Verizon IndyCar Notes & Quotes: GP of Indy Thursday

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Along with the rest of Thursday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis Verizon IndyCar Series posts, here’s some thoughts from the paddock on day one of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend, via quotes distributed by INDYCAR:

  • Consider Scott Dixon, fastest on Thursday, pleased with how the track works: “The cars are on a knife edge. The straights are so long that you’re trimming the car out to levels that I think we’ve only seen once before in Brazil on a street course with another really long straight. That there makes it tough, the window of being on the edge and going for the quick time is uncomfortably small, but it’s a lot of fun. You’re constantly chasing the track, and the conditions, today it is very windy, tomorrow it might open up and rain, and then for the race, I hope everyone comes out for that, but I like it. They did a hell of a job with this track.”
  • It was a mixed day for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as Graham Rahal’s No. 15 National Guard team went one way and Oriol Servia’s No. 16 went the other. Rahal’s won out – P6 versus P23. “We’re getting it into a better zone, and definitely more competitive. I’m proud of these guys for keeping their heads down and getting it done. There is still work to be done but its work to be done coming from sixth (in afternoon session) versus coming from the back which is a good change for us,” said Rahal.
  • Servia may not have been happy with his setup, but he was happy with the improved details even just last week’s open test. “They have done a good job finishing all of the small details. They painted the curbs and they look great. It’s funny how just a little bit of color and aesthetics change the whole feel. They’ve painted the curbs in three different color tones which look really nice. I’m sure the fans are going to like it and they will look great on TV,” he said.
  • Charlie Kimball (right) and Ryan Briscoe, 11th and 17th in practice two, were both happier with their days than the times indicated. “We made some huge steps forward from practice one to practice two. The speed was there in practice one, but we just didn’t quite get the lap time we wanted,” said Kimball. Added Briscoe, “I’m pretty happy with how today went. I mean our lap time doesn’t really show how good of a day we actually had. We did some race prep when the track was getting faster so we probably missed putting together a fast lap time when the track was at its quickest.”
  • Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya said the weather conditions drastically changed the complexion of the track. “The track was pretty hot today, so we had to change the car over a little bit from what we had in the test session last week. Last week was frigid compared to what we have for conditions today. We spent the first session just trying to figure out what we needed because it was almost like starting over. I felt we really gained a lot in the second session,” said JPM, who ended practice two in 13th, just ahead of teammate Helio Castroneves.
  • James Hinchcliffe ended best of Andretti Autosport’s five drivers in P5. “Solid first day, I guess. This is a tricky track to set up for. It’s kind of the trim wars right now out there on figuring out what the right downforce level is. The weather’s changing a lot, the track’s still changing a lot, so at the end of the day, we’re pretty pleased to have the United Fiber and Data car in the Top-5,” said the Canadian.

More tomorrow with practice three and qualifying.

Thursday IndyCar post round-up:

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.