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IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver. Next up is Ed Carpenter, who had a tough season behind the wheel even though he had a generally good season as team co-owner of CFH Racing.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 22nd Place (6 Starts), 1 Win, 1 Pole, 2 Podiums, 3 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 122 Laps Led, 8.3 Avg. Start, 9.7 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 27th Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 6th, Best Start 4th, o Top-5, 2 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 14.2 Avg. Start, 17.8 Avg. Finish

IndyCar’s primary oval specialist had a year to forget from the driver role, but it was balanced out at least with some good results in his team co-owner role. One sixth place finish was all Carpenter had to show for his six starts, and even that – like his other races – could well have been higher had it not been for other extenuating circumstances.

In truth, things got off to a horrible start for Carpenter in the month of May. First teammate Josef Newgarden, then Carpenter himself had awful looking, although fortunately injury-free flying accidents within a matter of days before qualifying. Carpenter was justifiably livid when he exited his own No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and not long after was when INDYCAR determined it would qualify the cars with race boost and higher downforce levels.

His first three races of the year produced three nightmares in three different ways. First was his contact with Oriol Servia in the Indianapolis 500. Next came Texas where both cars were out to lunch on setup. The nadir came at Fontana when the two teammates crashed into each other, with Carpenter’s spotter Lee Bentham having made an error up top and not alerting Carpenter to Newgarden’s presence on his outside exiting Turn 4.

Things were slightly salvaged with a near last-to-10th run at Milwaukee and then his best drive of the year by far, a near-podium at Iowa before his infamous battle with Sage Karam. Another DNF at Pocono however left Carpenter mired in 27th in the final standings.

The best races for Carpenter in 2015 came when he was outside the cockpit. Newgarden won twice and at the latter event in Toronto, Carpenter’s road course fill-in Luca Filippi came second to complete CFH Racing’s first 1-2 finish. Carpenter also had a front row seat to the two races Newgarden led a combined 220 laps – Milwaukee and Iowa.

There were a lot of factors to consider about Carpenter’s season, the major one being that the offseason required the merging and fusion of separate single-car entities – Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing – into the combined CFH Racing program. The performance from CFH on the whole in 2015 was very stout; they were easily the second or third best Chevrolet team on a consistent basis, and Newgarden in particular was the biggest driver thorn in the Penske/Ganassi side. Ed the driver will seek to rebound in 2016; Ed the co-owner has managed to keep his star teammate for another year; and Ed the co-owner of CFH will have a full offseason to grow rather than merge as they did last year.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).