Rick Hendrick talks about decision to put Gordon into Chase

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Earlier today, NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick – who now has all four of his drivers in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup after the sanctioning body put in Jeff Gordon as a 13th Chase driver – declared that it was clear Gordon deserved to be in the post-season after last Saturday’s race at Richmond International Raceway.

“I didn’t have to make that decision, but I sure felt like it was obvious that [Gordon] got taken out by a manipulation instead of getting beat,” Hendrick said at Chicagoland Speedway according to Jim Litke of The Associated Press.  “I think the world knew it and they had to do what they did.”

NASCAR’s decision to add Gordon to the playoff run was the second change to its post-season field made since the events of Richmond, in which Clint Bowyer intentionally spun out with seven laps to go to try and help Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. make the Chase.

That spin proved to stop Ryan Newman from winning the race and earning a Wild Card spot in the Chase, but this past Monday, penalties levied against MWR knocked Truex out of the Chase and brought Newman in. Then on Friday, NASCAR made its unprecedented decision to add a 13th driver to the Chase – Gordon, who was also impacted negatively by Bowyer’s spin.

According to the AP, Hendrick believed the penalties will be helpful in the long run to teams and drivers in regards to knowing what they can and can’t do. NASCAR held a closed-door meeting yesterday at Chicagoland, telling team personnel that a 100 percent effort is expected from here on in.

Today, Hendrick is a bit happier than how he felt last weekend after the Richmond race.

“…I was just disgusted and left,” he said according to the AP. “I didn’t hang around. I got out of there as soon as it was over because it wouldn’t have done any good.”

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.