A pair of Champ Car’s most memorable competitors took their place among racing royalty Thursday, as Paul Tracy and Adrian Fernandez were inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame.
Tracy claimed four victories at the Beach during his driving career, which ties him for second with Mario Andretti on the all-time wins list at the circuit (Al Unser Jr. leads with six). One of those victories had him and Fernandez finish first and second respectively in 2003 — and helped propel him toward that year’s series title.
“My first race in an Indy car was [at Long Beach] in 1991 with Dale Coyne and my first win was here,” Tracy said. “I was walking across the bridge and said to myself, ‘Man, where did all the time go?’ I still feel as young as ever. I want to thank all the great teams I’ve driven for, all the teammates, all the competitors that have spurred me on and the conflict that has spurred me on.”
Fernandez never won in 11 Champ Car starts at Long Beach, but nonetheless scored an American Le Mans Series P2 class win there in 2009 with fellow Mexican racer Luis Diaz. He too made his open-wheel debut (1993, with Galles Racing) at this track, and is credited as a major catalyst in increasing the Grand Prix of Long Beach’s presence amongst the Hispanic/Latino community.
“I’m humbled to accept this special gift,” said Fernandez, who earned 11 career wins (eight in Champ Car, three in IRL/IndyCar) and now works as manager for McLaren young gun Sergio Perez. “As a driver, you put forth all this effort for more than three decades and it’s been a fantastic ride. Long Beach has always been a fantastic race and a ‘home’ track. I remember coming here and seeing so many Mexican fans. It’s always been the jewel of Indy car street races.”
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.