Austin Dillon goes from hot asphalt to cold steel on ice

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Even with Richard Childress as his grandfather, Austin Dillon knew he couldn’t just skate through his rookie season in Sprint Cup racing.

But Dillon is hoping skating of a different kind will help him in his quest to win races and eventually Sprint Cup championships, according to a story by Mike Brudenell of the Detroit Free Press.

Dillon worked out Thursday with 2014 Olympic ice dancing gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White at the G-M Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Canton, Mich.

Now, Dillon has a history of being a good athlete, but that’s primarily been in stick-and-ball sports.

But when it came to skating, Dillon took to it like a Zamboni: he started slow and then picked up speed, according to Brudenell.

“I’m pretty nervous — I’m going to need a helmet and a HANS device on,” Dillon said as he waited to meet Davis and White. “Are you kidding me? There are good people out there. I don’t have training wheels on. I’m going to get run over.”

Click here to see the video of Dillon’s foray of cold steel on ice.

Dillon, Davis and White got together to promote the Aug. 17 Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.

Davis and White, who both attend the University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor, will serve as grand marshals for the event and will also give the command to start engines at the two-mile, high-speed Brooklyn, Mich. racetrack.

“Charlie and I are from the Great Lakes area and are proud to represent Michigan all over the world, and the link for us acting as grand marshals for the Pure Michigan 400 race is great,” Davis said. “Speed is a huge part of what we do (on ice). But, obviously, we’ve never experienced anything like Austin goes through. We are super excited to be going to MIS.”

Added White, “We’re getting a chance to embrace other things after the Olympics. Michigan will be our first real race experience — what a start!”

By the end of the workout, Dillon was – no pun intended – out of gas, but also exhilarated, considering he had never skated on ice until earlier this year.

“That was a blast,” Dillon said. “I’m definitely going to do that again. I had the best teachers you could ever have.”

Given that he knows how to handle a baseball bat – he was on a team that went to the Little League World Series in his younger days – and now that he has skating down-pat, Dillon might want to pick up a hockey stick and start practicing with it.

You know, just in case this whole NASCAR thing doesn’t work out.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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.