Chase Capsules: Carl Edwards

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99 – Carl Edwards
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
Crew Chief: Jimmy Fennig
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Best Finish: 2nd (2011)
Chase History: 7th Chase Appearance, Best finish of 2nd in 2011

Regular Season Recap: In his final season at Roush Fenway Racing, Carl Edwards hopes to leave with the biggest going away present of all, the Sprint Cup championship. His season to date has been good for the most part, with two wins (Bristol in the spring and Sonoma). But he’s also had struggles, particularly at some tracks that he typically does well at (Michigan, Pocono and Daytona). Edwards’ biggest problem thus far has been consistency from week to week. He needs to significantly improve upon that in the Chase.

Jerry’s Take: With Edwards heading to Joe Gibbs Racing after this season, he has plenty of incentive to prove his close runner-up finish to Tony Stewart for the 2011 Sprint Cup championship was no fluke.

Edwards also has the incentive to bring a Cup crown to crew chief Jimmy Fennig, who will step down from the pit box at the end of this season and take an inside role at Roush Fenway Racing in 2015.

If Edwards can dramatically improve his overall consistency in the upcoming Chase and cut down on mistakes and missed opportunities that have cost him too much already, he may have a shot at reaching all the way to the third round. But it will take a Superman-like effort for Edwards to be one of the four drivers left in the winner-take-all season finale at Homestead.

Chris’s Take: As Jerry notes above, I also see an Eliminator Round berth for Edwards if he and Roush Fenway Racing can put together Top-10s against the likes of the Hendrick, Penske, and Gibbs drivers. But the competition is simply too strong for them to crack the Championship at Homestead without some problems from those aforementioned teams…Although Edwards is definitely capable of capitalizing on those mistakes should they arise.

Tony’s Take: I could see Edwards’ Chase occurring in one of two ways. He either goes out early, or makes a shock run through the opening rounds. While he has had the occasional hot streak in the past, I don’t really see it coming together at the right moment this year.

Given some of the surprise drivers in the Chase – Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger primarily – it shouldn’t be too difficult for Edwards to advance past the Challenger round. But I can’t put him past the Contender round. He’s not the Ford driver with the best shot at a title; Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are better title contenders this year.

Carl Edwards’ Career Statistics at Chase Tracks
Chicagoland (1.5 mile) – Zero wins, 3 Top-5s, 3 Top-10s in 9 starts
New Hampshire (1 mile) – Zero wins, 2 Top-5s, 5 Top-10s in 20 starts
Dover (1 mile) – One win, 8 Top-5s, 12 Top-10s in 20 starts
Kansas (1.5 mile) – Zero wins, 5 Top-5s, 10 Top-10s in 14 starts
Charlotte (1.5 mile) – Zero wins, 6 Top-5s, 12 Top-10s in 19 starts
Talladega (2.66 mile) – Zero wins, 12 Top-5s, 5 Top-10s in 20 starts
Martinsville (half-mile) – Two wins, 9 Top-5s, 15 Top-10s in 21 starts
Texas (1.5-mile) – Three wins, 6 Top-5s, 8 Top-10s in 19 starts
Phoenix (1 mile) – Two wins, 7 Top-5s, 12 Top-10s in 20 starts
Homestead-Miami (1.5 mile) – Two wins, 5 Top-5s, 7 Top-10s in 10 starts

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NASCAR America: Newgarden recaps rise to IndyCar title (VIDEO)

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Newly crowned Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden joined NBCSN’s NASCAR America on Tuesday to reflect on his rise to the top of the series.

Newgarden chatted with show host Carolyn Manno about his championship season, integration to Team Penske and bonding with his three teammates, Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

Pagenaud won Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma season finale but it wasn’t enough to overcome Newgarden’s points lead.

 

Report: Verizon likely to drop IndyCar title sponsorship after ’18

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One of the under-the-radar elements that’s percolated in the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock this year is Verizon’s activation strategy itself, in its fourth year of its first five-year deal as title sponsor of the championship.

Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, head of INDYCAR’s parent company, told the Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern while he thinks it’s likely Verizon will end its title sponsorship of the series after 2018, they hope to continue the relationship in a different capacity.

While Verizon got in before 2014, IndyCar was a viable platform for the wireless company to activate in a way it couldn’t in NASCAR, when Sprint was the Cup Series’ title sponsor.

That’s since changed with Sprint’s contract ending after 2016. Verizon still activates within the paddock, working with CSM Sport & Entertainment, but its activation outside the paddock has seemed rather limited this year.

Verizon’s primary point of access or reference point of digital technology has been the Verizon IndyCar Mobile app, which was initially only for Verizon Wireless users but was later expanded to other carriers. That provides some app-specific exclusive content as well as a compilation of written, photographic and video content from IndyCar.com.

Even in the paddock, a Verizon-sponsored “Lunch with Legends” series – where some of IndyCar’s stars from the past had lunch at tracks with fans to provide some exclusive access – was not retained for 2017. Verizon hosted an event at a 5G-outfitted house in Indianapolis this year, prior to the Indianapolis 500, to showcase some of that network capability and virtual reality (VR) technology.

