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.
Aug 30, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Spanish rider bounces back from a fall in practice to secure pole ahead of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso.
Aug 30, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
German Quiroga and Andrew Ranger lead the way in a pair of practice sessions for the Camping World Truck Series at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
Aug 30, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Expect the track to play a key role in Saturday’s MAVTV 500, more than most oval tracks.
Aug 30, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Two-time F1 world champion weighs in on the Mercedes team orders debate.
Aug 30, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Rumors about Ferrari’s line-up unfounded; Mattiacci plans to keep both Kimi and Fernando on for 2015.
Aug 30, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
The high-speed circuit plays host to the Italian Grand Prix next weekend.
Aug 30, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Charlie Kimball on last night’s accident with Mikhail Aleshin.
Aug 30, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
The fight with Ferrari is set to rage on until the end of the season.
Aug 30, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi is going into the Italian Grand Prix weekend with an open mind.
Aug 30, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT
Lotus driver doesn’t think the removal of the gravel track at the corner will change a great deal.
Aug 29, 2014, 11:45 PM EDT
Severe looking three-car accident affects Mikhail Aleshin and two others.
Aug 29, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Harvick earns his sixth Sprint Cup pole of 2014 with the help of some advice from returning boss and teammate Tony Stewart.
Aug 29, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Helio Castroneves on pole; Will Power struggles to P21 for Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying.
Aug 29, 2014, 7:29 PM EDT
The Nationwide Series rookie and Sprint Cup regular top today’s two practice sessions ahead of tomorrow night’s Great Clips 300 benefiting Feed The Children.
Aug 29, 2014, 7:06 PM EDT
HAMPTON, Ga. — According to Jeff Gordon, the last three Sprint Cup races just weren’t quite the same without Tony Stewart. Gordon is glad Stewart is back.
Aug 29, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, and Brian Vickers share their thoughts on Tony Stewart getting back behind the wheel in Atlanta.
Aug 29, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
The 500-mile shootout may be late Saturday night in Fontana, but still promises a bevy of story lines for the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale.
Aug 29, 2014, 6:25 PM EDT
NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan also reports on the atmosphere around Tony Stewart’s return at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Aug 29, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT
“…[Stewart] being in the race car right now is about him getting through what has been a very emotional two weeks, and what his next step is in coping with this.” – Stewart Haas Racing’s Brett Frood
Aug 29, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT
Brian Vickers and other winless drivers are facing big-time pressure to get a victory in the final races of the regular season.
Video from NASCAR America
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- Castroneves secures crucial MAVTV 500 pole; Power starts P21 for IndyCar finale (VIDEO) 3
- Jeff Gordon: Last 3 races weren’t the same without Tony Stewart 3
- IndyCar has 500 miles to glory, through speed, dirt, tire fall off and unpredictability 0
- How NASCAR determined Tony Stewart was ready to race again 5
- Helton: Tony Stewart still eligible for Chase, but must win to get in 4