Ed Carpenter looks to turn California dream back into reality

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To borrow from the 1966 hit song by the Mama’s and the Papa’s, Ed Carpenter has been spending a lot of California Dreamin’ lately – of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Carpenter has made just two starts thus far this season, both on oval tracks. Unfortunately, mishaps caused him to fail to finish both races.

He crashed in last month’s Indianapolis 500 and finished 30th in the 33-car field.

Then earlier this month at Texas, the Indianapolis native suffered engine problems and finished 22nd.

But the driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet is hoping his luck turns around as he goes around yet another oval in Saturday’s MAVTV 500 at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway.

“It is always exciting to go back to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana (Calif.),” Carpenter said in a media release. “It has been a track that we have had a great history at the past three years, with a podium each year.”

Indeed, Fontana has been very good for Carpenter, having won in 2012, finished runner-up in 2013 and was third in last year’s race.

But there’s one big difference between those races and Saturday’s race: all three were the final race of their respective season.

Due to a schedule change by IndyCar officials, Fontana now sits 11th in the 16-race schedule. Its place as the season finale has been replaced by Sonoma Raceway on Aug. 30.

In a way, Carpenter feels a bit like he’s going home with his return to Fontana. It’s welcoming and has been a place he likes to hang his helmet.

“We have really been struggling on the ovals so far this year, but I feel like Fontana is a great track to get things turned around,” he said.

“We have been working very hard to make sure we go there with a good plan to address some of the struggles that we have had. I can’t wait to get on track and get back up to speed.”

Speed will definitely be something Carpenter will get plenty of, as ACS is one of the fastest tracks on the IndyCar circuit.

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James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.