Carpenter set for his final drive of the season

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Ed Carpenter welcomed a positive result at Pocono Raceway as his ovals-only NTT IndyCar Series driving season nears an end.

Sixth place in Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 equaled his best result this year in May’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. But make no mistake, Carpenter still yearns to see an ECR car earn a podium finish -- or more importantly -- win a race this year.

Carpenter's last chance behind a wheel is Saturday’s final oval stop: the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

“It’s nice when I get back-to-back races because you kind of stay in the groove, but it’s also bittersweet when it’s my last race of the year,” Carpenter said. “Then you’re just going as a spectator to the next two, knowing you’re not in the car again.

“That’s the way it is. All of our seasons come to an end at some point. Hopefully we can carry the momentum we have from here and have a good run at Gateway and finish on a positive.”

Rain halted the ABC Supply 500 after 128 laps, but Carpenter didn’t have any illusions about how much more ground he could have made up if the race went the distance.

“I think (winner) Will (Power) pretty much had the best car,” he said. “We were pretty close to where we were going to be. Depending upon pit cycles, we were a fifth or sixth car. It was a good day. We needed a good run.

“Obviously it could have been better, had we been able to qualify (rain washed out Saturday qualifying). It was a good result. I’m bummed for (teammate) Spencer (Pigot), that he didn’t get to run his race out. Something broke. It wasn’t him.”

Pigot crashed out in 17th after 39 laps due to a mechanical issue.

Carpenter, 38, is convinced his ECR Chevrolets have been stronger than where they’ve finished this season. Pigot has finished fifth twice and is 13th in the points. Ed Jones delivered a season-best sixth in the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road course.

“I’m pretty frustrated that we haven’t been on the podium,” Carpenter said. “It’s been too long since I’ve won a race. Today was a respectable run. We were racing with the guys we needed to race with, but we also needed to be a little bit better to really go compete with Will on a day like today.

“That’s been the hard part about this year. The team has done a really good job. We’ve had quicker cars and better cars than we had last year, we just haven’t gotten the results to show it. Some of that is our own undoing. Some of that is other people have improved. I’m happy with the group that we have, the things that are in the pipeline, the things that we’ve done this year. So I feel good about heading into not only the end of this season but the offseason and what we have coming for next year.”

Carpenter shrugged at the notion he proved he’s still capable of contending.

“I don’t really give a crap what other people think,” he said. “To be honest, the guys I’ve raced with for a long time, I feel like I have respect and trust from my peers. It’s a tough series. It’s pretty easy to be 10th.”

The series’ only owner-driver is still focused on the bottom line, and that’s winning. ECR last celebrated a victory with Josef Newgarden at Iowa in 2016. The last of Carpenter’s three career victories came at Texas in 2014.

“It’s been a while since I’ve won,” Carpenter said. “I definitely don’t feel like I’ve had my last victory.”

Next up for the NTT IndyCar Series is Saturday's Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, a 1.25-mile oval track in Madison, Ill. The television broadcast will begin at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN with the green flag set for 8:45 p.m. Live radio broadcasts will be available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and Sirius Satellite Radio (XM 209, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).

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