Ed Carpenter withstands late restart to win at Texas (VIDEO)

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Two weeks ago at the Indianapolis 500, Ed Carpenter was left bitterly disappointed after a crash with James Hinchcliffe ended his hopes for a win.

Tonight at Texas Motor Speedway, he’s feeling much happier.

Carpenter, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ sole owner/driver, had to survive a restart with two laps to go but claimed the checkered flag in the Firestone 600 to give his Ed Carpenter Racing team their second win of the year alongside ECR road/street racer Mike Conway’s win at Long Beach.

“I knew we had a good car,” Carpenter said to NBCSN in Victory Lane. “We had a good test here a couple weeks ago – or a couple of months ago, whatever it was. I just felt like we left something on the table in qualifying, but it made me extra-motivated for tonight.

“The first two stints weren’t great and I had one bad stint, but the guys just made great adjustments all night and the Fuzzy’s car was hooked up by the end.

“…I was a little worried about that last yellow. I knew guys were going to come in. We talked about what we’d do in that situation and it was kind of undecided, but [team manager] Tim [Broyles] and the boys made the right call.”

Going into tonight’s race, Carpenter said that he had gotten over his ‘500’ wreck. But he still felt that the Texas win was a measure of redemption for himself and ECR.

“We had a car to win Indy and I’m not saying that we would have beat Ryan [Hunter-Reay] but I think we were the best to have a shot at Ryan,” he said.

“So, It’s nice to come back here and get a win. I’m really proud of the team – two wins already this year. It’s a good year, so all the credit goes to these guys.”

It looked like Carpenter and pole sitter Will Power were going to fight it out directly for the win. Carpenter took the lead from Power on Lap 183 of 248, and the two pitted together with 36 laps to go.

But Power, the series’ championship leader, locked up the tires as he hit pit road. And after the two made their stops – with Carpenter coming out ahead – Power was hit with a speeding penalty.

From there, it appeared Carpenter was in the clear until an engine failure for Takuma Sato brought out the caution with less than 10 laps to go.

Power had fallen back to sixth after the penalty, but during the final caution, he was brought in for new tires and took the last restart in fifth.

When the green came out, Power took off with the fresh rubber. On the final lap, he got past Team Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya to pick up his second consecutive runner-up finish.

But immediately after the race, Power beat himself up for the speeding penalty.

“What an awesome call by my team to get tires, [but] I just screwed it up again and got another drive-through [penalty],” he said. “That’s four drive-throughs in five races. That’s not good enough.

“Anyone who says I don’t get drive-throughs or penalties are crazy, man. I get ’em every race.”

When asked if he could have won if not for the penalty, however, Power wasn’t sure.

“Hard to say,” he said. “Ed was awful strong and he’s an awesome driver. It would’ve been a good battle at the end. My car was good at the end of stints.”

Montoya’s third-place finish is his first podium result since making the switch back to open-wheel racing with Penske over the off-season.

However, he wasn’t entirely happy at the end of the night because of what he perceived as the leaders going early on the last restart.

“We’re getting better and we’re getting there,” he said about his performance before moving on to the restart. “I was kind of pissed off at that restart because you’re expecting them to go in a [restart] zone and that’s why they have the zone, and when they don’t respect it, it’s kind of unfair.”

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Simon Pagenaud did pit late for tires and finished fourth, while Scott Dixon rounded out the Top 5 for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES – FIRESTONE 600
Texas Motor Speedway
Unofficial Results
1. 20-Ed Carpenter, ECR-Chevy
2. 12-Will Power, Penske-Chevy
3. 2-Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske-Chevy
4. 77-Simon Pagenaud, SPM-Honda
5. 9-Scott Dixon, Ganassi-Chevy
6. 10-Tony Kanaan, Ganassi-Chevy
7. 8-Ryan Briscoe, Ganassi-Chevy, -1 lap
8. 83-Charlie Kimball, Ganassi-Chevy, -1 lap
9. 7-Mikhail Aleshin (R), SPM-Honda, -1 lap
10. 3-Helio Castroneves, Penske-Chevy, -1 lap
11. 67-Josef Newgarden, SFHR-Honda, -1 lap
12. 15-Graham Rahal, RLL-Honda, -2 laps
13. 34-Carlos Munoz (R), Andretti-Honda, -3 laps
14. 17-Sebastian Saavedra, KV/AFS-Chevy, -4 laps
15. 27-James Hinchcliffe, Andretti-Honda, -4 laps
16. 98-Jack Hawksworth (R), Herta-Honda, -4 laps
17. 18-Carlos Huertas (R), Coyne-Honda, – 4 laps
18. 14-Takuma Sato, Foyt-Honda, Lap 238, Mechanical
19. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti-Honda, Lap 135, Mechanical
20. 11-Sebastien Bourdais, KVSH-Chevy, Lap 118, Contact
21. 19-Justin Wilson, Coyne-Honda, Lap 118, Contact
22. 25-Marco Andretti, Andretti-Honda, Lap 3, Mechanical

Race Statistics: Winner’s average speed: 178.301 mph; Time of Race: Two hours, 1 minute, 25.5758 seconds; Margin of victory: 0.5247 seconds; Cautions: 3 for 23; Lead changes: 11 among 3 drivers.

