NASCAR: Roush camp looking for speed in Michigan test

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Seeking to catch up with their Ford stablemates at Team Penske, Roush Fenway Racing’s trio of Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have been searching for speed in a two-day test session at Michigan International Speedway.

Edwards is the lone Roush Fenway driver to be pretty much assured of a Chase for the Sprint Cup spot thanks to his two wins at Bristol and Sonoma. But he knows that in order to truly contend for the title, the team’s performance on intermediate and high-speed tracks needs to be stepped up.

‘My pit crew is great and my crew chief is great,” Edwards insisted. “I feel I am doing a good job driving the car. Our engines are great and the bodies seem to be very good.

“We just have to figure out what part or parts we are missing so we can perform the way that some of these other teams are performing, specifically the Penske cars.”

The Penske duo of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have combined for five wins so far in 2014, and Keselowski has won two of the last three Sprint Cup races (including the most recent one at New Hampshire).

But while Penske has become Ford’s biggest hope for a championship, the Roush team says that they’ve been able to pick up the pace in these tests.

“I think since we have shown up here we have found three of four-tenths of speed and I feel pretty good about that,” said Biffle, who is winless so far this year along with Stenhouse.

“I think there is still more to have. It is hard when there is just three of us here. Of course, we are comparing against each other which doesn’t do you a whole lot of good a lot of times because you don’t know what everyone else looks like on speed. [But] I think we are gaining on it and that is the most important thing.”

Biffle’s also hopeful that what they’ve learned at Michigan can help for this weekend’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

We tested there and were about half a second off of the cars we tested around,” Biffle said. “It is the same as here. We knew we had to find that speed. So we feel like we have found some of that speed.

“I feel pretty good about going to Indy now. Certainly I was not feeling good about it until this test and we still have the rest of today to go. Hopefully we find a little more and dial it in and get ready for Indy.”

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.