With Final Four in town, Texas Motor Speedway and NASCAR turn compromise into potential

2 Comments

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage is known for being a trendsetter, a leader rather than a follower and someone who wants his racetrack ahead of all others.

However, this weekend is one of those rare times that Gossage has out of necessity adopted a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude.

With the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four games less than 30 miles away at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, it would be hard for Gossage and NASCAR to compete head-to-head with the biggest college hoops games of the year.

But by adjusting this weekend’s traditional race schedule, TMS may wind up attracting some fans in town to attend the Final Four and potentially have a strong walk-up for Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 Sprint Cup race.

Gossage has even gone so far as to advertise directly to Wisconsin, Florida, Connecticut and Kentucky fans that are in the Arlington area for the Final Four, inviting them to come over to TMS for some great racing when they’re not watching the roundballers.

Here’s how TMS has revamped its weekend schedule to accommodate the Final Four:

First, the Nationwide Series race takes place Friday night at 8:30 p.m. ET.

On Saturday, it’ll be a relatively quick day for the Sprint Cup guys, who will have Happy Hour practice from 10:30 a.m. to Noon ET, followed by Cup qualifying at 3:10 p.m. ET.

Makes sense, since the first Final Four game tips off three hours later, giving diehard sports fans the opportunity to start their day at TMS and finish it in Arlington.

Don’t be surprised if you see several Cup drivers in attendance at the game.

Although the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area was literally swamped by heavy rainstorms on Thursday, the rest of the weekend looks good for NASCAR.

The weather better cooperate, because the last thing NASCAR and Gossage likely want to do is run a rescheduled race on Monday – the same day that Final Four championship game takes place.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.