Will Power is still leading the way in Sao Paulo after leading the last practice session before this afternoon’s qualifying session. The Australian turned in a lap of 1 minute, 20.9264 seconds to lead the session for Team Penske, narrowly beating the best from Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay (1 minute, 21.0022 seconds) and E.J. Viso (1 minute, 21.2222 seconds).
Scott Dixon was fourth-quickest for Target Chip Ganassi Racing at 1 minute, 21.2826 seconds, while Sao Paulo’s own Helio Castroneves was fifth in the session (1 minute, 21.2994). Dario Franchitti, James Hinchcliffe, Simona de Silvestro, Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan rounded out the Top 10.
Multiple red flag periods gave a choppy feel to the second session. Among the incidents were those of Tristan Vautier, who sustained front-wing damage in an incident at Turn 5, and Kanaan, who appeared to lock up briefly before plowing through a tire barrier at Turn 2 with the right front of his machine (he eventually returned later in the session). Simon Pagenaud also ran into more issues after crashing in this morning’s first practice, as he came to a stop on the Sambadromo front stretch shortly after coming back out in his repaired Honda.
Qualifying for tomorrow’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 will go off today at 1:35 p.m. ET, with NBC Sports Network airing the session Sunday morning at 1 a.m. ET. Here are the two groups for qualifying, set by the times from the first practice:
78-Simona de Silvestro
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.