Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
June 19, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We're pleased to be joined by Ed Carpenter, owner and driver.
Ed, thank you for joining us today.
ED CARPENTER: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Ed won the pole for the Indianapolis 500. Has a pair of top-10 finishes in the last three ovals.
Has your 2013 season exceeded your expectations so far, matched your expectations, been less than? Give us a report card?
ED CARPENTER: It's a bit of a mixed bag. When it comes to ovals, we've been strong. Don't have all the results that we wanted, whether it was Indy or even Milwaukee last weekend. Milwaukee, especially I didn't do a great job. Made too many mistakes. Should have been in the top 10 there.
With the road and street courses, the pace has been a lot better this year, which I've been happy about. At the same time, same sort of story: haven't gotten the results we'd hoped for.
I'm not disappointed with the season, but I feel like we have more results to give here. Luckily we have a lot of races left to do that.
THE MODERATOR: Your victories in IndyCar have come at California, which is a two-mile oval, and Kentucky, which is a mile-and-a-half. You won the pole at the 500 this year, the longest track in the circuit. You grew up racing on short tracks. We know you love oval racing. Do you have a preference between the longer ovals and the shorter ovals or is it all good?
ED CARPENTER: They're all good. I do like the speedways. I like going fast. I think I have a good feel for the car in a lower downforce setting especially.
With that being said, I haven't really had great finishes at Milwaukee, but I've raced really well there. We're capable of running really well there. We raced early really well this past race. Same thing with Iowa last year. We raced our way to the front, had the fastest lap of the race.
Whether we're going into a short track or a superspeedway, I feel very confident either way.
THE MODERATOR: Iowa coming up we have a heat race format, which is unique for a lot of drivers, but definitely not for you because that's what you grew up racing with in USAC. Does that give you any advantage?
ED CARPENTER: At this point I would say no because it's been so long since I've been racing in USAC midgets and sprints.
It's the same, but it's different. We're still getting ready for a long race. The format this year is definitely more similar with one practice session. It's going to be exciting. I definitely think this year with the way they changed the structure, it should make the heat races a little more exciting. Appears we have a touch more downforce which hopefully will be good since we'll be running more than in the daylight.
But it's an exciting format. I think it's something different. IndyCar has been good about trying new things. Especially at a place like Iowa, which is Sprint car country, it's familiar for the race fans that are there.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Ed, can you talk about the second year in terms of having a one-car team, what that has been like? Has it been easier? Put more pressure on you because you're out there by yourself?
ED CARPENTER: I don't think there's more pressure. If anything, it's been a little easier because we're in our second year as a team.
Last year it was a new collection of people. Through Indianapolis and even after Indianapolis we were still kind of getting to know each other, assessing our strengths and weaknesses. Since then, we've really come together and we have a great group of guys, really good chemistry.
I think from that aspect, it's made year two easier just because we're working more as a unit. But with that, the expectations also rise all the time. We won a race last year. We want to be winning races this year, too. The expectations are probably a little higher also this year than they were last year.
But I wouldn't say there's any more pressure. As a driver, you always put a lot of pressure on yourself to go out and perform and do your best to win races, from an owner side give the team all the tools we need to go out and be successful.
Q. Are you feeling more confident, maybe you found something that allows you to run strong on ovals of late?
ED CARPENTER: We have a good car and a good package. I mean, really, all of the races I think we probably, could have, would have, should have finished better than we did. That shows the competition in the series right now. You have to be almost perfect to go out and be on the podium.
I think we have good cars, especially on ovals. They're getting better on road and street courses. To be quite honest, the cars are a little better than I am on road and street courses still. I'm working hard to catch up and hold my end of the bargain at those places.
Q. Outside of Indy, you've been a little bit up and down as far as the qualifying. Do you think the heat format will help or hurt you this weekend?
