Andrew Luck to IMS PA: I think drivers are athletes

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The social media firestorm around Donovan McNabb’s comments saying, in his opinion, drivers aren’t athletes took over the sports blogosphere from last November.

Luckily for the racing world, Andrew Luck doesn’t agree.

“I think they are (athletes),” Luck responded to an Indianapolis Motor Speedway PA announcer’s question during the rain delay of Friday’s “Fast Friday” practice for the Indianapolis 500. “You see what they do behind the wheel and to prep for it, there’s no question to me.”

Perhaps this was a case of Luck playing nice to the local crowd – he is one of the city of Indianapolis’ most beloved athletes – but more likely it was a case of “he knows of what he speaks.”

Luck took in practice at last year’s Indianapolis 500 as well, as a guest of Charlie Kimball and the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team. So he has first hand experience of seeing the Verizon IndyCar Series up close and personal.

Said Kimball, last year, of Luck’s visit: “I wanted them to come see my office, because in the winter, it’s easy to turn on the TV and see these guys go to work on Sundays. I wanted to give them the opportunity see what I think is the greatest sporting venue in the world – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and see us turn laps at 215, 220 mph and give them the full Indianapolis experience.”

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.