Carpenter counting on being strong out of the box at Iowa

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With only one Saturday afternoon practice session to get things right before the series of heat races that will determine the grid for Sunday’s Iowa Corn Indy 250, Ed Carpenter is hoping for a quick start to the weekend tomorrow at Iowa Speedway.

As of later, Carpenter has been hit or miss in qualifying with starts of first at Indianapolis, 22nd and 23rd at Belle Isle, ninth at Texas, and 20th last weekend at Milwaukee. But based on his Top-10 finish at Iowa last season, he expects to be solid from the get-go on the 7/8-mile short oval.

“Anybody that comes off the trailer with a good car, it’s going to be advantageous in the heat races just because there’s no other practice,” said Carpenter, who finished eighth last year at Iowa after losing a lap early on. “If you’re struggling in that first practice session, chasing that car, making changes, you only have a one-lap qualifying run to try something, which is really hard to do.

“I think it will be good for us…We have struggled in qualifying at some places.  Some of that we have answers for, others we don’t.  Some of it could be [being] a one-car team — not that we use that as an excuse for anything. If we roll off the truck – we were strong at the race at Iowa last year, had the fastest lap of the race, we passed the leader to get our lap back. I expect to come off the truck fast and be very competitive.”

Carpenter is hopeful that a good run at Iowa can lead to a strong second half of the season for his single-car operation. He deemed the first half of the season a “mixed bag” – while he isn’t fretting over his overall pace on both the ovals and the road/street circuits, he recognizes the lack of results (one Top-5 finish in nine races).

“When it comes to ovals, we’ve been strong,” he said. “Don’t have all the results that we wanted, whether it was Indy or even Milwaukee last weekend [finished 14th]. Milwaukee, especially – I didn’t do a great job. I should have been in the top 10 there. With the road and street courses, the pace has been a lot better this year, which I’ve been happy about. At the same time, same sort of story: Haven’t gotten the results we’d hoped for.

“I’m not disappointed with the season, but I feel like we have more results to give here. Luckily, we have a lot of races left to do that.”

Saturday will see the IndyCars practice from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET before undergoing single-lap qualifying at 4 p.m. ET. The three, 50-lap heat races will go off starting at 6:45 p.m. ET. For more on tomorrow’s qualifying format, click here.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.