Jeff Burton to drive MWR’s part-time No. 66 in 2014

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Michael Waltrip Racing has announced that Sprint Cup veteran Jeff Burton will test and drive a select number of races for its third, part-time program in the 2014 season. Several media reports toward the tail end of this past year had Burton linked to such a role with MWR.

Burton, who finished his tenure with Richard Childress Racing at last month’s season finale at Homestead, will begin testing the No. 66 MWR Toyota next Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and his first race is slated for March 9, 2014 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“We were extremely fortunate to have a driver as experienced and respected as Jeff Burton come available,” said team co-owner Rob Kauffman in a statement. “He will be able to have an immediate impact as we continue to strive for that last one percent that separates champions from contenders.”

Burton will test until late January 2014 for MWR full-time driver Brian Vickers, who continues to recover from a blood clot in his leg that knocked him out of competition back in October.

“These are great people who have dedicated themselves to become winners at the highest level,” Burton said of his new team at MWR. “[Team co-owner] Michael [Waltrip] and Rob are so committed to success and I wanted to be a part of that.

“I’m excited to do something new and will work hard to help the other two teams compete for wins and a championship.”

Additional 2014 events for Burton, who recently surpassed 1,000 career NASCAR national series starts and has won 21 Cup races, will be announced “in the coming weeks” according to MWR.

Shortly after the announcement, Vickers expressed his happiness over Burton’s decision to join his squad on Twitter:

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.