Carpenter, Hinchcliffe developing friendly rivalry; offer great banter at Media Day

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Race drivers, by their very nature, are competitive. Sometimes the competitiveness between two of them leads to anger, animosity, distrust and potentially, war.

Other times, the competitiveness brings out phenomenal banter and a Key and Peele-like routine where the two just naturally riff off each other.

The latter example was the case Tuesday at the legendary Milwaukee Mile between 2014 Indianapolis 500 polesitter Ed Carpenter and second-starting James Hinchcliffe, who were randomly paired together once again due to the nature of how INDYCAR assigns drivers to different markets across the country.

Carpenter was in Milwaukee for the race’s media advance last year and Milwaukee is a key market for sponsor Fuzzy’s Vodka; Hinchcliffe was a late addition to the city due to another driver’s unavailability and the fact the race itself, held in August, is promoted by Andretti Sports Marketing. Hinchcliffe, of course, drives the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda for Andretti Autosport.

But it’s clear that the two have a budding rivalry, albeit one that is all in good fun and filled with each driver playing off each other.

Just last week, Carpenter and Hinchcliffe cracked up the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center. And they did likewise today for fans and media assembled at the legendary Milwaukee Mile.

The day’s ceremony kicked off ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by The Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers box office for ticket sales being opened with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Right as Carpenter was about to take the mic, Hinchcliffe jokingly went for the kill with a pair of giant scissors the two would use to cut the ribbon and open the ticket booth. Your visual documentation is below.

The two made their introductory speeches, as did Milwaukee IndyFest General Manager Kevin Healy of Andretti Sports Marketing and the Wisconsin State Fair Park’s Rick Frenette.

After a lunch, Carpenter and Hinchcliffe were the toast for fans who came out to the track for a full track walk of the treacherous and tricky Milwaukee Mile.

One fan asked whether you’d ever lift in Turn 2 at Milwaukee to which Hinchcliffe responded, “You only lift in Turn 2 if there’s something screwed up with your car, or somebody screwed up ahead of you,” as he shifted his gaze – again, jokingly – to Carpenter.

A debate followed between the two drivers about Push-to-Pass, which isn’t used on ovals but is on road and street courses. The two drivers questioned whether Push-to-Pass was determined by a set total of X-many seconds, or a set number of pushes, i.e. 10.

A call was placed to Hinchcliffe’s engineer, Nathan O’Rourke, who is, you guessed it, Carpenter’s ex-engineer. Asked which of the two was smarter, O’Rourke cannily replied, “Well, you both drove flat out around Indy… so neither one of you is that smart.”

The riffing continued with Hinchcliffe describing how he had to lift during his final qualifying lap on Sunday, the one which he ultimately lost the pole position. How did Carpenter respond? “It’s a driver’s track,” he deadpanned, as Hinchcliffe and the rest of the fans burst out laughing.

The fan Q&A was more than an hour on a rare, but appreciated, sunny and 84-degree day here in Milwaukee. Carpenter had to duck out to attend to a special brewery tour while “Hinch” stayed for a bit more to answer additional questions.

At the end of the day, as Carpenter and Hinchcliffe went to catch their flight from Chicago back to Indianapolis, the battle raged once again.

And again, Carpenter beat Hinchcliffe, this time through ORD security.

Will Hinch or Carpenter have the last laugh on Sunday in the 98th Indianapolis 500? Only time will tell.

More, however, will follow from the rest of how Andretti Sports Marketing put today’s event together in a further “Inside Milwaukee IndyFest” post next month on MotorSportsTalk. We provided an initial look into how the race comes together in an April feature.

Graham Rahal survives Road America to finish eighth

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Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing faced a roller coaster of a race during the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday.

He was a rocket off the initial start, jumping from sixth on the grid up to fourth exiting turn 1, but was almost immediately ordered to surrender a position for blocking. He quickly slipped back to sixth, and then began plummeting down the order as he battled an oversteer condition that saw his car chew through its rear tires more quickly than others.

Forced to abandon the planned three-stop strategy, he and the No. 15 Gehl Honda team switched to a four-stop plan that saw him drop well outside the top ten at times.

However, they kept plugging away and rebounded nicely in the second half of the race to eventually finish in eighth. While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Rahal knows that he and the team got everything they could out of it.

“The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal revealed post-race. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend.”

The eighth-place finish keeps Rahal in the championship hunt. Rahal now sits seventh in the standings, 11 points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden and 72 behind championship leader Scott Dixon.

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Ed Jones continues steady run with seventh at Road America

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Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones has made waves in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a string of solid performances that belie his rookie status.

And Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was no different.

The 22-year-old battled an oversteering car most of the weekend at Road America, and had to navigate a little carnage late in the race as Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both fell through the field with front wing problems.

However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.

“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.

“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”

The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.

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Vilander replaces Bird at AF Corse for Nurburgring WEC round

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AF Corse has confirmed that Toni Vilander will race the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE in next month’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nürburgring in place of Sam Bird, who is tied up with Formula E commitments in New York.

Vilander currently races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Risi Competizione, and appeared at the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago.

The Finn won the WEC GT drivers’ title in 2014 and last raced full-time in the series in 2015, but will return at the Nürburgring in place of Bird, who confirmed on Monday that he would be prioritizing his Formula E commitments on the July 16 weekend.

Vilander is relishing the opportunity to race alongside Davide Rigon in the No. 71 Ferrari, and is eager to bounce back from an early retirement at Le Mans.

“I’m happy to be able to return to the FIA WEC with the 488 GTE of AF Corse team. This is my chance to cancel the disappointment of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as soon as possible,” Vilander said.

“Car number 71 is in the top places of the championship standings, and I will give all I have to achieve the best possible result at Nürburgring, to help Ferrari in the manufacturers’ championship and Davide Rigon in the drivers’ ranking.”

British GP expands to four-day schedule, F2/GP3 practice set for Thursday

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The British Grand Prix weekend will expand to a four-day schedule next month as Formula 2 and GP3 practice running gets shifted to Thursday.

On-track running for all Formula 1 events traditionally takes place across three days – Friday to Sunday, bar Monaco, where practice is on Thursday – with support events following a similar format.

Silverstone has confirmed its schedule of events for the British Grand Prix weekend, with F2 and GP3 practice slated for Thursday July 13.

F2 practice will run from 15:30 to 16:15 local time at Silverstone on the Thursday, followed by GP3 running from 16:45 to 17:30.

Both support series will hit the track again on Friday for their respective qualifying sessions, taking place after F1’s second practice in the afternoon.

The remainder of the race weekend will go ahead as usual for F2 and GP3, having one race each on both Saturday and Sunday.

The F1 schedule for the weekend remains unchanged, with FP1 and FP2 on Friday, FP3 and qualifying on Saturday, and the race on Sunday.

Both Renault and Williams will take part in special show-runs during the grand prix weekend as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations.

You can see the full British Grand Prix schedule here.