May 20, 2013, 4:00 PM EST
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.
Nov 21, 2014, 11:30 AM EST
Red Bull junior driver picks up the championship in Abu Dhabi, and is now targeting a move up to F1 in 2015.
Nov 21, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
In the first half of our articles profiling the championship contenders, we take a look at the leader, Lewis Hamilton, ahead of Sunday’s showdown in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 21, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
Stewards in Abu Dhabi penalize the Frenchman after changes are made to his engine on Friday.
Nov 21, 2014, 9:45 AM EST
A great read from Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Jimmy Fennig as he prepares for semi-retirement.
Nov 21, 2014, 9:32 AM EST
After topping FP1 earlier today, Hamilton doubles up in second practice as the sun sets in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 21, 2014, 8:45 AM EST
With the addition of Caterham to the grid for this race, five cars will drop out in Q1 and Q2 in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 21, 2014, 7:45 AM EST
Lewis Hamilton looks to double up and pile the pressure on Nico Rosberg as the sun goes down in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 21, 2014, 7:20 AM EST
Cheese puns aside, FETA looks to give the ten teams racing in Formula E a voice in the new series.
Nov 21, 2014, 6:45 AM EST
Despite having a Sauber contract, Sutil will not be racing for the Swiss team in 2015.
Nov 21, 2014, 6:00 AM EST
“Kimi is probably the least complicated driver on the grid so in terms of performance on the track, when we talk about the skills Kimi has, I don’t think there is a single person in the paddock who doubts his skills, including myself.”
Nov 21, 2014, 5:32 AM EST
The world championship leader edges out teammate Nico Rosberg in the final FP1 session of the year.
Nov 21, 2014, 3:45 AM EST
First practice from Abu Dhabi is live on Live Extra from 4a ET today.
Nov 20, 2014, 8:29 PM EST
Joey Logano on a turnaround and breakout season.
Nov 20, 2014, 6:37 PM EST
After a month of voting and more than 350 ballots cast by their peers on all Sprint Cup teams, the top pit crew members and overall pit crews of 2014 were announced Thursday.
Nov 20, 2014, 5:56 PM EST
The No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing team dodged a bullet Thursday when NASCAR announced less severe than expected penalties for unapproved rear suspension parts found last weekend at Homestead.
Nov 20, 2014, 4:24 PM EST
All the latest from the ground in Abu Dhabi from NBCSN’s Will Buxton in this week’s “Paddock Pass.”
Nov 20, 2014, 4:18 PM EST
TV times, title outlooks for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Nov 20, 2014, 4:00 PM EST
Big night of F1 on NBC from 7 p.m. ET.
Nov 20, 2014, 3:09 PM EST
If you like wild, crazy and unpredictable, you won’t want to miss Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, airing LIVE at 5 pm ET on NBCSN.
Nov 20, 2014, 2:31 PM EST
In this edition of NASCAR Minute, Rick Allen and Kyle Petty talk about the wackiest things they saw this race season.
Video from NASCAR America
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