Carpenter's team staying busy during IndyCar's in-season off-season
The IZOD IndyCar Series is currently in an unusual 33-day layoff during the month of September.
From the conclusion of the Grand Prix of Baltimore (Sept. 1) to the doubleheader weekend on Oct. 5-6 for the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, the IndyCar Series teams will not see official on-track action. But that doesn’t mean everyone in the series has decided to go lay out at the beach and work on their tans.
It is quite the opposite at Ed Carpenter Racing, one of the league’s smaller, one-car operations trying to battle the bigger teams in the 19-race campaign.
While things are slow on track, the Indianapolis-based, Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka-sponsored team continues to put in long hours in a variety of departments including engineering, parts inspection, bodywork/paint and fabrication. Led by team owner/driver Ed Carpenter and team manager Tim Broyles, the ECR/Fuzzy’s squad is working hard behind the scenes in the never-ending search for more speed and reliability.
"The crew has been doing an outstanding job in going through our cars and equipment during this slow time of the racing season," said Carpenter, the 2013 Indy 500 pole winner. "Whether they are making new pieces in the fab shop or painting wings and bodywork or rewiring the chassis and inspecting the current parts, everyone is working hard as we prepared for the final three races.
"Plus I know our engineering staff is developing projects for the winter and some of our off-season work. There really isn’t much down time in the season or off-season for that matter."
The initial process for ECR in the 33-day off-track period began with a solid schedule coordinated by Broyles, crew chief Bret Schmitt and lead engineer Matt Barnes. The trio designed a program that included reworking the race cars as well as beginning 2014 projects.
"We had some projects we wanted to work on after Baltimore and we had a detailed schedule for the month of September," said Broyles, who also serves as a race strategist for ECR. "We are gearing up for some off-season winter projects that we are preparing right now, in addition to car preparation for the Houston and Fontana races and the Fontana test later this month."
Broyles explains that each of his team’s departments mapped out a game plan during September that includes physical training at St. Vincent Sports Performance three times a week to stay in pit crew/ racing shape.
"We didn’t have to paint a whole car again but we did some touch up painting on the noses, wings and body parts to be ready for this next stretch of races," said Broyles. "We had gone through the cars before the Sonoma race and given them a mid-season refresher program. So after Baltimore, there wasn’t a total rebuilding of the cars. It was routine maintenance for the two cars after the races in Sonoma and Baltimore."
Carpenter and Broyles also have been directing the team’s effort towards the season finale, MAVTV500, at Fontana, Calif., on Oct. 19, the 500-mile event won by Carpenter last year.
"Our Speedway car hasn’t run since Pocono, so we have been working on that car to get everything ready for Fontana," explained Broyles. "Then we’ll prep the speedway car as a road racing spare car for Houston because of the dual events there. We want to be 100 per cent prepared with two complete race cars at Houston."
The ECR/Fuzzy’s group, now in its second season, has become a tightly-knit contingent since its debut at St. Petersburg last year and Broyles is happy with the team’s progress.
"I think we’ll be better prepared for the Fontana this year than last year’s race when we won," he said. "We just have another year under our belts as a team. It puts us in a better position now. We have another year of experience working together. Last year, we were a rookie organization. I think that we are constantly improving with every race."
Barnes, an IndyCar Series veteran, leads the engineering staff and has been able to place some 2014 projects in motion already during the September layoff.
"We are really in a constant development mode here at ECR," said Barnes, the Colorado State engineering grad. "In addition to working on settings for Houston and Fontana, we are formulating our off-season program that helps us for the 2014 development. While you work on plans for each race, you also continue the process in gaining as much information as possible. I think we have a strong, young group of engineers here and the progress is going well."
Broyles says he expects another strong performance from the ECR/Fuzzy’s team and Carpenter when the green flag drops for the final leg of the Fuzzy’s Triple Crown at Fontana.
"We are getting better with each event," he said. "The Fontana test on Sept. 24 will be similar to the race last year with the heat (over 100 degrees) in September. With the race being four weeks later this year, the sun will go down sooner and the temperatures should be cooler. But you never know about that Fontana weather. The conditions are going to be a bit different there this year and we’ll be prepared for the changes. We’ll be going after another visit to the Fuzzy’s Victory Lane at Fontana."
Broyles is hoping the hard work in September will pay off in October.