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.
Oct 30, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Romain Grosjean can opt out of Lotus at year’s end if he so desires.
Oct 30, 2014, 6:39 PM EDT
Johnny Sauter was fastest in both NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practices Thursday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.
Oct 30, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT
On Thursday’s NASCAR America, Rusty Wallace gave his top five drivers to watch in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Texas. Rusty’s pick for the winner? Jeff Gordon.
Oct 30, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Spaniard says that his future is not his first priority, and that all of the events of the past few months have gone as planned.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:58 PM EDT
On Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, Rick Allen and Rusty Wallace discussed what are Carl Edwards’ and Jeff Gordon’s chances Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Sauber team boss has long warned about the problems blighting Formula 1.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
British driver speaks about his appearance on NBC’s TODAY Show and his trip to New York City.
Oct 30, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Lewis Hamilton politely questions double points.
Oct 30, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
As the end of the 2014 Formula 1 season draws near, the sport ventures to the United States for one of the most popular races of the year in Austin, Texas.
Watch NASCAR America LIVE at 5 pm ET: Texas 3-step, Harvick’s 500th, up-and-coming Quiroga, lots more
Oct 30, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT
Things are always bigger and better in Texas, and we live up to that with the big show we have planned for Thursday’s NASCAR America.
Oct 30, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Date changes, date equity, and broadcast windows play key role in shaping 2015 IndyCar schedule.
Oct 30, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
F1 is booming in the United States, but could the arrival of an American team and an American driver send its popularity off the charts?
Oct 30, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT
Ahead of the premiere of Road to Mercedes on NBCSN at 10p ET, here is one final teaser for the show that will see NBCSN’s Will Buxton and Jason Swales travel to Germany to visit the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart.
Oct 30, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Frenchman thinks he would be the best choice for Toro Rosso in 2015 alongside Max Verstappen.
Oct 30, 2014, 1:12 PM EDT
Sergio Perez closing on in contract extension with Force India.
Oct 30, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
The F1 community loves coming to Austin and COTA, but why?
Oct 30, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT
This weekend’s race at Texas will mark the official debut of Tony Gibson and Daniel Knost as crew chiefs for Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick, respectively. How will they and their drivers fare together?
Oct 30, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez appear at the event in Austin ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.
Oct 30, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT
Get your calendars out and start marking up which series run where, when.
Video from NASCAR America
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