Keselowski: “We still control our own destiny”

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Brad Keselowski figures he doesn’t have to win one of the last two regular season races in order to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But, of course, a victory remains the top priority for the reigning series champion.

“One win would feel pretty damn good [but] it still wouldn’t lock us in,” he said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “I think that we’re going here with a ‘win the race’ mentality, but the next two weeks – do we have to win to make it in? No. We still control our own destiny.

“We might be sitting 11th in points, but essentially if we put up two strong finishes, that will be a moot point and that’s kind of how I’m looking at it from that perspective.”

Keselowski sits four points out of the Top 10 going into Sunday’s Advocare 500, but has been strong lately at Atlanta with finishes of third and sixth in his last two outings there.

Additionally, recent tests at AMS as well as Richmond International Raceway – which will host the final race before the Chase next Saturday night – has him confident that he can put himself into the post-season.

Doing that may have been easier had he (as well as Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano) not lost 25 driver points after some of his equipment was confiscated by NASCAR before April’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

But instead of fretting over the possibility of becoming the first defending Cup champion since 2005 titleholder Tony Stewart to not make the Chase the following year, he sees a “tremendous opportunity” to prove his and his team’s mettle.

“Our back is against the wall,” he said. “But these are the times where great teams step up and they make something happen and where great drivers step up and they make a play.”

“That’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m looking forward to that opportunity to prove what we’re worth and what we’re made of.”

Keselowski will start 23rd on Sunday night.

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.