IndyCar: Bourdais wins pole for today’s Toronto Race 1 (VIDEO)

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A dramatic conclusion to qualifying for today’s first race of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader weekend saw Sebastien Bourdais claim his first Verizon IndyCar Series pole of 2014 and Simon Pagenaud crash in Turn 8 as he attempted to take the pole from his fellow Frenchman.

With one minute remaining in the Firestone Fast Six, Helio Castroneves was atop the grid with a 59.1499-second lap. But Team Penske teammate Will Power was able to leap-frog him with a 59.1025 – only to have Bourdais, driving the No. 11 KVSH Racing Chevrolet, knock him off with a 58.9479.

Bourdais’ first pole of the year is also his first in American open-wheel racing since taking a Champ Car pole for a September 2007 race in the Netherlands.

“That was a ballsy call by the team,” Bourdais told IndyCar Radio. “They saw that we might have left a bit early [in the FF6] and the track was getting better.

“Most everybody was waiting behind us and when they said, ‘Alright, pit now, we’re going to put you on a new set of tires and try again,’ I’m like, ‘Okay? You sure about this?’

“And it worked out to perfection. I didn’t believe in it but they made it happen for me, and the Hydroxycut machine was really strong in qualifying today.”

As for Pagenaud, he was pushing hard for a buzzer-beater lap of his own – only to hit the wall coming out of Turn 8 and near the timing line. Luckily for him, he had been able to post the fifth-fastest time in the FF6 before the crash.

Power wound up earning the outside front row spot alongside Bourdais. Behind him in Row 2 will be Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay; Castroneves holds a slim, nine-point lead over Power in the IndyCar standings going into today’s 85-lap race.

Tony Kanaan, who has dominated the last two races only to come away without wins in each of them, will start on the outside of Pagenaud in Row 3.

Hometown hero James Hinchcliffe is further back on the grid, but not much further. The Toronto area native is slated to start ninth today.

“It’s disappointing, because I think the United Fiber and Data car should’ve been up there,” Hinchcliffe said. “I wanted to be a little higher up there for the Canadian fans and get into that Fast Six.

“But we can work from there. This is a street track that you can definitely make some moves on. I’ve seen my boss [team owner Michael Andretti] come from last place and win here, so we’re still optimistic for today.”

Coverage of today’s race is NOW on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES – HONDA INDY TORONTO, RACE ONE
STARTING GRID/TIRE DESIGNATION

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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.