Carpenter comes up just short of Indy 500 victory

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During the first half of Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500, Ed Carpenter looked like he might be the man to beat. Leading a race-high 65 laps, most coming in the first half of the race, Carpenter’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet appeared to be the class of the field.

He never lost the lead on merit until after a Lap 73 restart, when Tony Kanaan passed him on the outside entering Turn 1, but Carpenter was able to remain in second for the remainder of that stint to stay in the lead group.

However, things took a turn during a sequence of pit stops that began on Lap 91, with Kanaan the first of the leaders to pit, and concluded on Lap 109 – several drivers had gone off strategy and extended the window for pit sequences in that stint.

It was during that stretch that Carpenter lost a position to Power, the Penske driver emerging ahead of him after their stops.

Carpenter never found his way back around Power from there, with Power becoming the dominant driver in the second half of the race.

A late restart with seven laps remaining put Carpenter on the gearbox of Power as they ran fourth and fifth – behind Oriol Servia, Stefan Wilson, and Jack Harvey – but Power got the jump and was able to pass Servia one lap later, while Carpenter was stuck behind them.

And by the time Wilson, Harvey, and Servia all pitted for splashes of fuel, Power was long gone, leaving Carpenter to settle for second.

Carpenter was unsurprisingly gracious in defeat afterward, highlighting that the ECR team did everything they needed to do to give him a chance at the win, but explained that things ultimately just didn’t turn in their favor.

“The team really did a great job all month long, all day long really,” Carpenter asserted. “Pit stops were really good. It was almost like being out front early probably hurt us a little bit just because guys started saving fuel a little earlier. We got behind on the fuel save. Whatever segment Will got by us, (he) went a couple laps further, my out lap we had traffic. One of those exchanges.”

Carpenter also detailed that, as expected, track position proved critical, and that he just couldn’t get the lead back once he lost it.

“Track position was everything we thought it was going to be coming into the day. You heard the drivers talk all week. Just couldn’t quite get (the lead) back from (Power).”

Carpenter’s next race will be in two weeks in the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

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Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.