Last week at Mid-Ohio, Josef Newgarden was on pace to secure what would have been a popular first career win in the Verizon IndyCar Series, but it went to hell in a hand basket after a botched final pit stop. Newgarden was gracious, professional and mature beyond his years post-race, despite the disappointment.
But Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park, where earlier this year he and Joe Namath were involved in a pre-race cook off and Newgarden started in the top five and finished eighth, Newgarden bagged his first win of the season – albeit in the SCCA Summer Speedfest Formula F 45th Anniversary feature race, driving an HPD/Honda Performance Development Piper DF-5/Honda.
Oh, and for good measure, he started last after arriving late Saturday due to his IndyCar testing commitments.
Newgarden made it from 11th to the lead within nine laps, regained the lead on Lap 11 and held it for the final 10 circuits.
“This is the most fun I’ve had this racing season,” Newgarden said, via the official SCCA website. “You just can’t race any better than this. You can drive the car sideways. You can go three-wide into the brake zones. You can race the guys for two- to three-corners at a time. It’s just the most fun you can have in an open-wheel car.”
It caps off a week where Newgarden nearly won in Mid-Ohio, banged some drums and attempted to one-bite a grilled cheese sandwich at the Indiana State Fair, tested his No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda at Sonoma, and then flew back to Birmingham, Ala. after being in three other states.
Now he’ll head to Milwaukee this weekend for the ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers and see if he can keep the momentum going.
Milwaukee kicks off a stretch of three races in as many weekends, with Sonoma and Fontana to follow.
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.