Michigan International Speedway to create new manufacturer’s trophy

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In an attempt to spark more of a rivalry amongst the Sprint Cup Series’ three manufacturers and to recognize the auto industry’s role in nearby Detroit and throughout its home state, Michigan International Speedway has announced the creation of a Manufacturer’s Trophy that will be officially unveiled later this summer.

The prize, which will be awarded to the winning manufacturer of every MIS Cup event starting with the Pure Michigan 400 on Aug. 18, will measure more than three feet high and weigh about 50 pounds. Multiple nods to the Motor City are featured in its expected makeup; Nike, the Greek goddess of victory and inspiration behind the hood ornaments of several automotive marques, will be perched atop an art-deco skyscraper that will evoke landmark buildings in Detroit.

“MIS is important. It’s important to all (the manufacturers),” said track president Roger Curtis. “Whether you’re headquartered here or not, Toyota has a huge presence in this state with the Tech Center and employs a lot of people there. I thought it was very important that we do something to formally recognize almost in a rivalry standpoint the significance of MIS on the schedule for these guys.”

Ford Racing director Jamie Allison appears keen to have the Blue Oval be the first to claim the yet-to-be-named Manufacturer’s Trophy this coming August. He was present at Friday’s announcement and touched upon how important it is to win at Michigan for his company, as well as for rivals Chevrolet and Toyota.

“I mean, this is a date that we all circle on our calendars beginning of every season,” Allison said. “Every racetrack is important. Every win is magnificent. Obviously, here you talk about backyards, our hometown. We circle the date. We want to show up and compete and win in front of our friends, our neighbors, our employees, the entire network of people who support our company, whether it’s executives, fans – you name it.

“It’s an extra level of pride that comes with being here in your hometown.”

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.