It’s a great week to be Ed Carpenter.
The co-owner of Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing saw his driver, Josef Newgarden, run away with his first career Verizon IndyCar Series win Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park. It was also the first win for the recently merged CFH Racing.
“I was really, really happy for Josef when the merger happened, and it was unknown if he was going to be coming back at that point,” Carpenter said during a Wednesday conference call. “He had another offer, and (I) spent a lot of time talking to him and trying to sell him on how we can help him, and to be able to go out and get a win early in the season, I think makes him feel good about his decision and validates the belief that we all have in him and his abilities.”
When CFH Racing unloads at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend to begin preparation for the Indianapolis 500 with an aero kit test, it will do so with three teams instead of two.
In two cars will be Newgarden and JR Hildebrand. The third will be driven by the 34-year-old Carpenter, who replaces Luca Filippi in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy on the 2.5-mile oval, driving for the first time since the 2014 season finale at Fontana.
“It’s always a little extra work when you add Indy‑only efforts,” said Carpenter, who has won the Indy 500 pole two years in a row. “For a team like us, you’ve got to bring in people that are just going to be working for you for a month, so integrating them into what we do and keeping things flowing can be a challenge, but for the most part it’s the same group that we had with J.R. last year, so that helps a lot.”
Carpenter said preparation for May has been more challenging this year due to getting ready for the new superspeedway aero kit, which makes its on-track debut Sunday in a test at IMS. It’s been “down to the wire” for CFH Racing to acquire parts for not just the test, but the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indy 500.
But don’t expect to see teams being conservative during the month in the build up to the 99th running of the race.
“It’s the Indianapolis 500, and there’s only one reason to be there, and that’s to try to win, and you can’t do that and be conservative,” Carpenter said. “As a driver you’re not thinking about those things, and even the team, when you get out on track. But I don’t foresee there being a supply problem moving forward. I think the biggest challenge is just getting everyone their initial orders and spare orders fulfilled, and from there they’ll start building up a bit of a buffer.”
Carpenter won’t be conservative in his first on-track action this season, which isn’t the first that Carpenter has only competed on ovals. He did so last year, earned his second Indy 500 pole in two years and won his third career IndyCar race, taking the checkered flag at Texas Motor Speedway. So rust shouldn’t be a problem for the owner-driver when he once again goes for the pole.
“When you get to that point you know you have a chance, you’re going for it,” Carpenter said. “We’ll wear the tires out in that 10‑mile run probably more so than we would in a full fuel load at race downforce, so you’re just really, really abusing the tires, sliding around a lot.
“I think it takes a lot of focus and a lot of commitment to make that pole run. But it’s definitely challenging and stressful, but it’s also really satisfying when you get it right.”