Star turn by James Davison in his second start for Coyne

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Late-season one-off opportunities provide a chance for new talent to emerge, and Australian James Davison did everything he could to maximize his chance in his second straight IZOD IndyCar Series start for Dale Coyne Racing.

Davison had an engine change prior to the race which dropped the No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda from 21st to 25th and last on the grid.

But from there, by a mix of avoiding the carnage in front of him, some great passes and solid pit stops from the crew, Davison made it into the top 10 for most of the second half of the race, running as high as sixth or seventh.

Contact with old Indy Lights sparring partners Charlie Kimball, and later, Sebastian Saavedra, halted Davison’s chances of securing his first top-10 finish. He was classified an unrepresentative 18th by the checkered flag.

“Absolutely shattered. Drove my (expletive) off & pulled some mega lunges to come from 25th to 10th and got chopped with 2 laps to go. Way it goes..” Davison tweeted. “Thank you everyone for your messages, mean a lot. Not sure when my next race is but I’ll be back. @IndyCar is my home.”

It’s easy to forget but Davison finished second in the Indy Lights standings in 2009, behind only JR Hildebrand and ahead of more than half a dozen drivers who went onto make their IndyCar debuts before Davison did.

After a four-year layoff from open-wheel racing, these have been two highly impressive drives from “Davo” that should turn heads and make team owners aware of his ability level. Stefan Wilson takes over the No. 18 at Baltimore for his IndyCar debut, in what will be a newly liveried car with sponsorship from Nirvana Tea.

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.