NASCAR short-trackers set to return to Daytona in February

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After a successful debut last season, multiple NASCAR minor leagues will once again race at Daytona International Speedway in February of 2014.

The UNOH “Battle at the Beach” is set for Feb. 18, 2014 and will see the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (pictured), as well as the NASCAR Whelen Modified and Southern Modified Tours, compete on a 4/10-mile oval on Daytona’s backstretch.

The K&N East race will count toward its championship as its second event of 2014, while both Modified divisions will come together for a non-points event; each will run for 150 laps.

“Fans around the world look forward to Speedweeks to kick off the NASCAR season, and we are proud to be able to present a week of short-track action leading up to the 56th running of the Daytona 500,” NASCAR vice president of touring and weekly series George Silbermann said in a statement.

“The anticipation for last year’s first UNOH Battle at the Beach was surpassed only by the number of people talking about the electrifying finishes.”

Indeed, last year’s short-track gathering at the “World Center of Speed” was a memorable one as all three events were decided by last-lap contact.

Kyle Larson, now preparing for his inaugural Sprint Cup season with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, had multiple run-ins with C.E. Falk III in the final stages of the Whelen All-American Series race before pushing him aside on the final corner to take the win.

In the Whelen Modified race, former Sprint Cup driver Steve Park spun out Mike Stefanik in Turn 2 on the last lap and went on to the checkered flag – leaving an angry Stefanik to declare the contact “bull—-” afterwards on national television.

Then in the K&N Series race, Cameron Hayley and Gray Goulding knocked fenders together coming to the finish before Hayley won out by a narrow margin.

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.