STP 400 pole sitter and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth may well be the man to beat on Sunday at Kansas Speedway after pacing final practice for the event with a lap of 188.712 miles per hour. Kenseth set a new track record on Friday, besting Carl Edwards late for P1 with a lap at 191.864 mph around the 1.5-mile oval.
Richard Petty Motorsports’ Aric Almirola (starting sixth) was second-fastest in “Happy Hour” at 188.554 mph, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (starting 19th) in third (188.541), Kurt Busch of Furniture Row Racing (starting 13th) in fourth (188.508), and Kasey Kahne of Hendrick Motorsports (starting 27th) in fifth (188.495).
Meanwhile, the Penske Racing duo of Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano continued to hunt for speed one week after their teams were nailed with suspensions and fines after having parts confiscated from their cars at Texas Motor Speedway. Both men qualified outside the Top 20 (Logano in 22nd, Keselowski in 33rd) and in “Happy Hour,” Keselowski and Logano could only muster the 26th and 32nd-fastest laps respectively.
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.