Shank’s team takes second huge hit in as many Rolex races (VIDEO)

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Ex-Indy Lights driver Gustavo Yacaman has made a name for himself in the last two GRAND-AM Rolex Series races, albeit I’m guessing not in the manner he or his team would like.

Two weeks ago in Detroit, Yacaman attempted a pass on Memo Rojas’ No. 01 Cessna-sponsored Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley at Turn 4. Yacaman released off wide and pushed Rojas into the concrete barrier, which sent him then careening back across the track into the path of John Pew – Yacaman’s teammate at Michael Shank Racing.

The damaged No. 60 MSR Ford Riley was sent to Riley Technologies for repairs, and made it back to the track in time for this weekend’s race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Yacaman was placed on probation for the Detroit contact.

But as fate would have it, Yacaman and Rojas would be at it again in the early stages. Yacaman made a move to Rojas’ inside at Turn 6 at Mid-Ohio, a right-hander that leads into the Esses.

Rojas ran wide as Yacaman made it through, but mere moments later he slid off the road into the gravel, then returned to the track with his No. 6 Ford Riley on fire. Yacaman parked the car just left of the racing line and near a concrete barrier.

It has left Shank another mountain to climb in the two weeks before the team’s next race, the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen at Watkins Glen International, on June 29. But as the team owner has tweeted (@MichaelShankRac) on Monday, repairs are already underway, and don’t rule out a return for that race.

The repaired, rebuilt No. 60 Roberts Electrical Construction Co. Ford Riley finished fourth in the hands of Pew and returning co-driver Ozz Negri. Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi won the race overall.

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.