IndyCar: Speeding penalties keep Carpenter, Hinchcliffe from potential win

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Ed Carpenter (pictured) and James Hinchcliffe had their chances at victory in Saturday’s MAV TV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, but both of them were bitten by ill-timed speeding penalties on pit road.

Carpenter, the series’ resident ovalmeister, recovered for a third place finish behind the Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon, while Hinchcliffe came back for fifth.

But both of them shook their heads over the penalties. Carpenter got his following a Lap 103 stop for speeding at pit out, while Hinchcliffe was hit for speeding at pit in after a stop at Lap 141.

“If we wouldn’t have had the pit lane speeding penalty…The pit lane control speed [on the car] didn’t work the whole race,” Carpenter said to NBCSN. “It was just one of those things.

“But it was a great way to finish the year for Fuzzy’s and Chevrolet. Obviously, we wanted a little bit better but there are a lot worse ways this race could have ended.”

The Indiana native can certainly be pleased with how his squad fared in 2014. Before the season started, Carpenter chose to relegate himself to ovals-only competition while giving his No. 20 Chevrolet to Mike Conway for road and street races.

The decision was a stroke of genius. Conway went on to take wins on the street courses at Long Beach and Toronto (Race 2), while Carpenter scored one at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Winning the [Indianapolis] 500 would have been nice, but maybe I’m just getting greedy,” said Carpenter about his team’s season. “It was a great year with Mike picking up the two wins and me getting the win at Texas. It was really good.

“But now we’ve got a lot of work going into the offseason to start building CFH Racing, and come back even stronger next year.”

As for Hinchcliffe, he made steady progress in the opening stints of the race before charging past Juan Pablo Montoya for the lead at Lap 58.

But after pitting on Lap 73, the Canadian was shuffled back to seventh before things got worse for him later. He was able to rally for a Top-5, but didn’t hide his feelings about the penalty.

“What a kick in the [groin],” Hinchcliffe told NBCSN. “It’s one of those things. We had a good car early – obviously, it was bad fast and we drove it to the front.

“We stayed out a little bit too late on that stint and then on the next stint, [they] tried to call me in really late, and I tried to get down and missed the pits and lost a ton of time there.

“Then we got the speeding violation – the brake pedal just went super long coming into the pits and locked up, so it was a couple things stacking against us there.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.