Q and A with Ed Carpenter
THE MODERATOR: We have several guests joining us. Starting the call with us today is Vision Racing driver Ed Carpenter, and in a few minutes we'll be joined by KV Racing Technology driver Will Power.
Good afternoon, Ed. Thanks for joining us. Ed is in his fifth full season in the IndyCar Series season and fourth driving for Vision Racing and currently ranks ninth in points following a ninth-place finish at Texas. He has five top-10 finishes in the first seven races of the season, including fifth-place finishes at Homestead-Miami and Indianapolis. You've had some pretty good results so far this season, are you happy with how things have gone?
ED CARPENTER : I'm happy with our performance of the race cars we've had on track. To be honest, we should have a couple more top‑five finishes than what we do. You know, we've had some bad things happen to us so far this season, I've had good races going at Milwaukee and got caught up in an accident and could have had a better result than what we ended up with in Kansas having someone stopping in our pit.
We're having a great year. We're really competitive on track. We just need to catch a break on some of these things and see if we can't find ourselves into victory lane or at least on the podium.
THE MODERATOR: Yeah, that's where my next question was going to lead. You've been running up front a couple of times, some of those things out of your control and out of the team's control but what is it for a team, Vision is a great example, but there's others we can probably lump in there as well; but for a team like Vision, what is the next step to really get over the hump and get some podium finishes and even victories?
ED CARPENTER : Well, at Texas we had a bad pit stop, so that was something we controlled. We had other things, not catching breaks, but we were close to getting over the hump. We need a race where we don't have to overcome any adversity or make up for anything that happens, and as soon as we have one of those races where everything just kind of goes our way, I think we should be in position to ‑‑ I should at least in position to fight for a win, where mostly this year I've just been fighting for a top‑five.
So, we are right about there. I have kind of always said, you just have to be running top‑five, and if you are in the top‑five long enough, you are going to get a victory. So that's consistently where we've been. We just haven't been able to put it all together, where it was our own doing or other factors in the race.
THE MODERATOR: The team also made some personnel changes really right before the Indianapolis 500. Can you tell us about some of the new people on board, and/or new responsibilities that people were already with the team have, and has it been difficult to kind of adjust midstream to changes like that?
ED CARPENTER : It's never easy. Larry Curry, he was with us from when we started the team in 2005, and some things didn't happen this year and just decided to make a couple changes. We actually didn't bring anybody new in. We had people in house that we felt were ready to step up and take on more responsibility, and Kevin Page is now our team manager.
We have a couple of holes to fill from how we reshuffled some people around, but we're just trying to find the right person or people to bring in to fill some of these holes we've got versus just going out and getting someone right away.
Since we were in a three‑car team last year and went back to a two‑car team this year, we had some extra people working at the shop and stuff like that that we're able to bring back on the road again and fill some of these holes temporarily.
So we are in pretty good shape, but it was a big change going into the month of May. But at the same time, the month of May gave us so much time to get acclimated to something being different that by the time the month of May was over, I think we were right back on stride.
THE MODERATOR: Milwaukee where we were a couple weekends ago was surprisingly incident‑free, at least to what people predicted might happen with 27 cars on a short track like that. We've got two more short ovals ahead, Iowa and Richmond. Tell us a little bit about each of those tracks. Obviously they are very different from one another, and even from Milwaukee in some respects.
What do you expect at the places like that with 27 cars instead of 20 like we've seen in the past?
ED CARPENTER : Well, Iowa doesn't really act like a short track, it's only an eighth of a mile, but at the same time, the only thing that's short track about it is we are running our short track aero specifications. Other than that, it races more like the race we just had at Texas. It's going to be fast and a lot of two‑wide racing.
So there's probably going to be more opportunity for accidents at Iowa than what we just had at Milwaukee.
Then we go on to Richmond., Richmond has always been an exciting race. It's a racetrack where if you have a good car, you're going to work your way to the front and if you have a bad car, you're going to fall to the back.
The thing with short‑track racing in our series right now is there's 27 really good cars. You know, with all of the new teams and new drivers we have in the series, they are all great teams and great drivers and then you go to these short tracks, compared to a place like Texas, it puts everyone on a little bit more of a level playing ground, even if with them not having as much time in the car. So I think you're going to see super‑competitive races at Iowa and especially Richmond.
THE MODERATOR: We've got an off‑weekend ahead, first one since mid April, and it also happens to be Father's Day weekend, and your first year obviously to celebrate that as a father yourself. Any special plans for this coming weekend?
ED CARPENTER : Just working. My best friend and I are trying to finish up a house that we're going to be putting on the market that we bought just as an investment. Got to do some work in the backyard there and getting it close to being ready to go. It's an off weekend but probably going to be working harder this weekend than when I'm actually doing my real job, and that's racing.
Q. How are you preparing mentally and physically for the six upcoming races in a row?
ED CARPENTER : Physically, our season now we're in the car so much that I think that the best thing for being ready to drive physically is having more time in the car. I'm not worried about the physical strategy, even though the next two races, Iowa and Richmond, are the two most physical tracks, but I think after we get past those two we'll be past the most physical part of our schedule.
Mentally, I like getting in these long stretches of races. My background was Sprint car racing and stuff like that, so I was used to running 70, 80 races a year. With us not even running 20, a six‑race stretch, it isn't that big of a deal for me. I'd prefer to get into a better rhythm, and so I'm actually looking forward to it.
Q. What do you attribute to Vision's upward spiral this year? They are doing so much better than years past.
ED CARPENTER : I get asked that question a lot this year. I can't put my finger on one thing but like I mentioned earlier in the teleconference, last year we were a three‑car team and now we're a two‑car team, and I think that allowed us to move some people around a little bit and get better people in the right positions, just because we were not as watered down from a personnel standpoint.
We did make a couple changes in the off‑season, but I don't think that's all of it. I think a lot of it has to do with just having more people in the right positions and the fact that this is our fourth year of the team in business, and the core group of guys that we have running the team and leading the team have been there with us from the start.
I think there's a lot to say ‑‑ a lot to be said for continuity, when you're competing with Penske Racing and Ganassi Racing and Andretti Green Racing, and those teams have been around for a long time, and their leadership and pillars of the team have been with the team for a long time.
So to me, continuity is very important. I think it's a matter of all the years, everything we've been doing over the years coming together with the continuity and hard work. It's not that we've really changed much.
Q. What do you expect with the new qualifying format taking place in Richmond this year?
ED CARPENTER : It's going to be interesting because Richmond has probably been one of the harder places to qualify in years past where pretty much if you're going to qualify up front, you kind of have to hold your breath and get a lap in flat without lifting off the throttle. Now with four laps, I don't know that anybody is going to be able to go four laps flat this year.
So, it's going to be interesting. With this new format, it's been challenging and exciting. The one thing I will say about it is we will probably have more accidents this year in qualifying than we have in the last three previous years combined. It's a much harder format, and Richmond is definitely going to be a challenge.
Q. What do you feel it's going to be like with even more traffic, there's going to be a lot of cars on the shortest track and some of the drivers haven't even seen the tracks. How do you feel that's going to be?
ED CARPENTER : It's going to be crowded. Richmond is the shortest track we go to. Pit lane is going to be extremely crowded, and there's going to be just constant traffic. It's not going to be quite as bad as when the NEXTEL Cup rolls into town, but at the same time we are running lap times around 16 seconds. It's going to be a lot of activity. I hope a lot of people come out and watch us. We usually have a good crowd there. It's my second favorite event, next to Indy, so I'm looking forward to getting into town.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks again for joining us, we appreciate that. Enjoy the off‑weekend and good luck the rest of the way.