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.
Apr 25, 2015, 7:11 PM EDT
Second in qualifying a good day at the office for Will Power, as he’s in search of his first win of the year.
Apr 25, 2015, 6:42 PM EDT
Davey Hamilton will have a one-off day back behind the wheel of a current day IndyCar, filling in for Townsend Bell at next week’s IndyCar open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Apr 25, 2015, 6:33 PM EDT
Spencer Pigot dominates Indy Lights flag-to-flag in first race of weekend at Barber.
Apr 25, 2015, 5:57 PM EDT
Castroneves bags the pole for IndyCar’s fourth round at Barber.
Apr 25, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
A surprise in Spain for Rowland as on-track winner Meindert van Buuren is hit with a time penalty for jumping the start.
Apr 25, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
Audi no. 8 driver pleased with the team’s pace at Silverstone and in the recent test at Paul Ricard.
Apr 25, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT
Power on top in second IndyCar practice at Barber.
Apr 25, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT
Spanish rider was sidelined following the Qatar Grand Prix due to an arm pump injury.
Apr 25, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT
Preview the track that will host the next Formula E race on May 9.
Apr 25, 2015, 11:17 AM EDT
Scott Dixon takes the Coca-Cola car to the top of the first practice session at Barber.
Apr 25, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Former F1 world champion and Indy 500 winner hits out at Alonso’s move to McLaren and Manor’s inclusion on the grid.
Apr 25, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT
Qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ race at Barber has been moved up to 5 p.m. ET, and 4 p.m. CT and local time on NBCSN.
Apr 25, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT
Conor Daly has been confirmed in the Indianapolis 500 in SPM’s third car.
Apr 24, 2015, 9:11 PM EDT
Honda takes the wraps off the new Accord safety car.
Apr 24, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT
Pigot scores his first Indy Lights pole at Barber.
Apr 24, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT
Formula E’s championship leader looks ahead to his adopted home race in Monaco on May 9.
Apr 24, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
2014 GP2 champion reflects on the opening four races of the year with Lotus.
WSR: Comtec pulls out of first Formula Renault 3.5 round, parts company with Regalia after three days
Apr 24, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Grid falls to 20 cars for the Formula Renault 3.5 opener in Spain this weekend.
Apr 24, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
The Indian Grand Prix was last held in 2013 at the Buddh International Circuit.
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