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.
Jul 7, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT
LeBron came back to Cleveland, but IndyCar isn’t. Yet.
Jul 7, 2015, 6:29 PM EDT
Scott Dixon’s 250th start comes at the same track he debuted with Chip Ganassi Racing at in 2002.
Jul 7, 2015, 3:39 PM EDT
Fast facts heading into this weekend’s ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250, courtesy of IndyCar PR staff.
Jul 7, 2015, 2:57 PM EDT
Alonso provides a sneak peek at McLaren simulator.
Jul 7, 2015, 2:28 PM EDT
The son of Mike Wallace will make his second ARCA start on July 24 at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Jul 7, 2015, 12:53 PM EDT
Carpenter and Newgarden look for a rebound similar to the 1-2 finish at Toronto.
Jul 7, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT
Wilson returns for final five IndyCar races of the year with Andretti Autosport.
Jul 7, 2015, 10:10 AM EDT
Next up for one of racing’s busiest drivers? ARCA debut in Iowa.
Jul 7, 2015, 9:44 AM EDT
Will Power dominated Milwaukee in 2014. Here’s how he did it.
Jul 6, 2015, 9:04 PM EDT
Degree of continuity at Coyne, as Mann and Vautier confirmed for next two short ovals.
Jul 6, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Scott Hargrove adds two more wins to his record after a one-day sweep of two Porsche races in Canada.
Jul 6, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT
IndyCar, Indy Lights drivers try to guess towns or cheeses in Wisconsin.
Jul 6, 2015, 2:04 PM EDT
The potential ripple effects of Austin Dillon’s catch-fence accident could extend far beyond NASCAR.
Jul 6, 2015, 1:14 PM EDT
Sandell, Dyne make it a double top-five for Bryan Herta Rallysport at MCAS New River.
Jul 6, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT
Leading 1-2 early, Williams was almost trapped, rather than able to seize its moment in Silverstone.
Jul 6, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
A gamble on intermediate tires backfires for Kimi Raikkonen at Silverstone.
Race Recap: Hamilton sees off early Williams threat and late rain shower to claim third home victory
Jul 6, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
The British driver sends the home crowd into raptures with his third Silverstone victory.
Jul 6, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
After the latest Red Bull GRC round, we catch up with NBC Sports Group motorsports analyst Townsend Bell for a special Red Bull GRC installment of “Ten with Townsend.”
Jul 6, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Luke Smith gets a little patriotic following his home grand prix, explaining why F1 could stand to be a little more British in its mentality.
NHRA: Anderson wins 4th of ’15, Stoffer over Sampey in 3rd all-female final in NHRA history; Kalitta, Beckman also win
Jul 5, 2015, 9:53 PM EDT
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) took home wins in Sunday’s NHRA race in Norwalk, Ohio.
- Report: Cleveland out for 2016 IndyCar schedule, still possible for future 0
- It’s not the years, but the mileage for Scott Dixon going into 250th start 0
- CFH Racing looks to turn things around once again at Milwaukee 0
- Welcome back, Wilson: Englishman back with Andretti for rest of 2015 1
- DiZinno: Daytona fence crash ripple effect could extend to other motorsports 8
- Ten with Townsend: Red Bull GRC 4 races in, post-MCAS New River 0
- Smiling Through the Rain: Silverstone proved that it isn’t all doom and gloom in F1 2