Harvick comes out on top of G-W-C finish at Richmond

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A shocking decision to pit for fresh tires with four laps to go proved to be the right one for Kevin Harvick, who charged from seventh to the Toyota Owners 400 win in a green-white-checkered finish at Richmond International Raceway.

With six laps remaining in the race, Juan Pablo Montoya was on the verge of claiming his first victory since Watkins Glen in 2010 until Brian Vickers found the wall to bring out the caution. With the race going into G-W-C, both Montoya and second-place Harvick elected to go to pit road for fresh tires to use in the frenetic finish; they would line up sixth and seventh respectively behind Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, A.J. Allmendinger, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart when the final restart began.

But that didn’t stop Harvick from cutting through the traffic ahead of him and making the race-winning pass on his teammate Burton (who was on older tires) with one and a half laps remaining.

“Sprint Cup racing is something where you have to take chances, and the guys that stayed out took chances, and we had to take chances,” Harvick told Fox Sports of the call to get new Goodyears with four to go. “We’ve been beat by tires a couple of times this year and I thought it was the right thing to do. [Crew chief] Gil [Martin] did the right call and it all worked out.”

Clint Bowyer led 113 laps on the night, but wound up settling for a runner-up finish ahead of Joey Logano, Montoya and Burton. Edwards, pole sitter Matt Kenseth, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the Top 10.

The close racing at the end triggered a spat between Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart, who drove down pit road practically connected to each other after the checkered flag. The two drivers then continued their disagreement in the hauler area, where TV cameras caught them having it out verbally before walking away.

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.