For Ed Carpenter Racing, 2014 a chance for breakout at all tracks

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Year three for Ed Carpenter Racing as an organization will see the team hope to ascend to a regular win contender each race, and add to the solo triumph achieved by its eponymous team principal and driver at the 2012 IndyCar season finale.

Ed Carpenter as a driver has had two distinct highlights since forming his own team, with that 2012 race win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, and last year’s pole at the Indianapolis 500.

Now, of course, he’s taken a step back to drive only at the six oval races, while bringing in Mike Conway for the 12 road and street races in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. Just yesterday, the team also announced JR Hildebrand will join in a second car for the Indianapolis 500.

For IndyCar’s newest full-season team, Carpenter feels optimistic they’re in the right place.

“We started the team two years ago.  I want to be able to race as long as I can and do it well,” Carpenter said during IndyCar media day in Orlando. “At the same time the race team is something that I see as my future beyond driving, whenever that day comes. It’s certainly a business that I want to be successful for long after I’m driving.

“That’s kind of where the decision came from, just to make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly could to position the team well and in a strong place to deliver for all our current partners, Fuzzy’s, Chevrolet, and hopefully to grow the team in the near future.”

Conway will have a busy slate, with his 12 IndyCar races (nine weekends) dovetailed with a full FIA World Endurance Championship program in an LMP2 class ORECA 03 Nissan for Millennium Racing. He’ll also serve as Toyota’s reserve driver, a role that has huge potential for the future.

But in the races he’ll race in IndyCar, he should transform the team’s road and street course program. Carpenter only once started higher than 18th on a road or street course in 2013, with 14th at Brazil.

“I think that Mike and I are both capable of winning in our respective disciplines, so to speak, or strong suits,” Carpenter said.  “I feel really strongly about the capabilities of our team.  I feel like we should be in the mix everywhere we go.

“With that being said, the strength of the series, teams and drivers right now, is at a really high level.  It’s no easy feat, but we’re definitely going to give it our best shot.”

Perhaps Carpenter’s best shots, of his six oval starts, will be the three Fuzzy’s Triple Crown races at Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana.

Carpenter is one of the series’ best 500-mile racers, and it would not be a surprise to see him win one or more of those events this year. And with the Verizon IndyCar Series’ points change revealed yesterday that will see the 500-milers offer double points, suddenly Carpenter could threaten the top-10 in the overall standings if he succeeds as he should on those circuits.

“500-mile races are fun,” he admitted. “They’re more fun than the shorter races just because of how much more that goes into it. You have more opportunities to figure out how to win the race and you also have more opportunities to mess it up.”

The No. 20 car won’t have either of its drivers figure into the driver’s championship challenge at year’s end, but there’s a good chance we’ll hear from both of them depending on the type of circuit this year.

Stroll: Baku F1 podium ‘proves I can be here’

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Lance Stroll is pleased to have answered his critics with his recent Formula 1 displays, believing his podium finish in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix proves he deserves his place on the grid.

Stroll, 18, stepped up to F1 from Formula 3 with Williams for 2017, aided by financial support from his billionaire father, Lawrence.

Stroll had a rough start to life in F1, failing to finish any of his first three races or score points until the seventh race of the year in Canada.

This kick-started a three-race run in the points for Stroll, the highlight being a charge to third place in Baku after rising through the order in a frenetic race.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Stroll said the timing of his points finish in Canada was of little consideration to him, having always had confidence in his own ability.

“If it comes earlier or later, you almost cannot influence it. But I knew that I was capable of doing results so I wasn’t panicking,” Stroll said.

“I knew that it was all a matter of time. But to really do it in Canada, that was great. A great day, the home race.

“It is much more about other things [than confidence]: me improving the way I drive or me working with the team. We have changed a lot on the car since Baku and that helped me a lot in my performance.”

The result saw Stroll become the second-youngest podium finisher in F1 history, only trailing Max Verstappen and sitting ahead of the likes of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.

“It proves that I can be here!” Stroll said. “I did it with a Williams, not a Mercedes!”

Wehrlein not concerned that Sauber performances are overlooked

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Sauber Formula 1 driver Pascal Wehrlein has no concerns that his performances for the backmarker team are being overlooked as he bids to secure a seat further up the grid in the near future.

Wehrlein is part of Mercedes’ junior program, and was an option for the championship-winning marque for 2017 following Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement.

Mercedes eventually signed Valtteri Bottas from Williams, placing Wehrlein at Sauber after his 2016 team, Manor, folded during the off-season.

