Newgarden improving, and is subject of latest INDYCAR 36 on NBCSN

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Josef Newgarden’s second season in the IZOD IndyCar Series has featured better results, but both he and the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team are determined to find even more improvements.

The Tennessee native has the first three top-10 finishes of his career banked, with a best of fifth in Brazil. Still, as he admitted in an interview Thursday, he still has some way to go.

“This year hasn’t been stellar but has been significantly better on a lot of fronts,” he said. “We’re securing results better and making fewer mistakes all around compared to last year. We have done a great job on strategy and results. But within myself, there’s still stuff to work on. I need to elevate our qualifying. At least now I’ve learned how to run a full race and put myself in position for the best possible result.”

Going into Texas, Newgarden doesn’t have the backdrop of the old Dallara chassis for reference, and has enjoyed the way this car races here with reduced downforce and tires falling off over the course of a stint.

“I loved watching the old races at Texas, but I also like the minimal downforce running we’re doing now,” he said. “Fontana last year was fun to be a part of. We weren’t in the mix there because of an electrical issue, but we were pace-wise. I thought the cars were a lot of fun to drive there.”

Newgarden’s quirky persona and social media savvy – along with, you know, racing – will be highlighted in the next episode of INDYCAR 36, which airs at midnight ET June 8 on the NBC Sports Network, produced by IMS Productions. Newgarden drove the No. 21 Century 21 Honda at Indianapolis and is now back in his normal No. 67 for the SFHR team.

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.