Ed Carpenter withstands late restart to win at Texas (VIDEO)

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Two weeks ago at the Indianapolis 500, Ed Carpenter was left bitterly disappointed after a crash with James Hinchcliffe ended his hopes for a win.

Tonight at Texas Motor Speedway, he’s feeling much happier.

Carpenter, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ sole owner/driver, had to survive a restart with two laps to go but claimed the checkered flag in the Firestone 600 to give his Ed Carpenter Racing team their second win of the year alongside ECR road/street racer Mike Conway’s win at Long Beach.

“I knew we had a good car,” Carpenter said to NBCSN in Victory Lane. “We had a good test here a couple weeks ago – or a couple of months ago, whatever it was. I just felt like we left something on the table in qualifying, but it made me extra-motivated for tonight.

“The first two stints weren’t great and I had one bad stint, but the guys just made great adjustments all night and the Fuzzy’s car was hooked up by the end.

“…I was a little worried about that last yellow. I knew guys were going to come in. We talked about what we’d do in that situation and it was kind of undecided, but [team manager] Tim [Broyles] and the boys made the right call.”

Going into tonight’s race, Carpenter said that he had gotten over his ‘500’ wreck. But he still felt that the Texas win was a measure of redemption for himself and ECR.

“We had a car to win Indy and I’m not saying that we would have beat Ryan [Hunter-Reay] but I think we were the best to have a shot at Ryan,” he said.

“So, It’s nice to come back here and get a win. I’m really proud of the team – two wins already this year. It’s a good year, so all the credit goes to these guys.”

It looked like Carpenter and pole sitter Will Power were going to fight it out directly for the win. Carpenter took the lead from Power on Lap 183 of 248, and the two pitted together with 36 laps to go.

But Power, the series’ championship leader, locked up the tires as he hit pit road. And after the two made their stops – with Carpenter coming out ahead – Power was hit with a speeding penalty.

From there, it appeared Carpenter was in the clear until an engine failure for Takuma Sato brought out the caution with less than 10 laps to go.

Power had fallen back to sixth after the penalty, but during the final caution, he was brought in for new tires and took the last restart in fifth.

When the green came out, Power took off with the fresh rubber. On the final lap, he got past Team Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya to pick up his second consecutive runner-up finish.

But immediately after the race, Power beat himself up for the speeding penalty.

“What an awesome call by my team to get tires, [but] I just screwed it up again and got another drive-through [penalty],” he said. “That’s four drive-throughs in five races. That’s not good enough.

“Anyone who says I don’t get drive-throughs or penalties are crazy, man. I get ’em every race.”

When asked if he could have won if not for the penalty, however, Power wasn’t sure.

“Hard to say,” he said. “Ed was awful strong and he’s an awesome driver. It would’ve been a good battle at the end. My car was good at the end of stints.”

Montoya’s third-place finish is his first podium result since making the switch back to open-wheel racing with Penske over the off-season.

However, he wasn’t entirely happy at the end of the night because of what he perceived as the leaders going early on the last restart.

“We’re getting better and we’re getting there,” he said about his performance before moving on to the restart. “I was kind of pissed off at that restart because you’re expecting them to go in a [restart] zone and that’s why they have the zone, and when they don’t respect it, it’s kind of unfair.”

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Simon Pagenaud did pit late for tires and finished fourth, while Scott Dixon rounded out the Top 5 for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES – FIRESTONE 600
Texas Motor Speedway
Unofficial Results
1. 20-Ed Carpenter, ECR-Chevy
2. 12-Will Power, Penske-Chevy
3. 2-Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske-Chevy
4. 77-Simon Pagenaud, SPM-Honda
5. 9-Scott Dixon, Ganassi-Chevy
6. 10-Tony Kanaan, Ganassi-Chevy
7. 8-Ryan Briscoe, Ganassi-Chevy, -1 lap
8. 83-Charlie Kimball, Ganassi-Chevy, -1 lap
9. 7-Mikhail Aleshin (R), SPM-Honda, -1 lap
10. 3-Helio Castroneves, Penske-Chevy, -1 lap
11. 67-Josef Newgarden, SFHR-Honda, -1 lap
12. 15-Graham Rahal, RLL-Honda, -2 laps
13. 34-Carlos Munoz (R), Andretti-Honda, -3 laps
14. 17-Sebastian Saavedra, KV/AFS-Chevy, -4 laps
15. 27-James Hinchcliffe, Andretti-Honda, -4 laps
16. 98-Jack Hawksworth (R), Herta-Honda, -4 laps
17. 18-Carlos Huertas (R), Coyne-Honda, – 4 laps
18. 14-Takuma Sato, Foyt-Honda, Lap 238, Mechanical
19. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti-Honda, Lap 135, Mechanical
20. 11-Sebastien Bourdais, KVSH-Chevy, Lap 118, Contact
21. 19-Justin Wilson, Coyne-Honda, Lap 118, Contact
22. 25-Marco Andretti, Andretti-Honda, Lap 3, Mechanical

Race Statistics: Winner’s average speed: 178.301 mph; Time of Race: Two hours, 1 minute, 25.5758 seconds; Margin of victory: 0.5247 seconds; Cautions: 3 for 23; Lead changes: 11 among 3 drivers.

Lap Leaders: Power 1 – 56, Montoya 57 – 60, Power 61 – 99, Montoya 100 – 102, Carpenter 103 – 125, Power 126 – 170, Carpenter 171, Montoya 172 – 177, Power 178 – 181, Carpenter 182 – 212, Power 213, Carpenter 214 – 248.

Point Standings: Power 370, Castroneves 331, Hunter-Reay 310, Pagenaud 279, Andretti 235, Munoz 227, Montoya 223, Dixon 214. Kanaan 189, Wilson 182.

Mercedes, Ferrari go conservative on Austrian GP tire picks

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Pirelli has confirmed all 20 Formula 1 drivers’ tire picks for next weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with most opting to stack up on ultra-softs.

As it does for every grand prix, Pirelli will bring three compounds to Austria next week, electing for the softest possible combination of ultra-soft, super-soft and soft tires.

In the regular pre-race release of each driver’s tire picks, Pirelli revealed that Force India, McLaren and Red Bull have gone down the most aggressive routes, stacking up on the ultra-soft tire.

Title contenders Mercedes and Ferrari have gone down a more conservative route, favoring additional sets of the super-soft compound.

Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will take seven sets of ultra-softs to Spielberg, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will have eight sets at their disposal through the weekend.

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.”