One of the undercards on the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend was the Formula Drift (a.k.a. FD) hosted the Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge, where drivers get sideways in drifting to end the days of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on Turns 9-10-11 of the 1.968-mile street circuit.
The actual FD event occurred a week earlier, April 4-5 and won by Chris Forsberg, but the Super Drift Challenge provided a showcase for FD drivers to bring their A-game on the actual TGPLB weekend.
For Newgarden, there was symmetry to sync up with Michael Essa, the 2013 Formula Drift champion. Essa’s BMW M3 produces more than 750hp – for reference, a tick more than Newgarden’s IndyCar in road or street course configuration – and was built by his shop, Essa Autosport, in Anaheim.
The pair met through Brett King, who paints both of their helmets, at an open house at Brett King Design. The drift car was there, Mike and Josef got to talking, and Mike offered to take him for a ride during the practice session. The practice session was for Saturday night’s Motegi Super Drift Challenge.
Once Newgarden’s ride was complete, Pagenaud took his turn in Essa’s passenger seat. It was a wild ride, as well.
They went onto interesting weekends in the IndyCar race – Newgarden was on pace for a podium before he got by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Meanwhile, despite getting hit by Will Power, Pagenaud rebounded to fifth.
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.