What to watch for: IndyCar at Sao Paulo

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Land of opportunity

Sao Paulo’s multiple passing zones mean that a major climb from the back of the grid can be pulled off. The changes to Turns 1 and 2 included the addition of 10 extra feet at Turn 2 for the drivers to work with, but the key opportunities remain the right-hander at Turn 5 and the Turn 11 hairpin that follows the longest straightaway of any street course in the world (nearly one mile long).

A different Samba

That aforementioned Turn 1-2 complex is known as the S of Samba, which also saw its curbs lowered as part of its modifications from track builder NZR Consulting. It’s a faster and wider section now, but as we’ve seen this weekend, it’s no less tricky as guys like Simon Pagenaud, Tristan Vautier and Tony Kanaan have all been involved in incidents at that part of the course. Could we see more of them there today?

Kanaan fights on

Despite dealing with torn ligaments in his right hand, Tony Kanaan has shown his trademark perseverance this weekend in Sao Paulo. Hitting a tire barrier at the S of Samba in Saturday practice didn’t keep him from cracking the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying later on. He’ll lead the Brazilian drivers into battle today from fourth starting position (Ana Beatriz starts 16th, Helio Castroneves from 18th), and there’s no doubt that a win from TK would set off a raucous celebration in the stands at Anhembi Park.

Is this Viso’s time?

The days of regarding Venezuelan driver E.J. Viso as an also-ran may be coming to an end. He has shown to be more competitive in his first campaign for Andretti Autosport, and on Saturday, he broke through in qualifying with a second-place result (his best ever start in the IZOD IndyCar Series). Things seem to be coming together for him and while he’s always been confident that he could succeed with good resources, those that didn’t have the same sentiments are starting to take notice now.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Sao Paulo Indy 300
Starting Grid

Row 1
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay
5-EJ Viso

Row 2
10-Dario Franchitti
11-Tony Kanaan

Row 3
27-James Hinchcliffe
9-Scott Dixon

Row 4
7 -Sebastien Bourdais
78-Simona de Silvestro

Row 5
19-Justin Wilson
25-Marco Andretti

Row 6
4-JR Hildebrand
14-Takuma Sato

Row 7
22-Oriol Servia
20-Ed Carpenter

Row 8
98-Alex Tagliani
18-Ana Beatriz

Row 9
83-Charlie Kimball
3-Helio Castroneves

Row 10
15-Graham Rahal
6-Sebastian Saavedra

Row 11
55-Tristan Vautier
12-Will Power

Row 12
77-Simon Pagenaud
16-James Jakes

Row 13
67-Josef Newgarden

Watch today’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 online and on your mobile device.

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.