An interview with Ed Carpenter
THE MODERATOR: We are joined today by Ed Carpenter, driver of the No. 20 Vision Racing entry. Ed ranks 12th in points as the series prepares to visit Richmond International Raceway, and he's coming off top‑10 finishes in four of his last five faces. Ranking 12th in points, which if you can maintain or improve upon that, that would mark your highest finish in the season standing. Give us your take on the season so far, and has it met your expectations or things like that?
ED CARPENTER: It has not quite met my expectations. I made a couple of mistakes at St. Pete, Long Beach, where we could have had higher finishes. And then as far as our performance on the ovals, finally in Texas we had a little bit better run that we are happy about. But the other ovals really we have not been that happy with the performance we put out there; especially compared to last year, I don't feel like we have done quite as good of a job.
So we have been working really hard to try to turn that around and get things going in the right direction again. Like you said, we are 12th in points, which my goal is definitely to be inside the top 10. So hopefully we can go to Richmond this weekend and have the run that we are planning on running and get ourselves back up in the top 10.
The points are definitely very tight, and you're still able to make a pretty good move in the points if you have a good run or a bad run. So it's important to go out and try to score some points at Richmond before we get back to road courses.
THE MODERATOR: This will be your fifth start at Richmond, last three years you've been right around 10th: 8th, a 10th and 11th. What does it take to put together a top‑10 run at Richmond?
ED CARPENTER: To put together a top‑10 run, you just kind of have to persevere and stay out of trouble, but to be in the top five, you have to have a really good car. Last year there, I had my hands full and just had to worry more about surviving than really trying to race anybody.
And we have put a lot of work into the setup we are going there with this year, so hopefully we'll have a car that I can be competitive and aggressive and try to run up front with.
THE MODERATOR: The short tracks, with such quick lap times and stuff like that can be pretty tough to stay on the lead lap. Is there any type of strategy to do that, or is it kind of just really a mix of being a fast car and maybe sometimes being helped out by some timely cautions?
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, you definitely ‑‑ first and foremost, if you have a fast car, you'll stay on the lead lap; if you can just run with the leaders and be the leader or be in the lead pack, that will take care of itself. Other than that, when you are running 15‑, 16‑second lap times, if you don't get through traffic and keep moving forward, you're going to end up being last. That's just the way the racing is on those tracks.
Like I said, it's important to go there and have a really good handling car so you can run hard the entire stint of your fuel run and stay with the lead back.
THE MODERATOR: After Richmond, we go to a string of three consecutive road and street courses: Watkins Glen, Toronto and Edmonton. How do you feel you've developed as a driver on those types of circuits?
ED CARPENTER: I feel like I've gotten better. Sometimes it's hard to see. When I started in 2005, the series wasn't quite as full of talented road course racers as it is now. Now every single guy out there is a top‑notch road racer for the most part, so it's made it that much harder for me.
As the competition has gotten better, I have continued to close the gap. I haven't really been moving up the standings as far as qualifying, where I'm qualifying on the grid, but the margin that I'm off is getting closer. Just have to keep chipping away at it, and before long we'll start moving up the grid.
THE MODERATOR: Toronto is a place, there's a couple of guys in the field who have been there before, but for most of the IndyCar Series drivers, it will be the first time there and a new venue. What do you know about Toronto and some of its challenges, things that make it unique from some of the other places we've been?
ED CARPENTER: I hear it's a really good event, and Andretti Green Promotions will do a really good job as they have done down in St. Petersburg.
I hear it's a pretty fast circuit for a street course. There are definitely some sections that are really high speed and you have to carry a lot of speed, and that's kind of unique for a street course. Most of the street courses we go to are more stop‑and‑go type tracks where this one has some slow and fast corners to it. It's going to be fun and an extra challenge racing between concrete.
THE MODERATOR: The IndyCar Series introduced the alternate‑tire concept on the road courses this year for the first time. What was your experience with them the first two races, and how much does it affect the strategy?
ED CARPENTER: I definitely like it. Both at St. Pete and Long Beach, the reds were worth lap time, and they worked quite well on the car in the race. I think we need to do a little work to get the balance sorted out switching between the tires. But it definitely brings an element to the race.
At St. Pete, there were guys that were better on reds at the end of the race. That made it interesting, and it seemed like Long Beach kind of the blacks were more the trend at the end of the race. We'll see how it plays out at these upcoming races. Watkins Glen will be the first time we have taken it to a permanent road course, so I'm sure that will change the dynamics again.
THE MODERATOR: We talked before the season and Vision Racing was prepared to start the season as a one‑car team, had the last‑minute deal that came along to allow the team to field the second car for Ryan Hunter‑Reay, and now you are back to a one‑car team. How beneficial was it to start the year as a two‑car team? And have you noticed a difference already being back to a one‑car team? Is it good? Is it bad?
ED CARPENTER: I think when the second car came together so late it was really hard to get a full benefit of it opening the season up at St. Pete and Long Beach. We were just starting to get into a groove and then we had to shut it down. I don't feel like we were really affected last week at Iowa.
But the next stretch we are heading into with Watkins, Toronto and Edmonton, I'm going to miss having Ryan around as we get into this part of the schedule. That's where he was going to be able to help me the most. When it comes to ovals, I've been to all of them and have a good amount of experience everywhere we are going and know what I want out of the car, so it doesn't bother me much being a one‑car team at those places. But I'm definitely going to miss having Ryan as a teammate as we get into the road course heavy part of the season that we are going into.
THE MODERATOR: What is contributing to your success, is it equipment or experience, or is it a combination of a few things?
ED CARPENTER: I would say experience as much as anything, just understanding how these races work and what I want out of the car. Last year, we took a step forward development‑wise. This year we're kind of stagnant with the amount of development we were doing as a team. And those are some of the hurdles we are trying to get over, trying to get our performance back up, trying to do a lot with a little, and I think we are well capable of doing that. But everything has to work.
THE MODERATOR: And which track do you feel that you might get that first big win at?
ED CARPENTER: I think every one we go to, you have to think that way. But Richmond is a place I would really like to get it. I really can't wait to get to Motegi later in the season. We had a really strong run going there last year, so I'm definitely going to feel a little extra confident when we get back to Motegi.
But really just any of the ovals, I feel like if we do our job to our full potential that we can walk out of there with a victory.
THE MODERATOR: Obviously congratulations on the addition on a son to your family just a few weeks ago. I know he was at Iowa, how did he enjoy the first race of his life?
ED CARPENTER: He did OK. He didn't seem to really be bothered by the noise that much. I don't think he really knew where he was at. It's more when they start getting to my daughter's age. She really enjoys being at the racetrack and likes watching the cars. He's a passenger right now, and here in a year or so, he'll start to appreciate it, I'm sure.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Ed, appreciate the time, and best of luck at Richmond and the rest of the season.
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