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Jun 09, 2014 - 03:49 PM
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Firestone 600 Post-Race Notes
Posted by: newsla on Jun 09, 2014 - 03:45 PM
IndyCar News
Firestone 600 Post-Race Notes


Ed Carpenter, driver and owner for Ed Carpenter Racing, bounced back from a disappointing finish at the Indianapolis 500 to win Saturday evening's nationally televised Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

 

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Carpenter has made just two starts this season as he is splitting driving duties with Mike Conway, but he has extremely impressive in both. After being in strong contention for the win at Indianapolis only to be knocked out of the race with 25 laps remaining after being caught up in an accident, Carpenter made sure he ran up front throughout the late stages of the Firestone 600, leading 66 of the final 67 laps of the 248-lap event.

"It's just good to bounce back," Carpenter said. "Nothing really totally makes up for a missed opportunity, but at the same time, it always feels good to win, especially at a place like this."

Heading into this Verizon IndyCar Series season, Carpenter decided to split his team's driving duties. He would be an oval-only competitor and English driver Mike Conway was brought on board to compete on road and street courses for the Chevrolet-powered No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing team. Just eight races into the season, the move has paid off handsomely thus far with the team notching marquee wins with Conway in Long Beach and Carpenter's win in the Firestone 600.

"(The team) has been giving us great cars all year for myself and Mike (Conway), so it's nice to be able to deliver," Carpenter said." I'm just really proud of the whole team and the effort and proud to be able to represent Fuzzy's and do a good job for them with how much they've supported us the past two-and-a-half years. It's good for everyone involved."

Carpenter dominated late in the Firestone 600 and appeared to be coasting to victory with an 18-second lead before Takuma Sato's No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing Honda engine blew with seven laps remaining. The caution brought the cars together again for a two-lap shootout to the checkered flag.

While most drivers pitted under caution, including points leader Will Power who was running sixth at the time, the top three - Carpenter, Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Kanaan - all stayed out.

"On one hand, I was nervous because I wasn't sure what the right decision was for us to make," said Carpenter on the decision to not pit. "It's hard to pit, but we were pretty far into our tires and you know new tires are going to be strong.

"I figured we'd stay out with that few of laps left. I wasn't sure how many guys would pit. I knew some would, but just fortunate there were three laps left and we were able to get a good enough restart. I'm guessing probably many more laps left than what we were going to have, we probably would have had to pit. It was a handful the last couple laps, but you get in that position and I've got to make sure I bring it home for the guys. I felt like it was our race to win."

A great restart gave Carpenter the space he needed to cruise to the win, but Power's four new tires on the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet propelled him from sixth to second. Had there been many more laps remaining, it looked as if Power would catch the leader.

"Certainly new tires are a pretty big advantage when we were about 30 some laps into mine," Carpenter said. "Certainly wouldn't have been able to hold him off much longer, but there were only four laps to go, three to go when we took the start, so the guys made the right call."

The victory was the third of Carpenter's career and his first since winning the 2012 season finale at Fontana. In his previous 12 starts at Texas Motor Speedway, he had just one top-five finish - fourth last year - and led one lap (2009) before breaking through Saturday night to become the first American to win at Texas since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2007.

Power, with his runner-up finish, extended his Verizon IndyCar Series championship lead from 19 to 39 points over Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet), who finished 10th.
Good To The Last Drop

It was only appropriate that a gamble led to victory in Friday evening's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino & Resort 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Matt Crafton (No. 88 Slim Jim/Menards Toyota), the defending Camping World Truck Series champion, snapped a 26-race winless streak at Texas Motor Speedway by going the final 61 laps (91.5 miles) without pitting for fuel. Crafton, who had finished runner-up three times during the winless streak, captured the elusive victory by setting a record for largest margin of victory at Texas Motor Speedway - 13.302 seconds over second-place Justin Lofton (No. 20 NTS Motorsports Chevrolet).

"We wanted to do it in this fashion,'' Crafton said. "We wanted to lead the majority of laps and whup 'em, and we finally did. This truck was flawless. It could go anywhere we wanted.

"It's awesome to be able to do it in this fashion. We marched through them. We had a brand-new motor package from Triad and they stepped up as well. I'm just lucky enough to drive it. We have an awesome organization (ThorSport Racing). We have every tool to work with and it's so cool to be in Victory Lane in Texas."

