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Carpenter Hammers Out Big Win In Fort Worth

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 8 2014

Oval ace Ed Carpenter won a Texas shootout on Saturday night. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

FORT WORTH, Texas – Owner/driver Ed Carpenter added the title “winner” to his 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series resume Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway, holding off an inspired Will Power in what amounted to an unintentional green-white-checkered flag finish to the Firestone 600.

“I’ve loved this racetrack for a long time but had a lot of bad luck here,” Carpenter said after posting his first win on TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara/Chevrolet. “I think we were for sure the car to beat at the end.”

An oval-track specialist by choice, Carpenter saw a massive 18.5930-second lead over Juan Pablo Montoya disappear on Lap 241 of the scheduled 248 when Takuma Sato brought out the night’s third caution flag with an engine fire aboard his No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda.

Power stood sixth on the grid at that point, the result of a drive-thru penalty for speeding on pit road during his stop on Lap 213. That miscue dropped Power from second, behind Carpenter, to sixth and apparently done for the night. But when the pits opened on Lap 244, Team Penske president Tim Cindric had Power pit for four Firestone tires and a wing adjustment. Power and Simon Pagenaud, running fifth at the caution, were the only lead-pack drivers to pit for fresh rubber.

Carpenter led the field into Turn 1 when the green flag flew on Lap 246, followed by Montoya and Power – who quickly picked-off Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon to move into third. On Lap 247, Carpenter’s lead over Montoya was a little over a half-second. Power got around Montoya on the final lap and was closing on Carpenter exiting the Turn 4 dogleg before falling short by 0.5247-seconds.

“I was a little worried about that last yellow,” said Carpenter, who added this win to his previous oval-track victories at Kentucky Speedway in 2011 and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., in 2012. “I knew guys were going to come in. We talked about what we would do in that situation and we were kind of undecided. But Tim Broyles (team manager) and the boys made the right call. Awesome track. I’ve really always wanted to win here, so super-excited.

“It’s nice to finally break through tonight. It’s nice to be able to deliver. Really proud of the whole team and the effort.”

Power, who complained on his in-car radio of being blocked by traffic after his penalty, put the blame for the infraction squarely in his helmet. “Another drive-thru,” said Power, who led 145 laps in his No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Chevrolet fielded by Team Penske. “That’s four drive-thrus in five races. That’s not good enough. Anyone who says I don’t get drive-thrus or penalties are crazy, man. I get them every race.

“I’m just going too hard, obviously the pit thing (Saturday) night and obviously last week with the contact early in the race (No. 2 at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit). Like I said, I just go for race wins. I’m not looking at points. I just enjoy racing, and you do it for fun and try to get the most out of it. But those mistakes are just not good enough at this level. I’ve got to stop it. I’ve got to just take it a bit easier.”

Asked if he would have won without the infraction, Power deferred to Carpenter. “Ed was awfully strong,” said Power, who posted his sixth top-five finish of the season and 60th career top-five result. “He’s an awesome driver and it would have been a good battle at the end. My car was good at the end of the stint but I just feel happy the Verizon car came in second. It was a lot of fun.”

Penske teammate Montoya, who finished third to notch his first podium of the season in his return to open-wheel racing, said his strategy was dictated by Carpenter, who remained on-track.

“It was one of those cautions,” said Montoya, driver of the No. 2 Verizon Dallara/Chevrolet. “The thing that is disappointing is they have some cones for the restart and he (Carpenter) went probably 200 or 300 yards before. How does it work? I mean, what is the rule? If you are going to let them restart anywhere then don’t put the cones. But if you put the cones it’s like NASCAR you have the two lines and you respect them. Hopefully they really look at it because I think it was a bit of a joke.”

Informed of JPM’s criticism, Carpenter said, “I’m sure he’d be miffed. I was kind of sick of him because he was lagging back. You’re not supposed to lag back (to get a run on the leader) and we talked about that at the driver’s meeting.” Carpenter added that if Montoya wanted to speak to him about it, he would be available.

Pagenaud, winner of the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road-course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month, finished fourth, followed Dixon, the three-time/reigning series champion. “I think the racing was fantastic and I hope we put on a good show for the fans,” said Dixon, addressing the overriding issue of the weekend here. Sanctioning body INDYCAR allowed the teams to add 300 pounds of downforce in an effort to change the single-file racing from a year ago, as well as ease tire degradation and handling issues.

“I’m just actually glad I got to the end,” said Dixon, driver of the No. 9 TCGR Dallara/Chevrolet. “The car was so loose the whole race I hardly had to turn left. It was an interesting night really.”

Power, who began the night with a 19-point lead over Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, exited Texas what an unofficial 43-point pad after the Brazilian finished 10th. “An awesome call at the end by the team to call for new tires and obviously got back to at least where we were. One more lap we probably would have had it. But yeah, very good day. Great day, really enjoyed it.”

Same for Carpenter, who started on-pole at the Indy 500 on May 25th but finished 27th after a late-race crash started by James Hinchcliffe. “We had the car to win Indy,” said Carpenter, whose team is co-owned by Indy Racing League founder and stepfather Tony George. “I’m not saying we would have beat Ryan (Hunter-Reay) but I think we were the best shot at Ryan. It’s nice to come back here and get a win.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

Verizon IndyCar Series

Firestone 600

FORT WORTH, Texas – Results Saturday of the Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.455 mile Texas Motor Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (5) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 248, Running

2. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 248, Running

3. (4) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 248, Running

4. (6) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 248, Running

5. (7) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 248, Running

6. (3) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 248, Running

7. (11) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 247, Running

8. (14) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 247, Running

9. (13) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 247, Running

10. (15) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 247, Running

11. (2) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 247, Running

12. (21) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 246, Running

13. (10) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 245, Running

14. (9) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 244, Running

15. (20) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 244, Running

16. (22) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 244, Running

17. (19) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 244, Running

18. (16) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 238, Mechanical

19. (12) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 136, Mechanical

20. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 118, Contact

21. (8) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 118, Contact

22. (17) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 3, Mechanical

Race Statistics

Winners average speed: 178.301

Time of Race: 02:01:25.5758

Margin of victory: 0.5247

Cautions: 3 for 23

Lead changes: 11 among 3 drivers

Lap Leaders:

Power 1 – 56

Montoya 57 – 60

Power 61 – 99

Montoya 100 – 102

Carpenter 103 – 125

Power 126 – 170

Carpenter 171

Montoya 172 – 177

Power 178 – 181

Carpenter 182 – 212

Power 213

Carpenter 214 – 248

Point Standings: Power 370, Castroneves 331, Hunter-Reay 310, Pagenaud 279, Andretti 235, Munoz 227, Montoya 223, Dixon 214. Kanaan 189, Wilson 182.

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 8 2014
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