Crew cleans up Fontana car (Ed Carpenter Racing)

Resilient Carpenter team cleans up car, heads for Houston

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A trailer fire returning from last week’s IndyCar test at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. didn’t defeat Ed Carpenter Racing. Instead, they overcame the adversity that hit them.

Roughly 20 miles west of Flagstaff, Ariz., a rear trailer brake caught fire and all equipment on board was barely saved from going entirely up in flames. As they were outside town, ECR team manager Tim Broyles estimated it took 19 minutes for the fire department to show up, and had it been 10 minutes later, it would have been a total loss.

“We found out about the fire at 4:45 a.m. CDT when we landed in Chicago after the Fontana test,” Broyles explained in a team release. “When we got the first call, the trailer was still on fire. The truck and trailer were quite a ways out of town. So we were very fortunate that we didn’t have a lot more damage than we did.”

The team’s Fontana car received some smoke damage so needed to be repainted and rebuilt. Ed Carpenter said the team has taken just one No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet to Houston for this weekend’s doubleheader.

Support has come from up and down the IndyCar paddock, notably Andretti Autosport, whose truck stopped to help take some of the ECR equipment back to base in Indianapolis. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, which has been sidelined from IndyCar competition since the Indianapolis 500, will provide the trailer, fueling rig, golf cart and a few other items in Houston, according to Broyles.

“It has been a tough week for the ECR/Fuzzy Vodka team, to say the least,” said Carpenter, the defending Fontana race winner. “The trailer fire in Arizona last Wednesday made everything a real scramble to get ready for the Houston race. But I’m so proud of this team and how they came together to get things cleaned up and prepared. Luckily, we were able to salvage a lot of things from the fire. It was a massive cleanup operation for the guys as well as they having to prepare the Houston race car.”

Hamilton: McLaren could help create four-team F1 title fight in 2018

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Lewis Hamilton says the Mercedes Formula 1 team cannot afford to let up in its push to improve ahead of a fiercer fight at the front of the field in 2018 – potentially including former team McLaren.

Hamilton clinched his fourth F1 drivers’ title in Mexico at the end of October as Mercedes continued its perfect record of championships since the introduction of the new V6 turbo hybrid engines in 2014.

The team faced a stiffer challenge in 2017 thanks to a resurgent Ferrari, while Red Bull also posed a threat towards the end of the season, setting the stage for another close fight next year.

Hamilton is expecting both Ferrari and Red Bull to remain a force at the front of the pack, but also feels McLaren could join the fight after ditching Honda in favor of a Renault engine supply for 2018.

“When I’m training and preparing for a new season, I firmly believe that we can be contenders for the next championship. It may turn out to be not possible, but you have to have that mindset,” Hamilton said.

“If you go in with expectations of finishing fifth, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to gear yourself up to win.

“Next year, McLaren will have Renault engines, then we may see four teams fighting for the championship. I think Red Bull will be quicker and Ferrari for sure will be fast again.

“We can’t stand still – we have to keep moving forwards.”

Hamilton started his F1 career with McLaren back in 2007, winning his maiden world title in 2008 before leaving the team for Mercedes at the end of the 2012 season.