Photo: IndyCar

Carpenter comes up just short of Indy 500 victory

Leave a comment

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.

Follow@KyleMLavigne

Rahal determined to regain winning touch in 2019 IndyCar season

Photo by Shawn Gritzmacher, INDYCAR
INDYCAR
Leave a comment

AUSTIN, Texas – Graham Rahal entered the room with a smile on his face and a chip on his shoulder.

It was IndyCar “Media Day” and Rahal wasn’t happy with the way last season went at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He was less happy with the fact some aren’t considering him a serious threat in 2019. He playfully chided with one media outlet for failing to mention his team as one to watch in 2019.

“We use that as motivation to show everybody how we are viewed,” Rahal said. “We are here to win.”

Rahal just turned 30 in January but is entering his 13thseason in big-time Indy car racing. He entered the 2007 Champ Car Series season when he was just 17. He missed his high school prom because he was racing at Houston.

“That was the luckiest day of my life,” Rahal said. “I didn’t have to go to the prom. It doesn’t get any better than that.

“Plus, I got my second career podium that weekend.”

Rahal drove to victory in his very first race in the combined IndyCar Series in the 2008 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He was hailed as the “Poster Boy of Unification” and a future star. What followed was a seven-year drought before he captured his second-career win in a thrilling race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

He won two races in 2015, one in 2016 and two in 2017. He was expected to contend for victories and possibly the championship last year but struggled through a disappointing season and finished eighth in the standings.

“I’m looking forward for chance this year,” Rahal said. “Last year was a tough one for me and for the team. I’m looking forward to what my new engineer, Allen McDonald, has done so far. He is an accomplished engineer and brings a different mindset to our program this year from what we had last year. He and (fellow engineer) Eddie Jones are very close friends and that will help us from the standpoint they are on the same page.

“We needed a bit of life brought back to the team.”

Rahal believes his challenges are to get everything in order before the season starts. The team has defined the areas where it was lacking in 2019. The team needed to improve in research and development after starting behind last season.

“I’m excited for what I see, and I know in the end it will all pay off,” Rahal said. “It’s just a matter of when.

“There is a lot to be excited about for us. We are in a great position as a team. We have great sponsorship and that will allow us to push forward and do the things we need to do.”

Rahal believes at 30, he has a long time ahead of him to win races and championships and maybe even the Indianapolis 500. In order to reach those goals, however, Rahal’s team needs to regain the competitive level he displayed prior to last year.

“We’ve been fortunate to win six times,” Rahal said. “A lot of people come into this sport and never win. I fully recognize there is no reason we can’t win a lot. I don’t care what anybody writes, what anybody thinks – I really feel that when it comes to race day, we perform better than 99 percent of the other people out there.

“As a team and for myself, we have to qualify better. If we can qualify better, we’ll be a thorn in everybody’s side. We know the rear of our cars just aren’t good enough. When we need to find that extra tenth or two, it’s just not there but absolutely, we want to win.

“I don’t come here year after year to just drive around. Our sponsors don’t invest in us year after year to not see us win. We feel that. But our cars aren’t good enough and we know that.”

Rahal believes the team has identified the problems with the setup of its car. It has a deep engineering staff but hasn’t had a chance to develop the damper program and other important areas that provide a competition setup.

Takuma Sato, the winner of the 101stIndianapolis 500 when he was with Andretti Autosport, scored the team’s only victory in 2018 with a win in the Portland Grand Prix. The two are back this year and have built a respect for each other.

“He’s a good guy,” Rahal said of Sato. “Other than Helio Castroneves, Takuma is probably the happiest man on the planet. He’s a great guy and fits in well with our organization. We pride ourselves on being a family and he fits in extremely well to that.

“We need to do a better job for him as a team. He won a race last year, but we can both do better to win with both cars.

“The Andretti cars are the best right now and the Penske cars will be good. We have a lot of space to close up on those two teams but hopefully, we can do it.”