Ed Carpenter: driver criticism of IndyCar ‘confusing for fans’


With one tweet Saturday afternoon, Ed Carpenter made it clear he wasn’t on the side of Will Power and Tony Kanaan when it came to the controversial style of racing at Auto Club Speedway.

Said the driver and co-owner of Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing:

Later, Mario Andretti, Jack Hawksworth and Ryan Briscoe, the latter of whom was involved in a violent crash to end the race, also said the “pack racing” was exciting.

But it was Carpenter, in his dual role as driver-owner that has been the most vocal, expanding on his thought to WTHR 13 columnist Bob Kravitz.

Carpenter explained his biggest issue is how Power and Kanaan’s opinions are received and interpreted by fans.

“We’re never going to be able to grow the sport if we’re tearing it apart from the inside out,” Carpenter told Kravitz.

“I’m not saying any of those guys shouldn’t have an opinion after that race. We’re all entitled to an opinion but how you deliver that message is the important thing. You don’t need to deliver it to the fans first…

“Someone wrote to me on Twitter, ‘I spent three hours watching that race and enjoying every minutes of it, but I struggled listening to drivers that I love saying they hated it.’ That’s confusing for fans.”

Carpenter’s own experience backs up his tweet. Carpenter doesn’t compete in road course races.

In 2014, he hired Mike Conway, a driver who swore off ovals incidentally at ACS back in 2012 after multiple bad crashes over a four-year period, to compete on street courses in his place. In 2015, it’s Luca Filippi filling Conway’s stead.

“My mentality on what we do is, it’s all dangerous,” Carpenter said. “And that’s part of my frustration. Any time I get in a car, I know it might be my last day. There’s no guarantees in what we do, ever.

“That’s what frustrates me, some drivers who think the only way we’re going to get hurt is in some kind of pack racing. To me, that’s ridiculous.

“Dario (Franchitti’s) career was ended on a street course, not a pack race. Dan (Wheldon) died in a pack race. Plenty of others have died on road courses. Tony Renna died at the Speedway and he was the only car on the track. What we do is dangerous. So for me, I’m okay with that. This is what I want to do.”

Franchitti himself tweeted about the driver complaints, trying to put them in context with their relationship with IndyCar’s leadership.

But as with Power’s comments, the core of the argument goes back to the death of Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas in 2011.

“Everybody has had strong opinions since Vegas,” Carpenter told Kravitz. “People have said to me I’m disrespecting Dan’s death by saying what I’m saying, and I think that’s ridiculous in my eyes.

“Dan was one of the best ambassadors this sport has ever had, and he wouldn’t be a guy making disparaging comments about a race, which is more disrespectful, the way I look at it.”

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.