June 7, 2014

Carpenter holds off Power charge for TMS win

Owner-driver Ed Carpenter eases the pain of bitter disappointment at the Indianapolis 500.

This doesn’t make up for his disappointing run in the Indianapolis 500, going from pole-sitter to a race-ending wreck early on. But it comes close.

Ed Carpenter has never had much success at Texas Motor Speedway, but all those misses finally paid off. Carpenter had the best car Saturday night and held off a late charge by Will Power to win the Firestone 600.

“It’s just good to bounce back,” Carpenter said. “Nothing totally makes up for the missed opportunity at [Indy], but this is a big win for us.”

It’s the third career victory for Carpenter and comes at a track that hasn’t treated him too well. He had finished 15th or worse in seven of his first 10 races and had no top-five runs until coming in fourth last season.

But start No. 13 proved to be the charm, as Carpenter won in dramatic fashion.

Carpenter beat Power off pit road with 35 laps left on the final green-flag stop and gained a comfortable lead once Power was penalized for speeding off pit road.

That cushion went away, though, when Takuma Sato blew his engine and brought out a caution flag with seven laps to go.

It led to a two-lap shootout on the restart and Carpenter held off Power, who overcame the pit-road blunder and had the benefit of fresh tires. Power passed Juan Pablo Montoya on the restart and very well could have passed Carpenter with another lap.

“It’s hard to say how many laps it would’ve taken for Will,” Carpenter said. “I don’t know.”

It will remain unknown, but what is known is that simply getting back into contention was an impressive feat for Power. It might pay dividends in his title chase.

“Ed was awfully strong,” Power said. “My car was good at the end of the stint, but I just feel happy that we came in second. It was a lot of fun.”

Some contenders weren’t as fortunate.

Marco Andretti had a strong opening lap, moving up eight spots, before he lost his engine on Lap 5. A small fire onboard ensued and ended Andretti’s night before it really even began.

“I’m really gutted,” said Andretti, who finished last. “This one is frustrating.”

Things continued to get worse for Andretti Autosport with reigning Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay getting knocked out after 135 laps with mechanical issues.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Hunter-Reay since his career-defining win two weeks ago. He finished 16th and 19th in a pair of road races at Detroit last week, and had another disappointing finish in Texas.

“[The car] just lost power all of a sudden,” Hunter-Reay said. “We were running seventh and still had a shot at it. It was a long night and we needed points most of all, so really disappointed.”

But the night belonged to driver-owner Carpenter and his No. 20 Chevrolet Fuzzy’s Vodka team.

Carpenter is only running on ovals this season with Mike Conway handling the street and road races. Carpenter made the change before the season in order to make his team more competitive and it’s paid off so far.

Conway won the second race of the season at Long Beach and Ed Carpenter Racing is now one of three teams with two wins, joining Team Penske and Andretti Autosport.

“Awesome night,” Carpenter said. “I have loved this racetrack for a long time and had a lot of bad luck here. I have really always wanted to win here, so super excited.”

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