Can Carpenter be a threat once again at Indy?

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Ed Carpenter’s ability to deliver the goods on the ovals has to put him in the conversation of potential winners for this month’s 97th Indianapolis 500. As practice starts today at the Brickyard, the IZOD IndyCar Series’ lone owner/driver is aiming to be a contender at IMS like he was in last year’s race.

Carpenter started 28th after crashing his primary No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet on Pole Day and having to put a backup into the show on Bump Day. As the race wore on, he made his way up the pylon and was running third with 20 laps to go. But on Lap 181, a broken front wing adjuster on his car caused Carpenter to spin out of the battle for the lead.

“We broke a front wing adjuster in the middle of the race and I was trying to spin out on almost every lap,” Carpenter remembered going into this weekend. “But we had a fast car and I was driving it right on the edge at the end.

“It was a frustrating month of May until Race Day. Then, everything came together. Our pit stops were very good and the team made the proper adjustments during the race. It was just that wing adjuster that hurt us in the end.”

However, Carpenter and his team would eventually get that 500-mile race win in the 2012 season finale at Auto Club Speedway outside Los Angeles, as he passed Dario Franchitti on the final lap just before a wreck by Takuma Sato brought out the caution to freeze the field.

That victory gives Carpenter the confidence that he and his group can fight the bigger teams this month at Indy.

“…Winning the Indy 500 is the primary goal every year,” he said. “I know the team has worked extremely hard during the off-season to prepare for this year’s ‘500’. Our team has now won a 500-mile race and I think we are as ready as we can be to be a strong contender for another 500 [mile] victory.”

Reviewing Danica Patrick’s highs and lows at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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So much of Danica Patrick’s fame can be traced to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s where she became a household name 13 years ago when she became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and emerged as a transcendent athlete.

It’s where everything started. This Sunday, it’s where everything will end, too.

In her last warmup before starting the final race of her career, Patrick had a bumpy final practice Friday on Carb Day. She was eighth fastest, but her Dallara-Chevrolet was in the garage most of the session because of an electrical problem in the engine. After returning during the final 10 minutes of the session, Patrick’s No. 13 seemed to be OK.

“At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done,” she said. “I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early on. Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about starting seventh on Sunday.”
Though she has had her share of success – along with a fourth in her debut, there was a third in 2009 and six top 10s in seven starts — Patrick has learned well how to handle frustration at the 2.5-mile track, too.

Fuel mileage might have kept her from winning her debut, a pit collision ruined 2008, and an unstable setup made 2010 a wild ride.

For a review of her up-and-down history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and her legacy in racing, watch the video essay above that ran during Friday’s NASCAR America Motorsports Special on NBCSN.