At Bristol, Logano seeks to continue late charge

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After last week’s win at Michigan, Joey Logano is in the thick of the Wild Card battle going into tonight’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Logano is 17 points behind 10th-place Greg Biffle and just seven behind Martin Truex Jr., who currently holds the second and final Wild Card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

With only three races left in the regular season, Logano is still walking on the proverbial tightrope as one bad race spells the end of his shot to make the Chase in his first season with Penske Racing. But he’s naturally bullish about Bristol following his critical victory one week ago.

“These are three very, very important races,” said Logano on Friday at BMS. “Our goal is to get in there by points right now, whether that’s by wins or whatever.

“I think if you have two wins, you’re pretty confident you’re gonna be in it, so if we can get that [second] win, it would be huge. If not, we’ll have some points we’ve got to make up, but this team can do it. I’m very confident coming into this weekend, for sure.”

But while Logano appears to be surging at the right time, one can’t help but figure that he, as well as teammate Brad Keselowski, would have less pressure to deal with this weekend if not for the penalties they suffered following the April race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Leading up to that event, the rear-end housings and other parts from both Logano and Keselowski’s cars were confiscated in pre-race inspections.

Both drivers wound up each taking a 25-point hit in the driver’s standings for those violations, and the lost points could really be used right about now; Keselowski, unlike Logano, is in the Top 10 of the Sprint Cup standings but has no wins and is only four points ahead of Biffle.

However, Logano knows what’s done is done and even though he admits that he and his team think about the Texas penalty, he knows he has to keep pushing.

“If we didn’t have a couple of tire failures, we wouldn’t be in this position we are right now, either,” he said. “We’d be in [the Top 10] pretty good, so, yes, it is part of our season, it is one of the things that makes it interesting…The only thing you can do about it is go out there and work hard and make it up, which I feel like we can do.”

Logano will roll off sixth tonight in “Thunder Valley.”

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.