A Happy Return For Carlson

Tyce Carlson isn’t as well known as fellow Indy Racing League drivers Buddy Lazier, Scott Sharp or Eddie Cheever Jr. But like those veterans, Carlson has been with the IRL since its infancy.

He started the IRL’s fourth race in 1997 and has been trying to capture his first win since then. This season, Carlson gives it another try with PDM Racing after starting just one race last year.

Carlson, 31, drives the team's No. 18 Dallara-Chevy starting this weekend at the season-opening Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. It will be his first appearance at the 1.5-mile flat oval because he was without a ride during the IRL’s inaugural visit last year.

He knows what to expect, however.

“For Homestead, our goal is to put a good race car under me, qualify in the top 20 and race all day,” Carlson said. “Obviously, we come to the race wanting to win, and the key to the Homestead race is consistency. We need a good car for the whole race. Bursts of speed are nice, but I was able to study last year's race, and Homestead rewards being steady.”

If being steady is what it takes, Carlson may be in luck. In the past 23 races he has competed in, Carlson has been running at the finish 16 times. Mechanical problems knocked him out of four races.

During that stretch, he consistently finished in the top half of the field with a best finish of eighth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2000. He has one other top-10 finish and 15 other top-15 finishes.

Among his 28 career starts are four for PDM. In the 1996-1997 season, Carlson drove for the team in four races with a best finish of 11th at New Hampshire International Speedway. In 1998, he drove for PDM at Charlotte and finished 11th again.

He returned to work with PDM throughout the offseason, testing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Homestead and Phoenix.

“Each test gave me laps in the car at speed to keep me sharp for the new season,” Carlson said. “From my experience, the car is always good right off the trailer. Since we have spent a lot of time at the track together, I have a great relationship with the team. That means a lot when we show up at the track.

“We can get to work making the car faster since we already know that the initial setup is going to be good. They know what I like in a race car.”

Paul Diatlovich, co-owner of PDM Racing, announced Carlson’s hiring last week.

“He’s the driver we chose because he is a talented veteran driver,” Diatlovich said. “We’re looking forward to going down to Homestead to show the fans what the IRL is all about – intense competition. The stakes are higher this year and we’re ready race.”

PDM has a knack for getting the most out of its equipment and drivers. In 2000, then-rookie Sam Hornish Jr. led 38 laps at Kentucky Speedway and finished in the Top 10 twice for the team.

Jim Immke, owner of PDM sponsor Immke Auto Group, is optimistic that the combination of PDM’s history of performing well on limited budgets and Carlson’s testing will bear fruit on the track.

“Tyce, PDM and I go back a long way,” Immke said. “He’s a great driver and they are a great team. I am glad that we were able to work something out so we can all go racing together. I want to win Homestead. Tyce has a lot of miles in testing at the track and is ready for the first race of the season.”

Carlson thinks the combination is a winning one, too.

“I am really looking forward to the Homestead race and the chance to show what we are capable of now that we are working together,” he said.

Practice for the Grand Prix of Miami begins at 10 a.m. (ET) Thursday. Qualifying is 12:30 p.m. (ET) Friday. The race is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. (ET) Saturday.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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