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.
May 25, 2015, 1:04 AM EDT
Sunday’s winners of the NHRA Kansas Nationals were Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Richie Crampton (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock).
May 24, 2015, 8:42 PM EDT
Video recap of Montoya’s win at Indianapolis 500.
May 24, 2015, 7:47 PM EDT
In his second win at the Brickyard, the Team Penske driver delivered a performance that embodies his style.
May 24, 2015, 7:31 PM EDT
The latest Paddock Pass is now online.
May 24, 2015, 7:24 PM EDT
Once again in 2015, it’s Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing best of Honda’s brigade.
May 24, 2015, 7:12 PM EDT
A good, but not great day, occurs for Indianapolis 500 polesitter Scott Dixon.
May 24, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT
Kimball drives from 14th to third, a career-best in the Indianapolis 500.
May 24, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT
Montoya extends IndyCar points lead after Indianapolis 500.
May 24, 2015, 5:11 PM EDT
Power does what he needs in the Indianapolis 500, but comes up short at the finish.
May 24, 2015, 3:38 PM EDT
Montoya completes comeback and wins Indianapolis 500.
May 24, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
For the first time since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix, Williams fails to score any points as Bottas and Massa struggle to P14 and P15.
May 24, 2015, 3:16 PM EDT
Big wreck in the final 25 laps.
May 24, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
17-year-old crashes hard in the final stages of the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.
May 24, 2015, 2:28 PM EDT
Collision in the pits involves three Dale Coyne Racing cars.
May 24, 2015, 1:59 PM EDT
Castroneves leads at Lap 100, but Indy 500 thus far dominated by Dixon, Kanaan and Pagenaud.
May 24, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
An error on the pit wall cost Hamilton a near-certain victory in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.
May 24, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
British driver gutted to lose the Monaco Grand Prix following an error by Mercedes on the pit wall.
May 24, 2015, 12:46 PM EDT
Karam and Daly – two of America’s young hopes – out of Indy 500, while Sato, Briscoe and Tagliani also have issues.
May 24, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
Force India strikes back in Monaco with Perez finishing seventh.
May 24, 2015, 11:43 AM EDT
After running in third for the majority of the Monaco Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel managed to move up to second place thanks to Mercedes’ error with Hamilton in the pits.
- NHRA: Beckman blazes to second Funny Car win of season at Kansas; Crampton, Enders-Stevens also win 0
- Ryan: Juan Pablo Montoya comes full circle at Indianapolis 1
- F1 Paddock Pass: Monaco Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO) 2
- Montoya rallies for second Indianapolis 500 victory (VIDEO) 6
- Hamilton: Impossible to express how I feel after Monaco defeat 4
- Rosberg lucks in to third straight Monaco GP win after Mercedes’ mistake costs Hamilton victory 52
- 2015 Indy 500 driver-by-driver one-liners 0