IndyCar’s Ed Carpenter watching NASCAR’s scheduling moves with interest

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Ed Carpenter Racing has become the “Hometown Team” in the NTT IndyCar Series because of his deep roots in the Indianapolis community.

IndyCar’s only owner/driver in the series, said Friday he is keeping an eye on NASCAR’s return to action to help prepare his team for IndyCar’s return.

The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series is scheduled to return to action June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR might return to action without spectators in mid-May. That would make it the first big-time racing series to return to competition since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown began the weekend of March 13.

Carpenter said he is watching NASCAR’s potential return to action with interest in hopes that IndyCar can follow shortly thereafter.

“I think everyone is watching that,” Carpenter said. “Beyond that, I think one of the great things that we’ve seen in motorsports is I think everyone is really working together and communicating. Everyone is trying to do the right things not only for our sports, teams, businesses, employees, fan bases, the world. I know there’s a lot of communication going on from what I’m included in. There’s a lot of collaboration.

“I know there’s a lot of work being put into all the different scenarios of when and how we can go racing, what that’s going to look like, what the steps are. We’re all doing what we can do and following the guidelines from our federal government, our local government, and working with them to figure out how to best bring our sport back to life.

“I know we’ll be watching NASCAR. I know the IndyCar guys are in communication with NASCAR. A lot of the promoters are the same promoters. We’re all working together to try to understand how to do this, how to do it the right way to not only bring our racing back to the fans that want to see it but also do it in a safe way to where we’re not going to create new issues during this pandemic.”

The Butler University graduate has built a pretty formidable operation. He is a three-time Indianapolis 500 pole-winner. Carpenter finished second to Will Power in the 102ndIndianapolis 500 in 2018 and sixth last year.

Carpenter continues as the team’s oval driver in the No. 20 Chevrolet with 28-year-old Conor Daly of Noblesville, Indiana driving that entry on the street and road courses. Rookie Rinus VeeKay is the driver of the team’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Ed Carpenter Racing is one of IndyCar’s mid-level teams. ECR doesn’t have the resources of a Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing or an Andretti Autosport, but it remains highly competitive.

Carpenter has been able to keep the operation stable during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“I don’t know the toll has been any harder for us than any other team,” Carpenter said Friday. “We are a team sport even though the drivers are out in front of everything a lot. We race six months of the year, but we’re together 12 months of the year.

“I would say the hardest thing is just not being with one another, being separated. Just like all of humanity, there’s a ton of anxiety during this entire time.

“I think for myself and other members, the management of the team, just trying to be there for our employees and reassure them, make sure we can find ways to continue to provide for them is my No. 1 priority right now, that when we can get back to work, everyone is in a very good position to do so.”

Carpenter is known for his mild-mannered personality. That ability to keep everything on an even-keel has been important for Carpenter during this massive time of uncertainty.

“It has been I think stressful for all of us, but I’m pleased with the way our people are responding,” Carpenter said. “The work they are doing behind the scenes that we can do right now virtually and from home, is important. I know that everyone is chomping at the bit to get back.

“It’s for sure been a challenge I think more than anything just dealing with the anxiety of when we can get back to work, when are we going to go racing, not being able to leave home.”

Carpenter estimated his team would need only a week or a week and a half to prepare once IndyCar teams return to action. The season currently is slated to begin June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I really don’t think it will take that long to get us going,” he said. “The stuff came back from (the postponed opener at) St. Pete and got unloaded. Really haven’t touched anything since then. Kept everyone on board.

“When we can get back to work, which we’re hoping is sooner than later, I don’t see the Texas date being an issue for us to be ready for.”

Carpenter also indicated the team is solidly behind Rinus VeeKay’s rookie season effort in 2020. He wants to give the rookie from The Netherlands a full season of action to evaluate his talent for the future.

“My excitement level for Rinus is still very high,” Carpenter said. “He is an extremely talented young man. It is going to be a hard year to be a rookie. With all likelihood we’re going to not have testing or highly reduced testing. Some race events can be shortened as far as the amount of practice time, et cetera.

“I think talented guys, are able to get up to speed quickly. That’s one of the things that he impressed us with when we first tested him the first couple times. It was how quickly he was able to adapt not only to the car but a track that he hadn’t been doing in IndyCar. Or a track he hadn’t been to, at all, was really able to get up to speed quickly.

“There are going to be some challenges having a rookie in an abbreviated season like we’re going to be in. I believe he’ll be up to the challenge. We’ll be able to do some other things as a team to support him, help nurture him through that progress.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500