Hulkenberg readies for his first F1 race at familiar Nurburgring

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Coming off of his first points-paying finish in over two months at Sunday’s British Grand Prix, Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg is now preparing for a challenge he has never faced: Racing a Formula One car at the Nurburgring, site of this coming weekend’s German Grand Prix.

While “The Hulk” has been part of the F1 paddock for the last four seasons – three in a race seat, one in a reserve capacity – he’s only competed in his home event when it’s been at Hockenheim, which has alternated the event yearly with Nurburgring since 2007. The last time F1 visited the latter facility came two years ago, when Hulkenberg was in a test driver role at Force India.

But Hulkenberg does have plenty of experience in other categories at Nurburgring. In fact, he was quite successful there while heading down the road to F1, winning in multiple feeder categories such as the Formula 3 Euro Series and GP2.

Obviously, those series are quite different from F1 but track knowledge is track knowledge, and it has Hulkenberg confident that he can enjoy a productive weekend on home ground.

“The Nurburgring is another traditional track with a lot of changes in altitude and good combinations, which makes it a lot of fun to drive,” he said. “Of course, the fans will play a big part and I am looking forward to taking to the track in front of a home crowd.

“Although this is my third [racing] season, I have never raced at the Nurburgring in a Formula One car, so this is a first for me. Overall, however, I know what to expect. I guess everything will be a bit faster and I might perceive things a little different, but I know the track well and I am looking forward to a nice weekend.”

With only six points overall this season – all from Hulkenberg – the Sauber team is likely hoping for that as well.

You can watch the German Grand Prix this Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m. ET on CNBC, as well as on your online and mobile devices with NBC Sports Live Extra.

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.