May 20, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
Throughout his career, Ed Carpenter probably has been derided more than any other male driver in IndyCar racing. And that’s a damn shame.
Carpenter’s a throwback in the modern IndyCar series. He’s a pure bred oval racer, born and raised on the dirt tracks of Indianapolis. A true Hoosier, he’s a Butler graduate with a marketing degree and about as popular within the confines of Marion County as the Indiana Pacers – which are generating a mass number of headlines and attention given their into the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
Had he been born maybe four or five years earlier, Carpenter could have been a champion in the then-all oval Indy Racing League. He made his debut in the championship in 2003 with the small-budget PDM Racing squad for a handful of events, then moved to Red Bull Cheever Racing in 2004 where he struggled.
Come 2005, when his stepfather Tony George created Vision Racing to ensure Ed still had a seat, the die was cast against him. George, of course, created the Indy Racing League and the civil war that followed from 1996 was – and still is – damning to open-wheel racing.
Carpenter’s first few years occurred when there was an influx of teams from CART and Champ Car entering the IRL, and road and street course racing made its first appearance on an IRL schedule.
He’s never been great at road and street course racing, but from where he started in 2005, he’s come a substantial way. Context is important because now, Carpenter may only be about 1 to 1.5 seconds off the pace at the front of the field. But whereas 10 or 12 years ago that time would have been good enough for say, anywhere from 10th to 15th on the grid, that now is 23rd to 25th because the field, in spec chassis, is so close.
The steps Carpenter has taken to improve include adding a driver coach in Lee Bentham, a former Atlantic Series champion who never had his shot at the big time. Bentham has witnessed a change in aggression and style. More importantly, although Carpenter isn’t as fast as the leaders on road and street courses, he does his best to get out of the way and not interfere with their running.
When it comes to ovals, you can’t deny Carpenter is currently one of IndyCar’s best. He excelled in the admittedly dangerous “pack racing” era with lower horsepower and higher downforce cars, and took a popular first win at Kentucky in 2011 when he edged Dario Franchitti.
Yet last year, when the formula changed and the series took downforce out of the car to make them more difficult to drive, Carpenter adapted just fine. He drove through the field at Indianapolis and Texas although his results didn’t reflect his runs. Then he concluded the season with another win at Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway.
Since 2008, the year of open-wheel unification, only a handful of races have been won by teams outside the series’ acknowledged “Big Three” teams of Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti. In that time Carpenter, believe it or not, is second only to Justin Wilson in terms of victories (Wilson has three, two with Dale Coyne Racing and the last for the late Paul Newman and Carl Haas).
Carpenter’s race craft at Indy is such that he knows how to bide his time and enter into a position to win in the waning stages of the race.
His pole on Saturday was certainly popular in Indianapolis, if not nationally, yet. And come Sunday, you can be sure Carpenter and the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing entry will be in contention until the very end.
Is he ever going to be a world-beater on road and street courses? Almost certainly not. But as observers, we at least owe him the credit of being one of IndyCar’s best on the ovals, and not dismissing him given his family tree.
Sep 19, 2014, 9:13 PM EDT
Keselowski’s comments today at New Hampshire seem odd considering what he said just days after the Aug. 9 tragedy in upstate New York.
Sep 19, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Chris Buescher (RFR), Cale Conley (RCR) shine for these teams.
Sep 19, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Crafton hopes to build up his slim lead in the Camping World Truck Series championship with a strong outing in tomorrow’s UNOH 175.
Sep 19, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Kenzie Ruston can relate so well to NASCAR star Danica Patrick. Just like when Patrick was working her way up through the racing ranks early on in her own career, Ruston has also had to outwork other male drivers for virtually everything she’s achieved up to now.
Sep 19, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT
Keselowski sets a new track record at New Hampshire in earning his fifth Sprint Cup pole of 2014.
Sep 19, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT
Pre-race videos with Austin Dyne and Tanner Foust before Red Bull GRC doubleheader in LA.
Sep 19, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
A win from Gordon on Sunday would give New Hampshire its record-setting 14th different winner in as many races.
Sep 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
We crunch the numbers to see who is really ahead at Mercedes in Singapore after Friday practice.
Sep 19, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Kyle Busch. Joey Logano. Kyle Larson. You may soon add Ben Rhodes to the list of young phenom drivers that have gone on to stardom in the Sprint Cup Series.
Sep 19, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
“…We’re looking for just that little sliver of speed to get back to a dominant position.” – Johnson
Sep 19, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Finishing P1 not enough for the Briton following his Friday running in Singapore.
Sep 19, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
“I hope it’s before the end of this year, but if not, we won’t be too disappointed. We’ve been running well all season long.” – Larson
Sep 19, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
German driver rallies to finish in the top five in both sessions despite an engine failure.
Sep 19, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Already in the Contender Round for the Chase, Keselowski gets his weekend at New Hampshire off to a good start.
Sep 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
German driver feeling comfortable ahead of qualifying in Singapore tomorrow.
Sep 19, 2014, 12:43 PM EDT
IndyCars get their first postseason running with Firestone tire test next week.
Sep 19, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Not what the Venezuelan would have planned heading into his Friday programme at Marina Bay.
Sep 19, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Returning to Kyle Busch’s No. 51 Truck, the 17-year-old Jones is making his first appearance this weekend at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Sep 19, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
One of the most controversial F1 rulings in history could be scrapped after just one season.
Sep 19, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
A red flag for Pastor Maldonado stops Nico Rosberg from posting a quick lap time, forcing him to settle for P12 at the finish.
- Brad Keselowski wins pole for Sunday’s Chase race at New Hampshire 0
- F1 Friday Analysis: Is Lewis the man to beat? 0
- Hamilton tops FP2 as night falls in Singapore 0
- F1 Paddock Pass: Singapore Grand Prix (VIDEO) 0
- Alonso fastest in first practice for Singapore GP 0
- Michael Waltrip challenges Dale Jr. to go Dancing With The Stars 1
- Report: Why Mark Martin couldn’t be Danica Patrick’s driving coach 6