Could Roger Penske be close to running a Porsche LMP1?

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Potentially, the most successful owner in IndyCar may be branching out his empire once again.

Roger Penske has said before – most recently on a 2012 appearance on SPEED’s “Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain” (linked here, go to the 3:50 mark) – that the only major “first” thing left on his to-do list is to go to Le Mans and win the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Sports car racing insider Mike Fuller, whose Mulsanne’s Corner blog site is one of the most detailed when it comes to technical regulations and explanations of the sports car world, posted a tweet Wednesday that would seem to add fuel to the fire.

This follows a post on DailySportsCar from Graham Goodwin and Gary Horrocks a couple weeks ago that provided an update on a rumored P1 breakaway series, which may or may not materialize for 2014.

The reason that rumor ignited is because the P1 class has been eliminated from the merged United SportsCar Racing championship for 2014, and the P1 teams from the American Le Mans Series have to make alternative plans to either move down a class (the P2/Daytona Prototype/DeltaWing combined “P” class in USCR) or switch to the FIA World Endurance Championship, which still features P1 as the top class.

Now, if you’re not confused at this point, good on you. Here’s essentially what all the above copy means for the Penske file.

Penske last competed in sports car racing in 2009 with a Riley Porsche DP in GRAND-AM’s Rolex Series, after completing a three-year stint with the Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 chassis in the American Le Mans Series.

The sports car crew used in 2009 in GRAND-AM eventually moved over to Penske’s IndyCar program, which ran Will Power in a third car part-time in 2009 before the Australian was promoted to a third full-time car in 2010. This year, keep in mind, Penske has scaled back from a three-car to a two-car full-time IndyCar program, with a third for AJ Allmendinger at selected races.

Penske and Porsche have always been inextricably linked from a sports car standpoint. The only place Porsche’s new LMP1 contender is eligible to race, at the moment, is in the WEC, with Le Mans as the centerpiece of the schedule.

We’re not saying this is going to happen, but having two sports car insiders link the two together means this is something that is definitely simmering. The question now is if or when it will come to a full boil.

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.