ED CARPENTER: The heat race format will help if we come off the truck with a really good car. Anybody that comes off the trailer with a good car, it's going to be advantageous in the heat races just because there's no other practice. If you're struggling in that first practice session, chasing that car, making changes, you only have a one-lap qualifying run to try something, which is really hard to do.
I think it will be good for us. Like you said, we have struggled in qualifying at some places. Some of that we have answers for, others we don't. Some of it could be a one-car team, not that we use that as an excuse for anything.
If we roll off the truck, we were strong at the race at Iowa last year, had the fastest lap of the race, we passed the leader to get our lap back. I expect to come off the truck fast and be very competitive.
Q. Are you a strong believer in momentum, like the pole at Indy? Do you believe also that in racing, almost everything has to go right for you to win or get a podium?
ED CARPENTER: Well, firstly, I do think success breeds success. We felt that coming off of a win last year. It really helped motivate the team through the off-season. Having success at Indy and winning the pole, we didn't achieve our ultimate goal of winning the race, but when we step back and look at the month of May, it was a successful month for the team.
I think when you get results like that, have success, it not only gives the driver confidence but it gives the whole team confidence. It also just affirms to everyone and all the mechanics and engineers that put in so many hours and hard work, that the work they're doing it paying off. It motivates them to continue pressing harder and trying to find more ways to be better.
Success breeds success.
The second part of your question, the competition in the IndyCar Series is so high. The quality of drivers and teams are so high that you really do have to be flawless pretty much to win races right now. You could have one little slip-up and not even be in the top five.
That's exciting. That's what you want as a driver in a series. You want to be racing against great competition, not only from drivers but teams as well. That's something that the IndyCar Series has going for it right now.
Q. Ed, listening to you, it sounds as though the driver in you is looking forward to the heat races on Saturday. What about the owner's perspective on these heat races? Is it sort of not worth the return, I suppose?
ED CARPENTER: I don't really think of it that way. As long as it's good for the series, the promoters, TV, I'm all in for that. If all those things are successful, it's going to be good for our business.
From a risk standpoint, I don't really worry about it. Whether we're out running a heat race or a practice session, you're pushing hard and things can happen whether it's your own doing or someone else's in any of those sessions. I don't really worry about that.
Even part of me from the driver perspective, the heats are important, because they pay points. This is the second highest points race outside of Indianapolis. It's hugely important. At the same time you're still really after the race win, the future we'll call it. From that regard, even as a driver, part of me would just rather have another practice session to continue working on the car instead of being rushed into a heat race.
The one thing that does remain, it's the same format for everybody, everybody has the same amount of track time. We all have the same opportunity to go out and perform one way or the other. That's all that really matters. We're all in the same boat.
Q. Ed, you said a little bit earlier you had never used the fact that you're a single-car team as an excuse. Would you rather be a single-car team at this point or do you feel an overwhelming need to have a teammate?
ED CARPENTER: I don't feel an overwhelming need. We obviously want to have a second car. We want to grow our program at Ed Carpenter Racing. With that being said, it needs to be the right situation. We need to do it the right way, have the right second driver, have the right sponsors, have it all work to be successful. Just to have a second car to say we have a second car, think it's going to help us, it could go the other way, too, if you're not set up to do it properly.
We do want to be a two-car team, a multi-car team we can call it. Hopefully that happens soon. We don't want to force it to happen. We want it to be the right situation so that it helps our effort. There are positives to being focused on one thing versus having our resources stretched.
Q. What do you think you're missing by being a single-car team? Basically data?
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, just the opportunity to try more things, and also have another driver to compare to. There are times where you may go out for another session, a second session in a weekend, the track may be a lot different. The one-car team, it can be harder to distinguish if a change you made on the car has hurt you or if it's just conditions. That's an example. When you have a multi-car team, if the other car doesn't make a change that my car did, they're still struggling, too, you would know the conditions are having a dominant effect.
