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.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.