Cup rookie-of-the-year race will have a third contender for the balance of the season. Timmy Hill, 20, will run most of the remaining races starting this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., except the remaining restrictor plate events and Martinsville in April, for Frank Stoddard’s FAS Lane Racing.
The other two rookies, Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., garnered more preseason headlines for their relationship than their on-track merits – at least until Patrick scored the pole and finished eighth in the season-opening Daytona 500. Through four races, Stenhouse ranks 11th and Patrick 28th in the Sprint Cup series standings.
Hill, while unlikely to threaten the top 20 on a regular basis, did at least manage a top-25 effort for Stoddard’s fledgling team at Kansas Speedway last October. The 22nd-place result was his best finish for Stoddard in three starts last year. Hill has also been named the rookie-of-the-year in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series in 2011.
“He’s a good young kid,” Stoddard told NASCAR.com. “He certainly wants to do it. His dad came to me last year and asked if he could get in the car a few times, so we made an arrangement and tried to work him in there, and I thought he did a really good job. He had a top-25 finish at Kansas City. He didn’t tear the car up, didn’t put a scratch on it in the races. His feedback was good. He had as good a speed as we’ve had with anybody in the car. … So I think there’s room for him to grow and get better, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
The OXYwater hydration beverage brand will sponsor the team’s No. 32 Ford. Ken Schrader (Federated Auto Parts as sponsor) will race in Martinsville with Terry Labonte at the three remaining restrictor plate races.
With minimal rookie participation in recent years, the last three Sprint Cup rookies-of-the-year are Stephen Leicht, Andy Lally and Kevin Conway. None has a ride for the 2013 season in NASCAR, and Lally has returned to his sports car roots racing Porsches for the Magnus Racing (GRAND-AM Rolex Series) and Dempsey Racing (American Le Mans Series) teams.
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.