Mario Andretti one of three to go into NMPA Hall in January

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Mario Andretti, the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and Formula One World Championship, will be adding one more accolade this coming January when he goes into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame.

Andretti (pictured) is one of three prominent racing figures that make up the 2014 class for the NMPA Hall. Joining him will be former NASCAR crew chief Ray Evernham and longtime motorsports journalist and publisher Steve Waid. The ceremony will take place Jan. 25, 2014 in Concord, North Carolina.

Naturally, Andretti, who also claimed four IndyCar championships (three under USAC sanction, one under CART), is the headliner of this group and he deserves to be so. But Evernham and Waid also made their own important impacts upon American racing.

Many NASCAR fans remember Evernham as the crew chief for Jeff Gordon back in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team’s days as the “Rainbow Warriors.” Together, Evernham and Gordon brought home three Sprint Cup championships and 47 Sprint Cup race wins.

Evernham also played a pivotal role in bringing Dodge back to NASCAR at the turn of the millennium, fielding cars as a team owner for drivers such as former Cup champion Bill Elliott and a then-rising star by the name of Kasey Kahne.

The Evernham Motorsports outfit earned 13 Cup victories before former Liverpool FC owner George Gillett bought a controlling interest in the team in 2007 to create Gillett Evernham Motorsports. GEM eventually merged with Petty Enterprises in 2009 to bring about the current Richard Petty Motorsports.

As for Waid, he has covered NASCAR in various capacities over the last four decades. Starting out as a newspaper writer, he eventually moved to Grand National Scene, where he would rise to the role of publisher.

He is an award-winning journalist, having won the NMPA’s own George Cunningham Award and the Henry T. McLemore Award for outstanding lifetime achievement in motorsports journalism.

The NMPA Hall of Fame is based at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.

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.