Ed Carpenter Racing ‘crushing it’ at Indianapolis 500

0 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – With all three of its drivers starting in the top four positions of Sunday’s 103rd Indianapolis 500 (11 am ET on NBC), Ed Carpenter Racing is proving to be one of the top Indy 500 teams in the field. The only other team with three drivers in the top 10 is Team Penske, including pole-sitter Simon Pagenaud, sixth-place starter and defending Indy 500 winner Will Power and NTT IndyCar Series points leader Josef Newgarden starting eighth.

Carpenter is the only owner/driver in the series and has already placed his name solidly in the history of the Indianapolis 500 as a three-time Indy 500 Pole Winner. Helio Castroneves has four Indy 500 Poles and Rick Mears is the all-time leader with six poles for the biggest event in racing.

Carpenter narrowly missed his fourth pole position in Sunday’s “Fast Nine Shootout” after completing a four-lap average of 229.889 miles per hour in the No. 20 Chevrolet. Pagenaud knocked him off with four laps that averaged 229.992 mph.

That is just .103 of a mile per hour that kept Carpenter from winning the pole. Broken down into time, it was a margin of just .700-of-a-second.

“Simon was just more consistent,” Carpenter said. “I think I had the fastest lap of qualifying and usually that’s a good sign for the pole, but I’ve also won a couple of my poles and not had the fastest lap. So, he was just a little more consistent than me, and that’s why he deserves to be on the pole.

“That’s the way this series is now,” Carpenter continued. “Everything is just thousandths and hundredths of a second all the way through. The battle that you saw for guys fighting for the 30th spot on Saturday, the ninth spot Saturday and now (Sunday) the strength of this series between the teams and drivers from top to bottom. You’ve got to be perfect to really put it together because if you’re not, everything is so tight you’re going to slide down, and that’s what’s great about being a part of the NTT IndyCar Series is it’s really the best competition in the world.”

Team Penske is celebrating its 50thAnniversary of its first Indianapolis 500 in 1969. Ed Carpenter Racing is in its seventh season.

Carpenter splits the driving duties of the No. 20 Chevrolet with Ed Jones of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Carpenter drives the ovals and Jones the street and road courses. Another driver on the team, Spencer Pigot, qualified third for the outside of Row 1 with a four-lap average of 229.826 mph. He was the fastest driver in Saturday’s first round of qualifications.

Jones is driving the No. 63 ECR entry in this year’s Indy 500 and qualified fourth at 229.646 mph over four laps.

“The strength of the team is what I’m most excited about,” Carpenter said. “To have Ed Carpenter Racing cars starting second, third and fourth I think just speaks volumes to the organization and all our people and effort that they put into building our cars and the consistency of all the equipment is something I’m really personally proud of.

“On Sunday, Spencer was doing a rain dance, I was wanting to run. I really wish one of us would have ended up on pole, but I’m still really happy to be 2, 3 and 4. I think it’s amazing, and Simon just put in a really excellent run with his car, so consistent. I couldn’t believe how consistent it was. So, congrats to him.”

Carpenter has built his race team with a core group of employees. It may be one of the most efficient teams in the series when it comes to resources.

“It really has just been a constant process,” Carpenter told NBC Sports.com. “Derrick Walker helped us kind of lay the foundations for the team that first year, and the key players in the team from Tim Broyles, Matt Barnes, Brett Schmidt, many others that have been there with us from the very beginning. I should throw in Colleen (Dallenbach-Howerton) as well.

“We’ve been able to add quality people, and I think we’ve established a good culture and have a group that likes working together and is committed to the same thing. And we’ve had a great partner in Chevrolet, which also helps, and we just try to get better every year.”

Carpenter has been very competitive in the Indianapolis 500, but despite his three starts from the pole, he has never won the race. He came close last year when he led the most laps in the race with 65 but finished second to race-winner Power.

“I try not to look back too much other than to learn from mistakes and figure out how to do things better,” Carpenter said. “I’m really just looking forward and trying to make the best decisions we can and prepare the best we can. I think that’s the important thing, in how you get better, if you just reflect on all your misses and get discouraged by that, it’s probably not the best mindset.

“We’ve got a lot of great experience and we’ve been getting closer and better, and hopefully, we’ll be able to put it together on Sunday for one of our cars.”

When Carpenter was a youngster, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was his playground. His mother, Laura, is married to IMS Chairman of the Board, Tony George, whose family owns the Speedway and INDYCAR.

Carpenter began his racing career in the United States Auto Club and earned his way into the series through Indy Lights. He was an Indy 500 rookie in 2004 when he drove for team owner Eddie Cheever and will make his 16thIndy 500 start on Sunday.

On the track, Carpenter is a three-time NTT IndyCar Series race winner.

The race he really covets is the Indy 500, but he will already go down in history as one of the greatest Indy 500 qualifying drivers in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

“I’ll let you all decide that,” the modest Carpenter said. “I’m proud of the effort and the consistency we’ve had. I’m really maintaining focus on figuring out a way to win this race. That’s the most important thing to me.

“One of the blessings of qualifying well here is we get a good starting spot. The negative is people ask me all the time, ‘Hey, are you going to win the pole again this year?’ And it’s like, ‘Well, that would be nice, but I really want to win the race.’

“That’s the goal.

“I don’t want people to think all I come to do here is qualify because that’s definitely not the focus. And that’s why I’m so proud of the team because I really think that obviously we have to go out and do a good job and put in four good laps, but the speed comes from the work the team does and the preparation, especially to have all of our cars so close.

“That’s for them, and hopefully, the race will be for one of us.”

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
0 Comments

To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

MORE: McLaren considering Kyle Busch for Indy 500

“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”