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.

Vettel: Front-row grid slot for Australia proof of Ferrari’s progress

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Sebastian Vettel believes that his charge to second place on the grid for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix acts as proof of the progress Ferrari’s Formula 1 operation has made over the winter.

Vettel arrived in Australia as one of the favorites to take pole following an impressive showing in pre-season testing, prompting three-time champion Lewis Hamilton to name Ferrari as the leading team.

Hamilton rallied in qualifying to take pole position for Mercedes, beating Vettel by two-tenths of a second, but the Ferrari driver managed to fend off Valtteri Bottas in the second Silver Arrow and clinch a front-row berth.

The result marked Ferrari’s best qualifying result since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix – Vettel’s and Ferrari’s last pole and victory in F1 – and the German was encouraged by the result.

“I think we have a good car. I think we are working well as a team,” Vettel said.

“Things are improving. Obviously it’s nice to see that things are working, the car is working. I had a mixed day yesterday, but the confidence in the car was there from testing and I think we showed that again today.”

Vettel conceded that he felt his final lap in qualifying could have been faster, but doubts it would have been enough to catch pole-sitter Hamilton.

“In the end I was not entirely happy with my lap. I was pretty happy with the end, maybe not so much with the opening of the lap where we lost a bit too much,” Vettel said.

“But I think Lewis did a very good lap. I would have loved to, but I don’t think pole was up for grabs. Tomorrow I think we can do something in the race. The car feels good, we’ve improved it so the pace should be much better than it was yesterday when we had practice.

“It’s been a big winter for us, lots of change we’ve gone through as a team in the last 12 months, and for the better. I think the team is getting stronger.

“Obviously everyone is pushing very hard and it’s not so easy to come here with a long journey to get to Australia, but I think people are fired up and we are motivated for tomorrow.

“I think it’s the first good opportunity.”

Hamilton buoyed by sixth Australia F1 pole, ready for tight race

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Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton was buoyed by his charge to pole position in Australian Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday, but is braced for a tight race at the front of the pack.

Hamilton saw off a challenge from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and new Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to capture his sixth pole at Albert Park, and the 62nd of his F1 career.

Hamilton had doubts over Mercedes’ advantage over Ferrari heading into the new year, making his charge to pole all the more meaningful as he paid tribute to the team members after qualifying.

“It’s been a fantastic weekend so far. It’s quite amazing to come here for I think the 11th time, and it feels like it was only yesterday that I came here and had my first race here in 2007,” Hamilton said.

“I’m just incredibly proud of my team. This rule change has been huge and such a massive challenge for everyone. The guys have just worked so hard to make this car what it is today.”

Despite taking pole by almost three-tenths of a second in Q3, Hamilton is braced for a close fight on Sunday with Vettel and Bottas, the latter starting his first race for Mercedes from third on the grid.

“Valtteri did a fantastic job given it’s his first qualifying session with the team. He did a great job and it’s great for Mercedes,” Hamilton said.

“Looking forward to the race, it’s close between us all. As you can see, there’s going to be a tight race this year I think.

“I think tomorrow is about putting all the work that’s gone in over the winter, all the work that’s gone through testing and this whole weekend and really put it to work tomorrow.

“I’ll make sure I get a good night’s sleep and come back tomorrow stronger than ever.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton sees off Vettel challenge to take Australian GP pole

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Lewis Hamilton saw off challenges from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to pick up the first Formula 1 pole position of the year in Australian Grand Prix qualifying.

Hamilton topped the timesheets on Friday to give Mercedes hope of continuing its impressive qualifying form from 2016, when it took 20 poles from 21 races.

However, Ferrari looked poised to strike and take its first pole position since Singapore 2015 as Vettel led final practice, setting up a close battle in qualifying.

Hamilton took provisional pole with his first Q3 run, going three-tenths faster than Vettel, and was able to find a further three-tenths on his second run to make pole all but his.

Vettel refused to back down, producing a rapid final sector to gain plenty of time on Hamilton, but it was not enough to deny the Briton his 62nd F1 pole.

On his Mercedes debut, Bottas put in an impressive display to take third on the grid, finishing three-tenths off Hamilton’s time. Fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen ended the session fourth in the second Ferrari.

Max Verstappen led Red Bull’s charge in fifth, while Haas driver Romain Grosjean put in a stellar display to take sixth on the grid. Felipe Massa will start his comeback race from seventh ahead of the Toro Rosso pair of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat.

Local favorite Daniel Ricciardo’s difficult home race weekend continued as he crashed out at Turn 14, wrecking the rear of his Red Bull RB13. While Ricciardo was physically unharmed, the Australian’s ego was left bruised as he was resigned to starting the race from 10th on the grid.

Sporting is bright pink livery, Force India failed to light up the gloomy conditions in Melbourne as it suffered a double-elimination in Q2. Sergio Perez qualified 11th, while rookie teammate Esteban Ocon will make his first start in Australia from 14th on the grid. Nico Hulkenberg saw his 13-race streak of Q3 appearances ended as he could only qualify P12.

One of the biggest talking points from the early part of qualifying was Fernando Alonso’s titanic effort to put his McLaren-Honda 13th on the grid. Following a tough winter marred by reliability issues, Alonso dragged his car through to Q2 and did “all he could”, yet the issues faced by the team meant no Q3 berth was forthcoming.

Sauber enjoyed an impressive start to the year as Marcus Ericsson made it through to Q2, eventually qualifying 15th. Last-minute substitute Antonio Giovinazzi was poised to also get out of Q1 on debut, only for a mistake on his final lap to leave him 16th overall.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen failed to get in a late lap, leaving him 17th on the grid for his first race with the American team, while a fuel flow issue meant Stoffel Vandoorne could only qualify 18th for McLaren.

Lance Stroll’s baptism of fire in F1 continued as he finished 2.9 seconds off the pace in P19 for Williams, while Renault’s Jolyon Palmer was made to pay for his lack of track time, rounding out the grid in P20.

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Lance Stroll set for Australia grid penalty after gearbox change

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Formula 1 rookie Lance Stroll has been forced into a gearbox change ahead of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix following a crash in final practice at Albert Park.

Stroll lost the back-end of his Williams FW40 car coming out of Turn 10, hitting the wall and causing damage to the right-hand side and rear of his chassis in the process.

The crash brought out a red flag that ultimately caused FP3 to end early, with Stroll returning to the pit lane on the back of a marshal’s moped.

After bringing the car back to the pit lane, Williams confirmed that it would have to change Stroll’s gearbox ahead of qualifying, which will trigger a five-place grid penalty for the Canadian.

Stroll’s crash comes after a mixed pre-season program that saw him suffer three shunts in the opening week in Barcelona, raising concerns about his readiness for F1.

Stroll bounced back in the second week of running, racking up plenty of mileage in Williams’ 2017 car to back up his extensive private test program in the team’s 2014-spec F1 car last year.

At just 18 years old, Stroll is set to become the second-youngest F1 driver on Sunday, trailing only Red Bull’s Max Verstappen whose first start came at the age of 17 in 2015.