IndyCar: Carpenter looks for second straight oval win; also visits NYC for media

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Only Team Penske (three wins) has more wins thus far in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season than does Ed Carpenter Racing (two), achieved by two different drivers. Mike Conway won at Long Beach and Ed Carpenter won in Texas.

And if the eponymous team owner of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet wins this weekend in Pocono (Sunday, noon ET, NBCSN), ECR will be tied with one of IndyCar’s most successful operations overall for the most wins this season.

It would also give Carpenter his second 500-mile race win, having also conquered the 500-mile season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. in 2012.

“I think we actually had a good chance at both races on the ovals this year,” Carpenter said heading into the weekend. “We were in position to challenge Ryan (Hunter-Reay) at Indy but the incident on lap 175 cost us that possibility. Now, I really want to go after that Pocono win.

“I really love racing at Pocono,” he added; he finished ninth at Pocono in 2013. “It is so unique and challenging. I’m not sure there is another corner in our IndyCar Series like turn one at Pocono. It’s flat out on the throttle and very tricky. Just like the track’s nickname applies.”

Carpenter could play spoiler to the rest of the full-season drivers. With this being a double points race, a win offers 100 points with second 80 (instead of 50 and 40, respectively). It could provide a swing in the championship.

Carpenter was also in New York City Thursday for a series of media, including on CNBC’s Squawk Street and NBCSN’s SportsDash. Clips will follow later in the day.

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.