Mike Helton: Dover will keep two traditional races in 2015

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NASCAR chairman/CEO Brian France hinted during last week’s mid-season state-of-the-sport address in Daytona that Dover International Speedway may lose one of its two annual Sprint Cup races in 2015.

Not so, NASCAR president Mike Helton told DIS president/CEO Denis McGlynn, according to Bill Fleischman of the Philadelphia Daily News.

“I called Mike Helton [Tuesday] and he told me we don’t have anything to worry about,” McGlynn told Fleischman.

Boasting an original capacity of 135,000 seats, Dover has seen overall attendance for both its spring and fall races dip in recent seasons, but McGlynn said those events are “still successful, just not as successful.”

As a result, DIS has reduced the number of seats, but has also replaced a number of sections with wider seats.

“Some tracks have taken down significant numbers of grandstand seats,” McGlynn told Fleischman. “Their crowds are the same as a year ago, but it looks better. We widened our seats, reducing capacity to 112,000. [But] our track looks the same.”

Even though attendance has slipped, McGlynn was heartened when Helton assured him that the one-mile track, the only all-concrete racing surface on the Sprint Cup circuit – nicknamed “The Monster Mile” – will have its two regular races next season.

Dover typically hosts races on the first Sunday after Memorial Day and the last Sunday of September, either the second or third race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

However, it’s unclear whether Dover will have those same race weekend dates that it has in the past, or whether one or both may be moved around on what promises to be at least a partially revised schedule for 2015, which NASCAR will likely release sometime this September.

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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.