Wehrlein has led Sauber’s charge through 2017, taking eighth place at the Spanish Grand Prix despite racing in a car lacking upgrades and with a year-old engine.

While a career haul of just six points may seem paltry, Wehrlein is comforted by the fact he has lacked the car with which to fare much better.

“My target is to one day be in a team where I can win races, get on the podium regularly and fight for championships,” Wehrlein told the official F1 website.

“Right now I don’t have these tools to make it happen. The weekends where we score points are very, very special for us because we don’t have the car to finish in the top ten often, only if the stars are in the right place!

“And then we have to take the opportunity and bag the points. I am very happy that when the chance was there I was able to grab it. I want to be there when it counts.

“I think it gets noticed that I have scored points in cars that under normal circumstances don’t score points. I don’t worry about that.”

Bottas has flourished since joining Mercedes, taking two race wins and becoming an unexpected contender in the title race alongside teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

When asked if he was worried about Bottas’ success, Wehrlein said: “No, because I cannot influence such a decision.

“Worrying about things that you cannot influence is wasting your time and wasting your strength and efforts.

“Yes, Valtteri is doing a good job and he deserves it.”

Dixon hopes Rosenqvist gets IndyCar drive in the future

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Scott Dixon would like to see Felix Rosenqvist get a full-time Verizon IndyCar Series drive in the future after enjoying a successful second test with Chip Ganassi Racing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course earlier this week.

Rosenqvist, 25, raced briefly in Indy Lights – among a number of other series – at the start of 2016 before shifting his focus to DTM and Formula E, sitting third in latter’s standings heading into the final round of the season.

After a successful maiden test with Chip Ganassi Racing last summer, Rosenqvist was invited back to Mid-Ohio to conduct some running with four-time champion Dixon and offer the current IndyCar points leader some feedback.

The Swede put in another impressive display, much to Dixon’s delight, who would like to see Rosenqvist join the IndyCar grid in the future.

“Right now, I think he’s got a lot of options, whether it’s Formula E or racing in Japan or throughout Europe,” Dixon told the official Verizon IndyCar Series website.

“Hopefully he can make it to the IndyCar Series at some point.”

Rosenqvist’s current program sees him balance drives in both Formula E and the Japanese Super Formula series, as well as a variety of other ad-hoc appearances in events ranging from the 24 Hours of Le Mans to the Scandinavian Porsche Carrera Cup.

Dipping to Mid-Ohio between the Formula E rounds in New York and Montreal, Rosenqvist was happy with how the test went and the contribution he was able to make.

“I think we had a really good test last year where it was probably more easy to evaluate my performance because there were more cars on track and so on, and it went really well,” Rosenqvist said.

“This year they entrusted me to do the test with Scott to get the free test day that the team gets. I think it was probably more for the preparation of the Mid-Ohio race.

“What I wanted to do was to prepare physically to drive, which I think I was, and just give good data, good feedback and constant lap times. I think it worked really good.”

Renault still chasing top-five F1 constructors’ championship finish

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Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul remains confident that the team can secure a top-five finish in this years’ constructors’ championship despite sitting eighth with half of the season complete.

Renault returned to F1 with a works team in 2016, but struggled to make much of an impression on-track as it recovered from the financial difficulties that blighted the Lotus team it took over.

While progress has been clear through 2017, the team already more than tripling its points total, it has still struggled to make much of an impact on F1’s midfield.

Nico Hulkenberg has led Renault’s charge, scoring all 26 of it points so far this season, taking an impressive sixth-place finish at Silverstone last weekend.

Renault boldly stated in pre-season that it was targeting a top-five finish in the constructors’ championship, and while it may still be three places shy heading towards the summer break, Abiteboul’s goal remains unchanged.

“We have shown at Silverstone that we are continuing to improve. Chassis developments, in particular the new floor, proved to be positive exemplified from Nico’s eight points and both cars showing strong qualifying pace,” Abiteboul said.

“It’s critical to back up this improvement with both cars finishing in the top ten in Hungary – we want to finish the first half of the season on a positive note.

“To achieve this, we need to put behind our reliability problems. We know our situation and the areas which require more attention.

“Our targets remain unchanged: we want to be sixth by the end of play on 30th July and fifth by the end of the season. A double-points finish is well within our reach.”

Renault currently sits seven points behind sixth-placed Toro Rosso in the constructors’ championship, and 15 shy of Williams in P5.