There's a lot of things. But more than anything, more data, the ability to test more things in a limited amount of time. Iowa is a perfect example. There's one practice session, then we qualify on a heat race. If you did have a second car there, we would have the ability to test and try more things in that one practice session, be it for qualifying or the race.
That's the biggest thing. You can double the amount of time you get on track basically.
Q. How critical is starting position on a track like Iowa versus some of the other places you go?
ED CARPENTER: Well, I think it didn't used to be as big of a deal on the ovals just because you could work your way through the field if you had a good enough car. Like we talked about on this call, the competition level is so high, there's so many good cars, that sometimes it can just be hard to work your way through.
One concern that we have with the Iowa race this year, it's a day race. It's been a night race in previous years. With the night race, cooler track temperatures, more grip, it can be easier to get the second groove working with better track condition.
If it's a really hot day, the track temp is high, it may make it a little bit more of a one-groove track because it will be slicker. That's where having a better starting position and getting a good result through qualifying and your heat races becomes really important. If you start at the back and it's a quick pace, you may not have everything sorted out at the beginning of the race, you could lose a lap before you know it.
THE MODERATOR: Ed, last year with the new car, you won a race. It seemed like most of the season was dominated by Penske and Ganassi drivers.
ED CARPENTER: You can't leave out of Andretti.
THE MODERATOR: True. This year you've had Penske win one race, Ganassi has win one race, Dale Coyne won a race, AJ's team won a race with Takuma. Why do you think there's a wider net this year already halfway into the season with more teams and the competition level not only being higher but spread out among more teams?
ED CARPENTER: We didn't really have any change in the car or rules from last year to this year. So I think last year leveled the playing field to a certain degree going from an old car to a new car.
Having more cars, just being bigger teams with more resources, I think they got their car dialed in and their packages all sorted out quicker than other people. For sure, we didn't have our hands around the car early last year. We felt like we made a lot of progress late in the year.
Over last season, it's allowed teams with less resources to learn more about the car, catch up, have more time to do development, get things sorted. Since there weren't really any rule changes or anything new introduced, there wasn't as much for everyone to work on. I think it just allowed the field to tighten up overall.
Q. Derrick Walker recently left your team to go to IndyCar, the sanctioning body. On one hand you have to be proud he's taken that position on the other hand I wonder what that's done to your schedule?
ED CARPENTER: We're happy for Derrick. He's going to do a great job for IndyCar. He's had the credentials for that type of job for a long time. On the competition side of IndyCar, everyone has confidence with things going forward in his hands.
From our perspective, Derrick did a really good job of helping build our foundations. We have a great group of people in place. I think the way we are set up largely are in part to his leadership has allowed for a smooth transition. We have Tim Broyles here, has been team manager, assumed more responsibility since Derrick left. The whole team top to bottom has a lot of great people.
I think if you're set up right, one guy coming or going shouldn't make or break the organization. Thankful he helped build us in a sound way, lay a really good foundation for us to be successful now and down the road.
Q. How bad did the Derrick Walker leave hurt your team? Are you coming up to the Pocono for the test on the 25th?
ED CARPENTER: I will be at Pocono for the one-day test. Looking forward to it. I was there for the announcement last year. Looks like an amazing track. Never driven a car on it.
The first part of your question, I don't feel like we've been hurt by Derrick leaving at all. If he didn't have the opportunity to go to IndyCar, he would still be a part of our team. With that being said, I don't feel like we've been hurt. I don't think we've had any struggles or difficulties so far with him being gone.
I think when we will probably miss his experience the most is when we get to a point where we can add a second car, have some of his guidance through situations like that.
At the same time, you know, I have 100% faith in the group that we have and the leadership that we have. Derrick was a great mentor for me the year and a half that we worked together. I have just as much confidence in the whole team now as I did before.
THE MODERATOR: Ed, we thank you for your time. We wish you the best of luck at both Iowa and Pocono.
ED CARPENTER: Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: That concludes our teleconference today. Thank you for joining us on the call and we will talk to you soon.
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