Rare Franchitti-RHR-Power top three in IndyCar qualifying (VIDEO)

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As Dario Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power are generally regarded as three of IndyCar’s best, you’d think the three of them would lock out the top three in qualifying more frequently.

It didn’t happen once in 2012. The closest situation came in Brazil a year ago when Power qualified on pole, Franchitti second and Hunter-Reay fifth.

Power – who has now qualified first, second and third in the first three races of 2013 – felt miffed at missing one potential last flier in Long Beach qualifying.

“We got caught out there at the end,” said Power. “Tim (Cindric) came over the radio and said that you’re barely going to make one more lap. I thought he meant fuel, not time, but it was time. So I got to the start of my last lap, and it was the checkered flag.”

Franchitti, who makes his 250th start this weekend, praised the depth of the entire field, not just his two closest rivals in qualifying.

“The depth of the field right now is as good as I’ve ever seen it, and I was lucky enough, as Helio was, to race in the late ’90s against some of the best ever and it’s bloody hard work,” said Franchitti.

“You have to absolutely risk everything to get that last little bit out of the car,” added Hunter-Reay. “It’s that close. It’s enjoyable though. It’s fun. Stressful, for sure.”

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.