Indy 500: Even with draft, Will Power fine with leading at white flag

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Last year’s Indy 500 produced a record 68 lead changes thanks mostly to the mega holes punched in the air by the Dallara DW12, which effectively turned every leader into a sitting duck.

But Team Penske’s Will Power said Thursday that he wouldn’t mind being the leader with one lap to go in Sunday’s race despite the emphasis on the draft.

“I think I would like to be leading on the last lap because I think you can stay ahead, although you’ll work that out in the race,” he said. “You’ll have a good idea whether you’ll be in front or not.”

As for the 2014 running, Power – like just about everybody else – expects a similar race to last year.

“It’ll be exactly the same but everybody gets smarter every year, don’t they?,” he said. “They start to think, ‘Do I really wanna lead?’ Because they’ll be burning fuel. It constantly changes, and everyone turns up in better cars, so it’s that much tighter.”

Power entered the Month of May as the Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader but that battle is truly set to begin one week from now with the doubleheader at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park.

Right now, the focus in the ‘500’ and Power has been raring to go since the post-qualifying practice session on Monday that enabled teams to work on race set-up.

“We’re ready,” the front-row starter said. “We were ready Monday…I didn’t really want to start getting lost and be unsure going into the race. It was another session to try different things if you were unsure, but I was pretty confident in my car.”

“Not that many people have a chance to win this, but I’m just focusing on what I can do and put myself in position all day. That’s what I’m focusing on. Whether I can do it or not, I don’t know.

“But I’m absolutely putting everything into a solid, good race and being there at the end.”

Power has made significant strides in oval racing as his win at Fontana in last year’s season finale can attest. But his fortunes at Indy have been mixed, as he has just one Top-5 in six career ‘500’ starts.

Still, it seems like that Fontana victory gave him a whole new level of confidence when it comes to the speedways. It’ll be interesting to see if he can carry that over on Sunday.

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.