So, NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup changes were undoubtedly the sanctioning body’s biggest story of Thursday.
It wasn’t the only story, though.
NASCAR announced its 2014 Drive for Diversity (D4D) class as well. The program, which helps aid young up-and-coming multicultural and female drivers in their NASCAR careers, had a banner year in 2013 with D4D graduates Kyle Larson and Darrell Wallace Jr. NASCAR was also awarded a Diversity and Inclusion award this winter.
Anyway, the class, via a NASCAR release:
- Daniel Suárez: The Monterrey, Mexico, native is a member of the NASCAR Next program and joins Rev Racing for the second season. The 22-year-old finished third in the 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship standings and was the championship runner-up in the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series in 2013. He recorded his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win last July at Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway.
- Ryan Gifford: Another member of the NASCAR Next program, the 24-year-old from Winchester, Tenn., garnered his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win last season at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. In 2010 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, he became the first African-American driver to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East pole position. Additionally, he made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut last August at Iowa Speedway, finishing ninth driving for Richard Childress Racing.
- Jay Beasley: This 21-year-old from Las Vegas won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model track championship at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the series’ Nevada championship on the strength of eight victories in 14 starts. He also earned the 2013 Wendell Scott Trailblazer Award as a result of his early success on the track.
- Sergio Peña: With three career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East wins to his credit, the 21-year-old from Winchester, Va., has a pair of top-10 finishes in points for 2011-12 while collecting 19 top 10s in 39 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East career starts.
Drivers competing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series include:
- Paige Decker: From Eagle River, Wis., the 20-year-old driver competed in her Super Late Model at tracks throughout the Midwest.
- Devon Amos: Competing mostly in a Legends car in 2013, the 22-year-old from Rio Rancho, N.M., scored a seventh-place finish in his stock car debut last summer at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Note the names now, if and when they emerge on a greater scale later on.
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.