Crafton's dominance was on full display as he led a race-high 141 laps, easily surpassing his previous 42 laps led during his previous 26 races at Texas Motor Speedway. Crafton, who earned a victory earlier in the season at Martinsville, now has multiple wins in a season for the first time in his 14 seasons competing in the Camping World Truck Series. The laps led also established a personal best for him as it was the most he had ever led in a single race in his career.
Pomp & Circumstance

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 18-year-old rookie Erik Jones walked across the stage on Texas Motor Speedway's frontstretch to receive his high school diploma prior to Friday night's WinStar World Casino & Resort 400.

Jones, a native of Byron, Mich., opted to forego his graduation ceremony back home so that he could compete on his first 1.5-mile track on the NASCAR circuit having become eligible when he just turned 18 the week prior. Donned in his Swartz Creek Community Schools cap and gown, Jones was greeted on stage by Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage.

Gossage, or the "Dean of Racing," also was sporting traditional faculty graduation attire to represent his degree from Middle Tennessee State University. To the tune of "Pomp & Circumstance," Gossage presented Jones with his Swartz Creek Community Schools diploma as well as a special Texas Motor Speedway "racing diploma" for graduating to 1.5-mile ovals.

"Ever since about first grade, all he has ever wanted to do is race," said Dave Jones, Erik's father who was on hand with other family members for the event. "Everything in school, whatever the assignment was, writing a story, it was about racing. Drawing a picture, it would be a race car. So to get to this point and have the two, having graduated and getting his diploma at a race track is beyond wildest dreams."

Jones, who became the youngest winner in Camping World Truck Series history when he won at Phoenix last year at 17, then buckled into the No. 51 Hiring Our Heroes/ToyotaCare Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Starting fifth, Jones raced among the top five for a good majority of the WinStar World Casino 400 before fading late and finishing 11th. It was just his second start of the season, the other coming at Martinsville. He is scheduled to compete in 10 for NCWTS races for Kyle Busch Motorsports this season.
Juan And Only

A return to Texas Motor Speedway helped Verizon IndyCar Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) turn his season around during Saturday night's Firestone 600. Montoya, who had previously appeared in 14 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races on the 1.5-mile track, turned in a career-best performance at Texas Motor Speedway with a season-best third-place effort.

Montoya, whose previous best INDYCAR finish this season was fourth at Long Beach, remained seventh in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, but closed the gap on the two directly in front of him. He is just four points behind rookie Carlos Munoz, who finished 13th in the Firestone 600, and 12 back of Marco Andretti, who finished 22nd.

"It was good. I was recovering from a flat tire at the beginning of the race," Montoya said of his performance. "We recovered and we did a good job there and just a little mad at the end. But overall for the Verizon team it was really good. It was fun. What a handful. Oh, my God. To be good here it's got to be a handful. We crank wing and crank wing and the more we cranked the better we got. It was fun."

Montoya was one of three drivers to lead during the Firestone 600 - joining Firestone 600 winner Ed Carpenter (90 laps) and Will Power (145). The 13 laps led nearly matched his season total of 16 through the first seven races, all of which came in the Indy 500.
UFC Champ Feels The Pressure

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight champion Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks wasn't putting up a fight this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hendricks, the Honorary Starter of Saturday evening's Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600, learned instead to relax as he enjoyed the thrill of reaching high speeds in the open cockpit INDYCAR two-seater with the legendary Mario Andretti behind the wheel.

"It was a blast," Hendricks said of the experience. "A little bit different than NASCAR. The airflow, the way that you have to maneuver your head, the way you have to fight the wind in the curves and the straightaways is a huge experience. Been in NASCAR a couple of times, first time in an Indy car and loved it.

"He (Andretti) was an amazing driver. Hitting those corners that fast is always a thrill. The first one I knew I had to relax to let my body to feel the Gs (gravitational forces). I couldn't fight it. He has always been a stud in the driver's seat. I felt very comfortable in great hands."

Hendricks, who had previously appeared at Texas Motor Speedway for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races as a guest of Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick, kicked off the Firestone 600 by waving the green flag.

"The feel of the cars is the thrill that I get," Hendricks said of waving the flag. "To be out there, to feel the pressure, to hear the engines roar. It's a dream come true to do this. I've been a NASCAR fan since I was a freshman in high school so to be able to wave the green flag here today is awesome."

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