Clinch scenarios set for next weekend’s NASCAR finale at Homestead

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The clinch scenarios for the three NASCAR national series in next weekend’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway are pretty cut and dry.

Let’s start with Sprint Cup, where Jimmie Johnson now holds a 28-point lead over Matt Kenseth following the events of today’s Advocare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (won by Kevin Harvick).

Johnson can earn his sixth Cup championship by fulfilling one of the following objectives in next Sunday’s Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead:

  • Finish 23rd or better.
  • Finish 24th or better with at least one lap led.
  • Finish 25th or better with the most laps led.

Harvick, by virtue of his win today at PIR, remains eligible for the Cup championship going into Homestead. He sits third in the Chase at 34 points behind Johnson.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will have the tightest championship battle in South Florida, as Austin Dillon holds an eight-point advantage over Sam Hornish Jr.

Dillon has a tough route to the NNS title but can pull it off in Saturday’s Ford Ecoboost 300 if he can do one of these things:

  • Finish third or better.
  • Finish fourth or better with at least one lap led.
  • Finish fifth or better with the most laps led.

The NNS owner’s championship is also up for grabs, with the No. 22 Penske Racing team only up by four points on the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing team after Kyle Busch took the No. 54 to victory at PIR this weekend. The No. 22 can only guarantee a clinch of that championship with a win at Homestead.

Finally, Matt Crafton only has to start Friday’s Ford Ecoboost 200 to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship. He currently leads by 46 points over Ty Dillon.

In the CWTS owner’s championship, Crafton’s No. 88 ThorSport Racing team leads the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports team by 23 points. To secure that prize, Crafton must reach one of these goals:

  • Finish 18th or better.
  • Finish 19th or better with at least one lap led.
  • Finish 20th or better with the most laps led.

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.