Provided Verizon does not continue as title sponsor past 2018, it would leave the IndyCar series in almost the same situation as prior title sponsor IZOD was in 2013, with a lame duck year.

The absence of a Verizon contract renewal has lurked beneath the surface all year in a year when INDYCAR (sanctioning body) has announced several long-term extensions with key manufacturer partners Dallara, Firestone, Chevrolet, Honda and many of its race tracks.

The competition side of IndyCar has done rather well and has enough momentum with Jay Frye at the head of its President of Competition and Operations for the last two years.

But it’s imperative for IndyCar’s sake its commercial side does as well too, which will make the 2018 season an interesting one from a “how to progress” and find a partner that can truly activate to lift the series’ profile even bigger than it is now.

The title sponsor evolution and the series’ new TV contract, with the current one set to end after 2018, enter as the early leaders in the clubhouse for biggest off-track stories to follow over the winter and into the start of 2018.

Vettel loses huge ground in title race after Singapore blip

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SINGAPORE (AP) In the space of three races, Sebastian Vettel has dropped twice as far behind Lewis Hamilton as he was ahead of him.

After winning the Hungarian Grand Prix in late July, Vettel led by 14 points, with both drivers on four wins heading into the summer break.

But after crashing out on the first lap in Sunday’s Singapore GP, the Ferrari driver trails Hamilton by 28.

“That was very disappointing and it was definitely not the result we were expecting,” Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said. “But it doesn’t mean that the battle is all over, just that it has become more difficult.”

Yet it might seem to Mercedes that, for all of his experience, Vettel is throwing away the Formula One title.

“Clearly we would not feel comfortable in Ferrari’s shoes,” Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said. “But this is not the time for cheering.”

Hamilton has won all three races relatively comfortably since the championship resumed in August, and with only six GPs remaining Vettel faces a huge task to stop Hamilton.

“We guarantee that we will be fighting right to the final corner of the very last Grand Prix of the year,” Arrivabene said.

Mercedes is still expecting a challenge.

“This result doesn’t change a thing in the big picture,” Wolff said. “If anything, it’s a stark reminder that there are six more opportunities for the luck to go against us this season, just as it happened to Ferrari.”

But it will be abundantly harder now for Vettel because, unlike last season, Hamilton has so far not retired from any races. Although he has failed to finish on the podium four times for Mercedes this season, that is the same number as Vettel’s finishes outside the top three.

After winning three of the first six races, Vettel’s grip has loosened with only one win in the past eight.

Points have been thrown away, too.

At the British GP in July, Vettel looked at least assured of a podium finish until an unexpected tire problem at the end of the race bumped him down to seventh.

On Sunday, he had a great chance to win starting from pole position on a hard-braking track much more suited to Ferrari than Mercedes.

A few seconds later, he was out of the race.

Vettel made a hasty error of judgment trying to cut off Max Verstappen heading into the first turn and ultimately caused a crash that also took out Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen – who had made a blistering start – Verstappen and Fernando Alonso.

Vettel apologized to his Ferrari team afterward.

With both Ferraris out, Mercedes had a clear path as Hamilton won his 60th career race and teammate Valtteri Bottas took third.

Mercedes faced a similar scenario at the Spanish GP last year, when Hamilton and then-teammate Nico Rosberg collided on lap 1 and both went out. Mercedes was livid with both drivers that day, and came perilously close to imposing team orders on them.

“You kind of feel for Ferrari. I have been in the situation of losing both cars,” Wolff said. “I know how bitter this is.”

The difference was that Hamilton and Rosberg were fighting each other for the title and, with no main rival from another team, it effectively cost them nothing.

Within Mercedes, Hamilton’s title charge is now the priority.

Although team orders are very unlikely to be imposed, it is clear – unofficially at least – that Bottas will be racing to help Hamilton equal Vettel on four world titles.

Wolff confirmed as much when he inadvertently referred to Bottas as “our second driver” in his post-race debriefing on Sunday, before quickly correcting himself to say “ah, other driver.”

Bottas has had a fine first season since joining as an emergency late replacement for Rosberg, who retired days after winning the 2016 title. Bottas has even exceeded expectations with 10 podiums in 14 races, including two wins, and sits in third place overall.

With a new contract for next year already signed, the Finnish driver has no need to impress Mercedes management and can play an ideal support role to Hamilton in the closing part of the campaign.

Still, he has a little bit of ambition left.

“There are plenty of races to come and plenty of opportunities,” said Bottas, who is 23 points behind Vettel. “Definitely Sebastian is the next target.”

With Hamilton ahead and Bottas closing behind, Vettel is under pressure to deliver at the Malaysian GP in two weeks’ time.

Ocon confirmed for another year at Force India

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Sahara Force India will keep the same driver lineup in 2018, with Esteban Ocon confirming Tuesday he’ll stay alongside Sergio Perez next season.

Although the two drivers have occasionally been at odds this year as Ocon has threatened Perez’s place as team leader, both have been instrumental in keeping Force India a clear fourth place in the Constructor’s Championship, at the top of the crowded midfield behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

Ocon’s had a very strong year, with 56 points scored and having made the points in all but one race (Monaco) this season. His best finish is fifth at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Being confirmed for 2018 means like others, the jockeying for spots in 2019 will be fascinating to watch.