Sunoco, Turbo on board Tony Kanaan’s car for four races

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It’s taken until June for Tony Kanaan’s No. 11 KV Racing Technology-SH Chevrolet to find sponsorship for all remaining races, but the last one is a big one.

The team announced Wednesday that Sunoco and “Turbo,” the upcoming DreamWorks Animation film about a snail’s quest to race in the Indianapolis 500, will serve as primary sponsors of Kanaan’s car at the Texas, Iowa, Pocono and Mid-Ohio races.

“We are thrilled with our partnership,” said Cynthia Archer, Sunoco’s vp of marketing development. “Teaming up with DreamWorks Animation and 2013 Indianapolis 500 champ Tony Kanaan is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It gives us a great platform to create excitement for our annual Free Fuel 5000 promotion and the TURBO movie.”

Kanaan couldn’t contain his excitement during a teleconference Wednesday, noting how the movie is targeted toward a younger demographic.

“My kid is the most excited kid right now,” he said of his son Leo. “He’s familiar with the Turbo movie. That for me is big. As you knew we were struggling and Sunoco and Turbo picked up the races that were left! I’m very excited about that.”

It’s a great fit for both parties; Sunoco’s history in IndyCar dates to 1968, and won the first IndyCar race at Pocono in 1971 with Mark Donohue. Donohue led 126 of 200 laps for Roger Penske in that race. IndyCar returns to Pocono this year, for the first time since 1989.

At the Indianapolis 500, the Sunoco/”Turbo” colors ran on Townsend Bell’s No. 60 Panther Racing Chevrolet.

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.