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.”

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”