Ed Carpenter used the final green-flag run of the day to race into a Top-5 finish at Iowa Speedway, claiming fourth at the checkered flag in today’s Iowa Corn Indy 250 – his best-ever run on the IZOD IndyCar Series’ shortest oval.
He had led for 18 laps before going to pit road for his final stop on Lap 214, having gone 73 laps on that stint. A slow stop knocked the American driver back to tenth position, but he proceeded to peel off six spots in the final 36 circuits and got by Graham Rahal for fourth with two laps to go. As a sign of his late pace, he was throwing down laps during his final stint that were eight miles per hour quicker than the leaders.
Carpenter was a podium threat from the beginning, moving up to second position behind the dominant James Hinchcliffe in the early stages. But he couldn’t stay there as his No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet suffered from understeer issues. This caused him to fall into the mid-pack, but he would charge back up the pylon following a Lap 117 pit stop for front wing adjustments.
“We probably weren’t as aggressive enough early in the race on our changes,” he admitted afterwards. “But we made all of the right changes late and we were fast at the end. I think we had a car fast enough to win today. Our last green flag pit stop didn’t go as we wanted, but we came back and nearly got a podium today.
“Overall, we still got a Top-5 finish today, so it wasn’t a bad day for us.”
The fourth-place run is Carpenter’s second Top-5 finish of the season and betters his previous best at Iowa, a sixth-place result in 2007 with the old Vision Racing outfit.
We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.
And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.
After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.
In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.
Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.
“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.
“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.
“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”
Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.
“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”
Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.