IndyCar: Notes and numbers for St. Petersburg

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We’re four days away from the start of the new Verizon IndyCar Series season at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.).

With that in mind, here are some important notes and numbers to keep in mind going into Round 1 of the 2014 IndyCar championship, courtesy of the series…

Race Notes

  • The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the 11th Indy car race conducted on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • Previous race winners entered are James Hinchcliffe (2013), Helio Castroneves (2006, 2007 and 2012), Will Power (2010), Ryan Briscoe (2009) and Graham Rahal (2008).
  • Previous pole winners entered are Will Power (2010-13), Graham Rahal (2009), Tony Kanaan (2008), Helio Castroneves (2007) and Sebastien Bourdais (2003).
  • At least 17 drivers entered in the event have competed in previous Indy car races at St. Pete. Twelve (12) of those drivers have led laps: (Helio Castroneves 205, Ryan Briscoe 117, Scott Dixon 94, Will Power 93, Justin Wilson 70, Sebastien Bourdais 30, James Hinchcliffe 26, Graham Rahal 19, Tony Kanaan 15, Takuma Sato 11, Marco Andretti 5 and Ryan Hunter-Reay 4.)
  • Mikhail Aleshin, Jack Hawksworth, Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Munoz will compete in their first Verizon IndyCar Series race on the streets of St. Petersburg. Hawksworth won his Indy Lights debut on the track last season and won the Pro Mazda race in 2012.

Milestones And Records

  • With his next victory, defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon will tie Al Unser Jr., for sixth on the all-time wins list. Dixon, the active leader for wins, won his 33rd race at Houston’s Reliant Park in October 2013.
  • With a victory in 2014, Scott Dixon will extend his streak of consecutive seasons with a win to 10.
  • With his next victory, Sebastien Bourdais will move into sole possession of eighth place on the all-time wins list. Bourdais is tied with Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy with 31 wins.
  • With his next victory, Helio Castroneves will tie Rick Mears for 11th place on the all-time wins list. Castroneves won his 28th race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8, 2013.
  • Helio Castroneves needs two earned poles to reach 40 career poles in his Indy car career. Castroneves is the active leader with 38 pole positions.
  • With one pole in 2014, Scott Dixon will extend his Verizon IndyCar Series streak to eight consecutive seasons.
  • Tony Kanaan will attempt to make his 216th consecutive start, which would extend his all-time record (set last year in Baltimore). Scott Dixon with 157 straight starts (sixth all time), Marco Andretti with 133 straight starts (13th all time) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (tied for 19th) with 107 straight starts are the only active drivers with a streak of more than 100 consecutive starts.
  • Helio Castroneves is the active leader in starts with 277, which is eighth on the all-time list.
  • Tony Kanaan has 276 starts, which is ninth on the all-time list.
  • Tony Kanaan is the active leader in top-five finishes with 112, which is one behind Bobby Unser for eighth on the all-time list.
  • Helio Castroneves is tied with Rick Mears for 10th on the all-time list with 111 top-five finishes in his Indy car career.

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.