Carpenter suffers in day of contrasts for ECR at Phoenix

JR Hildebrand made a strong comeback at Phoenix after a one-race layoff for a broken hand and will start third at Phoenix, but his team-owner and teammate for ovals, Ed Carpenter, suffered a fuel leak in practice and qualified last.

Carpenter suffers in day of contrasts for ECR at Phoenix
Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
J.R. Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet and J.R. Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
J.R. Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing

Carpenter, for whom this fourth round of the season is his first race as a driver this year, completed only 17 laps in Friday afternoon practice before a fuel leak sent him to the garage for the remainder of the two-hour session.

Then a lurid slide on his warm-up lap before his two-lap qualifying run in the evening led to him just focusing on driving safely to the checkered flag. His average speed was 2mph off the next slowest driver and 8.5mph from Helio Castroneves’ pole-winning speed.

“That stunk,” Carpenter told reporters immediately afterward. “I got loose on the warm-up lap which, when you haven’t had a real run all day, isn’t confidence-inspiring.

“I’m also disappointed in myself that I couldn’t just suck it up and go through my laps out there, but I’m also super-mad that we didn’t get to practice. That’s the danger of this qualifying format; you’ve got to be on your stuff as a team and get it right. We had an issue today that cost us practice.

“Really it’s going to take something miraculous [tomorrow] because it’s so freaking hard to pass here. We’re going to have a fight on our hands and still no more practice than what we’ve already had.

“We’ll just have to make the best of it and try to put on a good show. But I tell you, I’m super, super pissed.”

Hildebrand, who disrupted a potential Penske lockout of the first two rows by qualifying third said that his recovering hand was not hurting his performance.

“I think with the kind of injury that I'm dealing with and the surgery that I had, an oval definitely is a little easier, just literally turning left versus turning right.

“It felt better than honestly I thought it would. I didn't have any major issues. I got a couple of different braces that I'm kind of playing around with and stuff like that. But felt like I got it pretty dialed in.

After qualifying, he added: “I'm glad to be up there in the top three. The car has been good here from the test to rolling out today for practice. We had a good, strong run.

“It's so difficult to pick your downforce level in these varied conditions. We saw the Penske guys roll out with a little less than where we were at, but frankly, our cars are really good in race trim.”

 

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