Carpenter’s oval mastery has now spanned 3 different styles of races

1 Comment

Ed Carpenter now has three career Verizon IndyCar Series wins, all on ovals, and all in completely different styles of oval racing.

With the previous generation higher downforce, lower horsepower Dallara IR03 chassis, Carpenter took a surprise but popular first career win at Kentucky Speedway in 2011, edging Dario Franchitti on the bumpy 1.5-mile oval in what was IndyCar’s most recent race at that track.

Needing to manage the race in terms of tires, handling and downforce levels, Carpenter excelled once again at Fontana 2012 – the season finale victory that year was the first for his own team and removed him as just a “one-trick pony” as you were.

Fittingly, on a track where he’s wanted to break out for nearly a decade, Carpenter finally delivered Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway. This was again another “driver’s race” at TMS and one where Carpenter continued to prove his oval savvy and veteran mindset in knowing how to master the package for this race, even though he said there were no secrets.

Carpenter owes some of his success to his USAC roots. It took more than 10 years, but some of the skills learned and honed in Midgets, Sprint Cars and Silver Crown, particularly the latter, carried over to balance over the course of Saturday night’s 248-lap race at TMS.

“The Silver Crown races were great for learning how to manage tires,” Carpenter explained post-race Saturday night. “You’re running one set of tires, one tank of fuel for 100 miles, I think I learned more about patience and managing a car and dealing with something that’s not perfect all the time in the Silver Crown races, and those have kind of all gone away as far as pavement racing goes.”

He also expanded on the nerve-wracking nature of the final stint, when some teams opted to take tires and Carpenter had to hang on for the final three laps on old ones.

“On one hand I was nervous, just because I wasn’t sure what the right decision was for us to make,” he said. “It’s hard to pit, but we were pretty far into our tires, and you know new tires are going to be strong.

“It was a handful the last couple laps, but you get in that position I’ve got to make sure I bring it home for the guys because they did such a great job all night with the changes on the car during the race, the pit stops, I felt like it was our race to win.”

And win it he did. The pair of Carpenter and Mike Conway are the first pair to win a race in the same season in the same car since Bruno Junqueira and Oriol Servia in the No. 2 Newman/Haas Racing Lola-Cosworth in the 2005 Champ Car World Series season.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.