TUSC: AXR, Spirit of Daytona off to Roar-ing start in weekend test

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Action Express Racing and Spirit of Daytona Racing swapped the top spots between the morning and afternoon sessions of the first day in the Roar Before the Rolex 24.

The No. 5 AXR Corvette DP (pictured, from last year), with drivers Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais, was fastest over SDR in the morning with a lap of 1 minute, 38.630 seconds around Daytona International Speedway’s famed 3.56-mile road course.

But in the afternoon, the No. 90 SDR Corvette DP of Michael Valiante, Richard Westbrook and Mike Rockenfeller moved ahead of AXR on the time sheets with a lap of 1 minute, 38.898 seconds.

Third-place in the morning session went to the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP (Wayne Taylor/Max Angelelli/Ricky Taylor/Jordan Taylor), while P3 in the afternoon was claimed by the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP (Alex Gurney/Darren Law/Jon Fogarty/Memo Gidley).

As for how the former P2 cars fared against the Daytona Prototypes, the No. 1 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b (Scott Sharp/Ryan Dalziel/David Brabham) topped out in the afternoon with a lap of 1 minute, 40.006 seconds.

But while that was the quickest lap set by a non-Chevrolet entry across both Friday sessions, it still lagged behind the top time set by AXR in the morning by a margin of almost one and a half seconds.

Here were the other class leaders on Day 1, split by morning and afternoon sessions:

FRIDAY MORNING

Prototype Challenge: No. 54 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09 (Jon Bennett/Colin Braun/Mark Wilkins) – 1:42.468/125.073 mph

GT Le Mans: No. 4 Corvette Racing C7.R (Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Robin Liddell) – 1:45.743/121.200 mph

GT Daytona: No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS (Spencer Pumpelly/Nelson Canache/Tim Pappas) – 1:48.444/118.181 mph

FRIDAY AFTERNOON

Prototype Challenge: No. 87 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09 (Sean Rayhall/Doug Bielefeld/Chapman Ducote) – 1:43.322/124.039 mph

GT Le Mans: No. 911 Porsche North America 911 RSR (Nick Tandy/Richard Lietz/Patrick Pilet) – 1:45.564/121.405 mph

GT Daytona: No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS (Pumpelly/Canache/Pappas) – 1:47.981/118.688 mph

The TUSC contingent will have four practice sessions tomorrow at 9 a.m. ET, 1 p.m. ET, 4 p.m. ET, and 6:30 p.m. ET.

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.