IndyCar: Detroit Dual 1 Notebook

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It was just another one of those days for Justin Wilson. One of those ‘come out of nowhere and finish toward the front’ days.

The Dale Coyne Racing driver started 19th on the grid this afternoon, but ultimately charged 15 spots to finish fourth in the first race of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit at Belle Isle Park.

That tied Team Penske’s Will Power for the biggest position jump on Saturday; Power started 16th but was still able to capture his second win of the season.

“We just had to be quick where we needed to be, save fuel when we needed to save fuel,” Wilson said. “Tough day, but you’ve got to play it how you’ve got to play it. From 19th to 4th, something was going on in that race.

“We were up and back and then up and back. The guys did great pit stops. We did quite a few of them. That gives us something to work with and we’ll come back tomorrow and try and qualify a little bit better and start close to the front.”

Also adding good vibes for DCR today was their Colombian rookie, Carlos Huertas, who netted an eighth-place finish for a new personal best in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

As we’ve written before, Huertas has been largely anonymous but still reliable. How reliable? Following today’s race, Nick Yeoman of IndyCar Radio pulled out a statistic that might surprise you:

Usually, when you’re in that sort of company, that’s a very good thing.

“The end was really tough because I had to save fuel and defend positions,” Huertas said. “I had to keep turning the engine down all of the time for less power and more fuel mileage and I was still not getting the numbers.

“It was difficult because I was running in the top five but that is what it is. I am hopeful we can improve on eighth place tomorrow.”

After starting 14th, Josef Newgarden was putting together a Top-5 run at the halfway point of today’s race. But on Lap 37, he found the barriers in Turn 7 and was knocked out of the race with a 20th-place result.

The Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver took full blame for the incident, saying that he simply locked up the rear brakes before crashing.

“It’s a silly mistake that cost us today,” he said. “We had a great car and were doing a great job. We didn’t really have any complications so days like that you want to finish strong and do a good job overall. I feel like I let everyone down, I feel bad for everyone on our team.

“They’ve done a great job this weekend, especially coming off of Indy with the long stretch that they’ve had. They’ve been working flat out. I hope we have a good day tomorrow. We get another chance to qualify and race so hopefully we can do a better job there and I’ll try and do better for the boys.”

Another competitor that had a strong day derailed was Jack Hawksworth, but instead of a wreck, it was a left-front brake rotor failure that relegated him to a 19th-place finish.

Hawksworth started third, but on the opening lap, he took second from James Hinchcliffe on the inside at Turn 3. He quickly pulled a gap on the Canadian while setting his sights on pole sitter and early race leader Helio Castroneves.

But as the yellow flew at Lap 15 for Mike Conway’s single-car crash, the aforementioned rotor broke on Hawksworth’s No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda.

The rookie was able to get the car back to the pits for repairs, but those ultimately knocked him four laps off the pace.

“Unfortunately, the front left brake exploded, so that was basically our day gone,” he said. “We did a few more laps of running and got a bit more of a feel for the track so we can have a better day tomorrow.”

Herta said he had never seen a “carbon disc failure” like what occurred on Saturday, and he hoped Sunday would bring a result more representative of their efforts.

“I feel bad for Jack and all the guys because yet again, they did not make any mistakes but somehow we still did not get a result,” he said. “I’m glad we have another race tomorrow and another shot.

“We’ve got a great car, great team, great driver. We’re ready for round two.”

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.