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.
— Milwaukee IndyFest (@MKE_IndyFest) May 20, 2014
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.
— Ed Carpenter Racing (@ECRIndy) May 20, 2014
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.
.@edcarpenter20 and I picked two different lines at security at ORD. He beat me through by inches. Again! One of these days, Carpenter…
— James Hinchcliffe (@Hinchtown) May 20, 2014
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.