Ed Carpenter: Villains and rivalries go against the IndyCar culture
Ed Carpenter is the only team owner/driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series, having formed the team in 2011 in association with Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka.
Carpenter and his new team won in its first year at the 2012 season finale at Auto Club Speedway. In an exclusive interview with SB Nation, Carpenter discusses everything from an IndyCar dirt race, villains in open-wheel racing and his eventual plans to expand to a two-car operation.
The complete interview can be found below.
SB Nation: We'll start off with a softball question -- do you have any unique pre-race rituals?
Ed Carpenter: I don't have anything particularly crazy. I'm not exactly a superstitious person. I like to say a prayer before I head on the track but other than that, I just try to stay hydrated and stay focused -- prepared. So I don't have one of those things where I have to put my shoes on a certain way.
SBN: You're the only current IndyCar driver to come from the dirt track ranks in USAC. With NASCAR recently going back to dirt with the Truck Series, do you think we could someday, within a decade or two, have a car that can race on both high-speed ovals, streets and dirt tracks?
EC: It's possible. We could do it if we were presented with that challenge. Do I see that happening? No. But it's not outside the realm of being able to do it. I just don't think that's a direction IndyCar wants to go.
SBN: Is there anyone you really enjoy racing against more than the others and conversely is there someone you try to avoid racing hard against?
EC: There are a ton of great drivers. I really enjoy racing against Dario (Franchitti) and both of my wins have come against him. He's one of the all-time greats. Whether it is Scott Dixon or (Tony Kanaan) and Helio (Castroneves), we have a ton of great drivers in the IndyCar Series.
So traditionally, there haven't been a lot of guys that I don't have respect for -- they're all very talented and treat me with a lot of respect.
SBN: With that in mind, does IndyCar need a bad guy? You all seem to like each other to the detriment of creating rivalries.
EC: It seems at times that it would be helpful but that really goes against our culture. It's against what we stand for in IndyCar. At the same time, people seem to think that Juan Pablo Montoya could become that personality but at our speeds and with an open-wheel car, it's something that we haven't seen a lot of.
SBN: You lead me right into my next question. The big news of the week is that Juan Montoya is returning to IndyCar. Do you have any memories of him racing in CART and at the Speedway in 2000?
EC: He's definitely an extremely talented driver. I'm excited he's back, full-circle where it began for him in IndyCar. He was dominant when he won here (at Indy) in 2000. I haven't raced against him so no first-hand experience but I have a lot of respect for what he's meant for racing.
SBN: Does he have the potential to be a difference maker for the IndyCar Series?
EC: He certainly brings the fan base. He's from Colombia and has that fan base that pays attention to everything. His fans from NASCAR may even give IndyCar another look. But most importantly, he's just another highly qualified, high class driver that's joined our series.
SBN: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is obviously a very special place for you. With that in mind, do you have any hesitations about running a second race there in May -- on the road course?
EC: Well... The traditionalist in me finds it incredibly odd. My trepidation is running it in May. But anytime you can run at that place is special. But it's just so odd having it at the beginning of May. I think it will give us more content over a month.
It's still condensed. I don't know if they've talked about extending it but there will be more racing and qualifying and that's good from a spectator's point of view.
SBN: As the defending Indy 500 pole-sitter, does it excite you that you might be able to chase Arie Luyendyk's 1996 record in a few years?
EC: Absolutely. That's one of the things that are most appealing to all of us in IndyCar -- the current speeds and what they are capable of running. To be a part of a record breaking run would be cool. To hear "new track record" back over the PA would be really special.
I just wish Tom Carnegie could be a part of it.
SBN: What's more important -- speed and innovation or close racing? Can you have both?
EC: Hopefully we can have both and I know the series is working hard to find that balance. Overall, the close racing is more important over the course of a full season -- close action packed racing. But breaking barriers is news and it will be a big story.
SBN: Your production has dropped off a little bit since (former team manager) Derrick Walker left (took a job with IndyCar). Are those two events related and what did his experience mean for your team?
EC: I would say no. We had our best two finished after Derrick had left. I don't think that's the case. It was sad to see him go but we have confidence moving forward. Just coming in as a new owner, having his experience and leadership and mentorship helped us get to speed quicker.
But we have the same people in place and a great foundation with our team. Derrick set us up for all of our future success.
SBN: You've made a lot of strides on road and street courses this year. What have you done to improve and have you considered doing something like Marco Andretti did during the off-season and spend time in Europe with a driving coach?
EC: We're always looking at different things. We have a driving coach here which has been a big part of it. But really, it's been a lot of hard work and effort paying off, having the tam working together and working on the same things. But we're always looking towards what the next things could be.
SBN: There have been off and on rumors about you adding a second car. Is that still a possibility somewhere down the road?
EC: I hope so. We've been working hard since we started the team to bring in partners to help grow it. We haven't been as successful by those standards yet. But it's definitely something I want to have, a second Indy car.
SBN: Before we can get back to oval racing, we have another street course doubleheader at Houston. You've been through two of these so far -- do you enjoy the chance to race twice on a single weekend?
EC: They're hard. The racing on a day after a normal event it runs a real toll on you. I think drivers would prefer the normal format but crowds and TV ratings are good. I think they'll continue to have them and add more.
SBN: Will Power says we need to get rid of double-file restarts, do you agree?
EC: I think at some places it works well and other places, not so much. It's conducive on the circuit. I don't think they need to go away. I don't think it's necessary in order to have good start either but some places do add to the excitement. It should continue to be a course-by-course decision.
SBN: Auto Club Speedway is the site of your last victory and the last stage of the Fuzzy's Triple Crown. As the defending winner, I'm sure that race was already marked on your calendar but how much more special is it for you to possibly win the race under the Fuzzy's banner?
EC: The Triple Crown is something I was very excited for, obviously. I had hoped to be a part of it but now I'm looking forward to defending my victory and playing spoiler for some of these guys looking to win two of the three.
SBN: And finally, what do you see Ed Carpenter Racing becoming in the long-term -- a long term vision?
EC: I want it to continue to grow. I want to participate in the Mazda Road to Indy. I want it to become a continued mainstay in the series and see it allow me to stay in the series for many years to come. SBNation