Scott Dixon and Ed Carpenter are both good dudes, dads, husbands, and fathers to multiple children. They’re both good friends who embrace Indianapolis. And they both happen to wheel an IndyCar pretty well.
Yet rarely do their paths cross on the racetrack – primarily because Carpenter only races in the Verizon IndyCar Series on ovals – but tonight they did at Texas Motor Speedway in the resumption of the rain-delayed Firestone 600.
And it got interesting when the two collided in the final 40 laps of the race.
Carpenter, who was wearing a throwback helmet, restarted in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet from fifth place and Dixon from 14th in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet when the race resumed.
For a while, Carpenter had about the only car capable of challenging the pretty much dominant driver and car of the night, James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.
For a moment, it appeared as though Carpenter would seek to match Hinchcliffe’s strategy to get to the finish on potentially one less stop than their competitors.
Any strategy hopes went out the window though when Dixon, who was lapped at the time, and Carpenter made contact on Lap 213. The first replay made it appear as though Carpenter chopped Dixon, but that was misleading; upon a second replay, appeared actually more of a racing incident.
As Carpenter took the second apex in the tri-oval, Dixon also moved up, and it sent Dixon spinning out of control into Turn 1 – and then back across the track where fortunately all other cars (except the seemingly luckless Helio Castroneves, who’s been a magnet for other car contacts this year) managed to avoid hitting him.
A less than pleased Dixon channeled his inner Will Power at Loudon in 2011 responded by giving Carpenter an infamous “double bird” salute. Carpenter continued, and Dixon was done on the spot.
But Carpenter’s race didn’t last much longer, as he got loose exiting Turn 4 and crashed out, again collecting Castroneves. Max Chilton spun in avoidance to the infield grass on the tri-oval.
With both drivers out, it marked a frustrating end to their nights.
Dixon’s continually frustrating 2016 season sees his championship hopes all but mathematically end tonight. After finishing 19th and with a maximum of 158 points left on the table, Dixon sits 132 back with just two races to go. His perhaps greater streak, finishing in the top three in points every year since 2006, is also in jeopardy; he sits sixth.
“I like Ed [Carpenter] and he’s a good friend, but I don’t know what the hell he was doing out there,” Dixon said, via post-race quotes distributed by Chevrolet.
“Three laps before that he nearly crashed me doing the same thing going into Turn 3. And then going into Turn 1 he just turned left into me. I don’t know if his radio wasn’t working or he didn’t have a spotter, but how you don’t get a penalty for that I have no idea.”
Carpenter ends his 2016 season behind the wheel with only one race finish – a lapped 18th in Iowa – in five starts. What he thought was his best chance to bank some sort of result tonight went awry after the contact, and later, his own car getting loose out of Turn 4. He ended 18th tonight.
“The car was awesome. On long runs, I think we were for sure the best car out there. I’d cut into James’s lead every stint. He was a little quicker. We didn’t have the fastest car, but it was good on the long runs,” Carpenter said.
“I’m just bummed. It’s been such a rough year. We’ve had such better cars that what we had last year and really just can’t catch a break.
“Whatever happened with Scott and I there, when my left rear touched his front wing, it must have cut a tire and that led to the accident.
“I’m just really bummed. I thought tonight was a night that we could have gotten a good result. It’s going to be a long off-season before I can get back in the car, but we’ll come back strong next year.”
Spencer Pigot returns to Carpenter’s No. 20 Chevrolet for the final two races at Watkins Glen International and Sonoma Raceway. The latter site is where Pigot made his IndyCar test debut a year ago driving for Team Penske last year, and captured the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title in 2014.