Edwards: Kenseth’s loss at Roush is heavily felt

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Carl Edwards isn’t the least bit surprised that his former Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth has put himself in contention to win his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

“I’m not surprised by (his success), and that’s because I’ve seen how much Matt pours into his driving, and over the years I’ve seen how fierce of a competitor he is,” Edwards said in a media teleconference Tuesday. “I mean, he’s a relatively quiet guy, and he’s pretty understated, but man, he really, really drives the wheels off a race car from the start of the race weekend until the checkered flag falls.”

Edwards and Greg Biffle have been RFR’s “lead dogs” this year but neither has been able to mount a serious challenge in this year’s Chase. Biffle earned some headlines this week for his coming-together with Johnson and a post-race argument they had on pit road; Biffle, however, clarified what happened yesterday in a separate teleconference.

But there’s no denying the impact that Kenseth’s loss to Joe Gibbs Racing has had for RFR. All due respect to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but as a rookie, he’s simply not going to be able to provide the same setup feedback or help push a team forward in its first year.

“I think that we were as good of teammates as I’ve ever had,” Edwards said. “I think a lot of Matt, and I think he was a huge asset to our team.

“It is interesting to watch him in this championship battle, and there are times where I still feel like – it’s hard for me to think of him as not my teammate because of how much time we spent under the same roof. So yeah, to me, as much as I hate to see him do well at another organization – I wish he was doing it here – I think it’s good to see him have the success because he definitely works hard and has given his life to racing.”

Edwards added that while Johnson may beat Kenseth to the title – the pair are tied in points heading into Texas this weekend – Kenseth won’t find a way to lose it.

“I can tell you one thing: Matt won’t make mistakes. He will not lose the championship.  He’ll be one of the strongest parts of that team in my opinion.”

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.