Hawksworth back to full strength, looks to add to Toronto success

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TORONTO – We’ve had one first-time winner in the Verizon IndyCar Series this season (Carlos Huertas), and rookie Jack Hawksworth could well be another one in this weekend’s Honda Indy 2 in Toronto (Saturday & Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra).

First off, Hawksworth is back to full strength behind the wheel after his Pocono accident two weeks ago. He did some training this week, his first since the accident on July 5.

Secondly, if the talented 23-year-old English rookie loses either of the two Toronto races, it’ll mark his first time not winning on the streets around Exhibition Place.

Hawksworth, driver of the No. 98 Castrol Edge BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda, is a perfect three-for-three thus far in Toronto in his career. He swept the pair of Pro Mazda (then Star Mazda) races in 2012 and added a third victory in Indy Lights last year. All three have come from pole position.

Rather than take the opportunity to toot his own horn, Hawksworth was modest and praised his equipment when it comes to his Toronto success.

“I’ve always had good cars, and really, that’s the big thing here,” Hawksworth told MotorSportsTalk. “It’s a technical street track and I tend to run well on street and road courses. Really we’ve just been able to convert. It’s a fun place here; there’s a lot to it, and it takes nailing the concrete patches and surfaces.”

Hawksworth also praised the nature of the 1.755-mile street course, which he said is a nice change of pace compared to some of the other street courses on the schedule.

“This place is really fun, and it’s so much different than a generic one,” he said. “Houston for example is 90 (degree) left (corner), 90 right, 90 left, 90 right, whatever.

“Here, it’s very different. It’s 90 and widens out, then has a tight corner after long straight (Turn 3), a fast (Turn) 6, then has like a road course section left, right, left. There’s so much going on here you’re trying to keep up! It’s a 59-second lap in an IndyCar… you think it should be a 2-minute one with what you’re fighting.”

While Hawksworth is a perfect three-for-three in Toronto entering the weekend, he looks to better his best result of third overall in IndyCar, set in Houston Race 2.

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.