Lap Leaders: Power 1 – 56, Montoya 57 – 60, Power 61 – 99, Montoya 100 – 102, Carpenter 103 – 125, Power 126 – 170, Carpenter 171, Montoya 172 – 177, Power 178 – 181, Carpenter 182 – 212, Power 213, Carpenter 214 – 248.

Point Standings: Power 370, Castroneves 331, Hunter-Reay 310, Pagenaud 279, Andretti 235, Munoz 227, Montoya 223, Dixon 214. Kanaan 189, Wilson 182.

With 200 IndyCar wins in the books, Penske looks for No. 201 at Indy

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The history of Team Penske at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a storied one that features 16 Indy 500 wins, including a pair of four-time winners in Al Unser and Rick Mears, and number of utterly dominant performances.

Yet, they’ll head to this year’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 looking to avenge a pair of relatively subpar performances in each of the last two years.

Power was the only Penske driver to finish in the Top 10 in 2016, with Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud finishing 11th and 19th after fuel strategy intervened late in the race. And last year, all the Penske cars were somewhat down on pace compared to other teams, notably the Honda cars.

Power was the only Penske driver to qualify for the Fast Nine Pole Shootout last year – he qualified ninth. Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves were 18th and 19th in the grid, while Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud were 22nd and 23rd.

And only Castroneves was in winning contention in the final laps as he battled eventual winner Takuma Sato – Montoya was sixth, while Pagenaud was 14th and the only other Penske running at the end. Both Newgarden and Power crashed out on Lap 183.

This year, however, could see a return to the dominant form we’re used to seeing from the Penske outfit. All four cars entered – Pagenaud, Power, Newgarden, and Castroneves – qualified inside the top nine, with Pagenaud and Power on the front row.

They have all been near the front of the time sheets, especially in laps without a tow from another car, and the indication is that the Penske cars may be the fastest ones in the field.

All told, it leads to very high expectations for a team that already expects highly of itself.

Leading the way for Penske is current points leader and defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden. Newgarden’s best Indy 500 finish is third in 2016, but he only has one other Top 10 there – ninth in 2015.

But, with an IndyCar title now under his belt, Newgarden has his eyes set on an Indy 500 win.

Josef Newgarden looks to add an Indy 500 crown to his 2017 championship. Photo: IndyCar

“I think Indianapolis…is certainly next on the list for me,” he detailed in a press conference ahead of qualifying. “It’s not next on the list for the team, they’ve won it many times. The good thing is we have four great opportunities, especially having Helio back. I think we have one of the best opportunities in the entire field to win this race.”

Pagenaud, like Newgarden, is also looking for his first Indy triumph, though his record there isn’t quite as good. He has been fast at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but only has two Top 10s to show for it – eighth in 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and tenth in 2015 in his first year with Penske.

And a Pagenaud win would be somewhat historic – it would be only the fourth time a French driver has won the “500,” and the first since 1920 (Gaston Chevrolet).

Pagenaud explained that this race always holds a place as a top priority, and that success at Indy is all about preparation.

Simon Pagenaud looks to become only the first French driver to win an Indy 500 since Gaston Chevrolet in 1920. Photo: IndyCar

“It really is our number one goal. In Roger and Tim’s heart, it’s the most important one,” Pagenaud declared. “We prepare really hard. The team does a fantastic job at just understanding every bit and component of this new aero kit, trying to extract the best out of the equipment.”

Pagenaud added, “On the driver side, there’s a lot you can do obviously to review the past races, try to focus yourself, try to put yourself into the race before it happens, try to just improve. That’s what we try to do every day. That’s the goal. That’s why this group is so good. We push each other so hard that you always try to push the limits away.”

Power, the man who delivered Penske his 200th IndyCar win, is no stranger to success at IMS, having won the Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course three times. But, he is yet to find Victory Lane on the oval, and that leaves a void in an otherwise stellar career.

Will Power has won the INDYCAR Grand Prix three times, and looks for his first win at the “500” this weekend. Photo: IndyCar

Power spotlighted the opportunity in front of him, and detailed that running in traffic has been a strength thus far through practice.

“It’s fantastic to have that opportunity. Obviously very focused on (trying to win),” he revealed. “I feel like we have a really good opportunity to win this year. I mean, I think Chevrolet has brought a really good engine. I feel like we’re really fast. Running in traffic and such, I felt like we’ve been pretty strong, especially when you get to the front.”

Castroneves is the only Penske driver with Indy 500 wins on his resume. But, with three wins to his name, Castroneves is more than familiar with IMS glory.

Now a part-time IndyCar driver who races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship with the Acura Team Penske outfit, Castroneves’ sole focus is on getting that elusive fourth win.

Helio Castroneves looks to join the four-time winners club at the Indy 500. Photo: IndyCar

And he has momentum on his side too, coming off a debut IMSA win for the Acura Penske outfit at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. A fourth Indy 500 win would put an exclamation point on the month for Castroneves.

“I think about it every day,” he said when asked about how often he ponders getting that fourth win. “It was one of those incredible ones, I have phenomenal car, the Pennzoil car was really strong last year. Obviously coming back here, first of all, I want to thank Roger and (team president Tim Cindric) for giving me the opportunity to be back at the Indy 500. It’s such a special place for so many people. Just to be back and able to continue our goal and pursue for the number four, it’s incredible.”

Pagenaud and Power will flank pole sitter Ed Carpenter on the front, starting second and third respectively. Newgarden starts fourth, while Castroneves will start eighth.

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