Carpenter and crew in victory lane last year (Ed Carpenter Racing)

Carpenter seeks third straight IndyCar season finale race win

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Ed Carpenter can no longer be considered a “sleeper” for oval races. Or for that matter, season finales.

The eponymous team principal and driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet seeks his third straight curtain-closer victory in the IZOD IndyCar Series, having won at Kentucky in 2011 and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana a year ago.

“My first win at Kentucky was the most exciting because I finally won an IndyCar Series race,” Carpenter said in the team’s advance release. “But last year’s Fontana win was the most gratifying since it was my team and we were in our first year of operation. It meant a lot to go up against the big teams like Ganassi, Penske and Andretti and win the race with our new one-car team.”

He’s back at Fontana this year (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to defend his MAVTV 500 crown and give the team a lift after the travails of its transporter fire en route back from a test there last month.

“We had a massive clean-up job to do in just a few days after the fire,” he said. “But our team really dug in and spent extra hours washing and cleaning everything we had in the trailer. Sure, we lost a few items in the fire but we were able to save a lot of things. The IndyCar community really helped us too.”

Between running the high line and dealing with the expected fall-off in tires over the course of a stint, Carpenter knows there is more to achieving success now with this car, at this track, than what used to be the case with the previous Dallara chassis at 1.5-mile ovals.

“That’s the beauty of the Fontana racetrack; there are a lot of options,” he said. “It’s up to us and the other teams to figure out how to make the car work for the best shot at winning the race. It’s a long race with 250 laps and your team must be good in pit stops, making the proper adjustments as the race develops and being able read the track surface as the sun goes down and the lights go on.”

His sponsor Fuzzy’s Vodka sponsors Victory Lane in Fontana. Carpenter winning would be one positive achievement for them; Fuzzy’s is also offering a $250,000 bonus to either Tony Kanaan or Scott Dixon if they were to win on Saturday night. Kanaan and Dixon have the wins in the first two legs of the Fuzzy’s Vodka Triple Crown, held at Indianapolis and Pocono earlier this year.

Montoya: ‘Hopefully I get a chance to do Indy again’ (VIDEO)

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Juan Pablo Montoya is on site at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, his latest trip in a summer and fall filled with a lot of international travel and a number of different race cars he’s been in.

Montoya is committed to a full season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Acura Team Penske in 2018, as he’ll share one of the team’s Acura ARX-05s with Dane Cameron.

However, the question of whether he’ll be able to race in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil remains.

Team Penske has said it plans to only run four cars next month of May, with Helio Castroneves as the fourth driver alongside the three full-time cars driven by Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.

While Montoya has said elsewhere that he’s shopping offers and has talked with other teams, it’d be highly surprising to see the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion who developed the Chevrolet engine for IndyCar’s 2018 Dallara universal body kit in a Honda-powered IndyCar, although he is running Honda’s brand (Acura) in sports cars.

Montoya elaborated on his Indy 500 prospects in an interview with NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton at the Circuit of The Americas.

“Not full-time no,” Montoya told NBCSN of his IndyCar 2018 prospects. “Hopefully I get a chance to go to Indy, hopefully with Penske, (and) if not someone else. We’ll see.”

Photo: IndyCar

Montoya has extolled the early testing both on the 2018 IndyCar and on the Acura ARX-05.

The first Acura chassis has run at Road Atlanta and Sebring International Raceway thus far, and will be put through its paces at other venues over the next few months.

“It’s been good. We did a lot of work with INDYCAR on that car. Fans are gonna like it,” Montoya said of the 2018 kit.

“Going to IMSA with the Acura program, we’ve done a lot of testing. It’s a beauty to drive. It drives better than what it looks! I haven’t had that much fun driving a race car in a long time.”

Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race car to be campaigned by Team Penske in 2018