Carpenter, Hinchcliffe developing friendly rivalry; offer great banter at Media Day

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Race drivers, by their very nature, are competitive. Sometimes the competitiveness between two of them leads to anger, animosity, distrust and potentially, war.

Other times, the competitiveness brings out phenomenal banter and a Key and Peele-like routine where the two just naturally riff off each other.

The latter example was the case Tuesday at the legendary Milwaukee Mile between 2014 Indianapolis 500 polesitter Ed Carpenter and second-starting James Hinchcliffe, who were randomly paired together once again due to the nature of how INDYCAR assigns drivers to different markets across the country.

Carpenter was in Milwaukee for the race’s media advance last year and Milwaukee is a key market for sponsor Fuzzy’s Vodka; Hinchcliffe was a late addition to the city due to another driver’s unavailability and the fact the race itself, held in August, is promoted by Andretti Sports Marketing. Hinchcliffe, of course, drives the No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda for Andretti Autosport.

But it’s clear that the two have a budding rivalry, albeit one that is all in good fun and filled with each driver playing off each other.

Just last week, Carpenter and Hinchcliffe cracked up the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center. And they did likewise today for fans and media assembled at the legendary Milwaukee Mile.

The day’s ceremony kicked off ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by The Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers box office for ticket sales being opened with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Right as Carpenter was about to take the mic, Hinchcliffe jokingly went for the kill with a pair of giant scissors the two would use to cut the ribbon and open the ticket booth. Your visual documentation is below.

The two made their introductory speeches, as did Milwaukee IndyFest General Manager Kevin Healy of Andretti Sports Marketing and the Wisconsin State Fair Park’s Rick Frenette.

After a lunch, Carpenter and Hinchcliffe were the toast for fans who came out to the track for a full track walk of the treacherous and tricky Milwaukee Mile.

One fan asked whether you’d ever lift in Turn 2 at Milwaukee to which Hinchcliffe responded, “You only lift in Turn 2 if there’s something screwed up with your car, or somebody screwed up ahead of you,” as he shifted his gaze – again, jokingly – to Carpenter.

A debate followed between the two drivers about Push-to-Pass, which isn’t used on ovals but is on road and street courses. The two drivers questioned whether Push-to-Pass was determined by a set total of X-many seconds, or a set number of pushes, i.e. 10.

A call was placed to Hinchcliffe’s engineer, Nathan O’Rourke, who is, you guessed it, Carpenter’s ex-engineer. Asked which of the two was smarter, O’Rourke cannily replied, “Well, you both drove flat out around Indy… so neither one of you is that smart.”

The riffing continued with Hinchcliffe describing how he had to lift during his final qualifying lap on Sunday, the one which he ultimately lost the pole position. How did Carpenter respond? “It’s a driver’s track,” he deadpanned, as Hinchcliffe and the rest of the fans burst out laughing.

The fan Q&A was more than an hour on a rare, but appreciated, sunny and 84-degree day here in Milwaukee. Carpenter had to duck out to attend to a special brewery tour while “Hinch” stayed for a bit more to answer additional questions.

At the end of the day, as Carpenter and Hinchcliffe went to catch their flight from Chicago back to Indianapolis, the battle raged once again.

And again, Carpenter beat Hinchcliffe, this time through ORD security.

Will Hinch or Carpenter have the last laugh on Sunday in the 98th Indianapolis 500? Only time will tell.

More, however, will follow from the rest of how Andretti Sports Marketing put today’s event together in a further “Inside Milwaukee IndyFest” post next month on MotorSportsTalk. We provided an initial look into how the race comes together in an April feature.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.