Five Questions with Team Chevy owner/driver Ed Carpenter
DETROIT (June 7, 2017) – Verizon IndyCar Series team owner/driver Ed Carpenter drove the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Chevrolet on the newly reconfigured and repaved Texas Motor Speedway oval during two days of testing ahead of this weekend’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600.
The INDYCAR veteran, who won at Texas Motor Speedway in 2014 in the Chevy-powered race car, competes solely on ovals along with full-season Ed Carpenter Racing teammate JR Hildebrand. This season, the Indianapolis resident has placed seventh (after starting 21st) at Phoenix International Raceway and 11th in the Indianapolis 500 (after a front-row start). Spencer Pigot takes over the driving duties in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet on the road and street courses that pepper the Verizon IndyCar Series Schedule
Carpenter talks about the track alterations, his relationship with Chevrolet, and how he handles being on the timing stand during road course races, among other topics:
Q: FOLLOWING YOUR APRIL 12-13 TESTING IN THE FUZZY’S CHEVROLET, HOW DO YOU ENVISION THE TRACK CHANGES IMPACTING THE RACING?
ED CARPENTER: First off, it’s great to see tracks invest in their facilities and do things to put on better shows for the fans. How will it affect us? I think we’re still learning that a little bit, because you test but it’s always different when you get into a real race situation. The track is absolutely different. The reshaping of (Turns) 1 and 2, from the width and the banking, definitely made it the track more challenging to get the balance the same from Turns 1 and 2 to 3 and 4. I think the biggest unknown is what the cars are going to do over the stint in a race situation. Tire degradation was the biggest factor, and it did make for good racing but it was a different type of racing. It’s what Texas became known for early on. I expect it tighten up from what we saw at the test. The tire degradation wasn’t near as much. It could change if it’s a lot warmer, but I expect it to less strung out of a race. I think the pace and the tempo will be higher from green to checkered. As it had gotten, we were dealing with a lot of drop-off in pit sequence and cycles in how you took tires you could really lose or gain a lot of ground. So I think it will be a tighter event with everyone on similar strategies versus where it got spread. One thing I’m confident of is it’s going to be a good race and a good show. If I’m nervous about one thing it’s that the track had been pretty similar for the last handful of years and were prepared and had a good car. Now it’s a bit of a reset. We think we know where it’s going, but we’re all re-learning this new track and defining what it will take to be successful. It’s a unique format, especially with the number of sets of tires we get for the weekend, it makes it challenging, too. Generally, you don’t see people doing any race running during the first practice, but just getting things sorted out for qualifying. The night practice turns into the race practice. As much as the track has changed, the format has stayed the same so we at least we know where we’re going in that respect.
Q: JR HILDEBRAND HAS BEEN YOU TEAMMATE FOR FOUR YEARS FOR THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 AND NOW THIS YEAR IS COMPETING IN EVERY EVENT. WITH HIS EXPERIENCE AND TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE, WHAT DOES HE BRING TO THE PROGRAM?
ED CARPENTER: On the oval side of things, we’re pretty in tune with one another. I would say the rhythm and flow of information is natural. When it comes to the roads and streets, he’s sort of getting back in the groove. The cars have changed since he was full time, so he’s having to reacclimate to some of the styling differences. He performed well at Phoenix (started and finished third) and was strong at Indy, so I’m happy with that and hopefully we’ll have a strong last half of the season on the road and streets.
Q: SPEAKING OF EXPERIENCE, YOU HAVE A TEAM BEHIND YOU WITH YEARS OF KNOWLEDGE. HOW DOES THAT HELP YOU AS A TEAM OWNER WHEN YOU GO TO AN OVAL THAT YOU CAN CONCENTRATE ON THE RACE?
ED CARPENTER: I think the continuity is extremely valuable and how that affects our culture. It’s part of the reason why we’re strong where we’re strong. I think the challenge moving forward is how to complement that by strengthening our weaknesses and just getting more consistent and well-rounded.
Q: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DEMEANOR — AS A TEAM OWNER AND DRIVER — WHEN YOU’RE ON SPENCER PIGOT’S PIT STAND DURING ROAD/STREET COURSE WEEKENDS?
ED CARPENTER: Being a driver standing up there, I think it’s hard to not be more emotional sometimes than the other guys. I try hard to be a resource and an asset and not a distraction, whether it’s for a second opinion on a strategy situation or just being another set of years and ask Spencer a different type of question when we’re in a session or after a session. Same thing with JR. I’m on the (No.) 20 stand, but I’m listening and am in tune with everything. I try to understand what they need and try to facilitate things going in the right direction.
Q: ED CARPENTER RACING HAS BEEN WITH CHEVROLET SINCE IT’S RETURN TO INDYCAR IN 2012, AND WITH THE BOWTIE BRAND AS A ROOKIE IN ’04 WITH RED BULL CHEEVER RACING. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE BACKING YOUR TEAM RECEIVES?
ED CARPENTER: Since Chevrolet returned to INDYCAR we’ve been a part of the team and really enjoy the whole group from Jim Campbell to Mark Kent and everyone we work with to the teams at Ilmor and Pratt & Miller and just how the three companies work together to make a successful product with the power plant and the aero kit. It’s an exciting project to be involved in. It’s evolved a lot since 2012, and we will be going through more changes as we go into next year. It’s one thing I don’t worry about. I have so much faith in the group just because of everything they’ve done and how much they all want to win.