Biffle: Chase for Sprint Cup not yet “a three-man race”

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One weekend after jumping six positions to fifth in the championship, Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle is telling those that have dubbed the Chase for the Sprint Cup as a three-man race between Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson to hold their horses.

Kenseth and Busch have finished 1-2 in the Chase’s first two events at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, while Johnson has started the post-season with a pair of Top-5 finishes.

As a result, the trio have some breathing room between themselves and the other 10 Chasers; Kenseth, Busch and Johnson are separated by 18 points, with fourth-place Carl Edwards and Biffle farther back at 36 and 38 points behind Kenseth, respectively.

But with eight races still to come, a lot can change in the title picture.

“It’s somebody’s opinion and everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but I can’t imagine with eight races to go that somebody would be willing to say, ‘Oh, this is a three-man race,'” Biffle said Friday at Dover International Speedway.

“Take for instance last week – we finished third and moved up six spots in the points to fifth. I don’t know how one would say it’s a three-man race. Now, if Kenseth goes on and wins the title does that mean it’s a three-man race or does that mean it’s a one-man race? I don’t know.

“I just think there are more than three cars in this thing right now.”

Lest anyone think Biffle is simply venting about not getting enough ink in the papers as his title rivals are, the Washington native also said that wasn’t the case.

“Am I surprised they’re not talking about Carl? A little bit. Am I surprised they’re not talking about [my team]? Not really because we tend to slide a little bit under the radar all the time anyway, so it doesn’t bother me,” he said.

“It gives you motivation to do well and compete every week and try to get what you can. Like I always said before, if you’re winning races or you win the championship, they have to talk about you so put yourself in that position – put yourself in the position Matt is and they’re gonna be talking about you.”

Biffle will start 19th in Sunday’s AAA 400 at the “Monster Mile.” With no Top-10 finishes in his last six starts at Dover, he’ll be looking to get back on form there this weekend.

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.