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Last Lap Pass Puts ECR In Fuzzy's 19th Hole Victory Lane at Fontana

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Ed Carpenter, MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championships

Last Lap Pass Puts ECR In Fuzzy's 19th Hole Victory Lane at Fontana

Tom Blattler
Ed Carpenter Racing
September 16, 2012

Ed CarpenterLast Lap Pass Gives ECR First Win At Fontana
September 16th 2012 - FONTANA, Calif. – In another duel that rivaled his first IZOD IndyCar Series win last October, Ed Carpenter made a sensational last-lap pass Saturday night at the fast Auto Club Speedway to capture the MAVTV 500, the season finale in the 15-race IndyCar Series.

The win for the Indianapolis racer was his second IndyCar triumph after the duel with Dario Franchitti last year at Kentucky Speedway. Again, it was Franchitti who was his rival in the 250-lap feature that started in very sunny and hot conditions and finished under the lights.

It marked the first win for Carpenter’s rookie team, Ed Carpenter Racing, with Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka as the primary sponsor.

The victory was the first for a team owner/driver win in the IZOD IndyCar Series since 2004 when Adrian Fernanadez won three races in his own car. Carpenter established his team last November.

Carpenter started fifth in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka/BevMo Chevrolet at the high-banked two-mile oval east of Los Angeles but didn’t wait long to charge toward the front of the 26-driver field. He moved to third by lap 24, second by lap 41 and into the lead for the first time on lap 65.

The Butler University grad led eight times for a race-high 62 laps including the all-important final circuit when he passed leader Franchitti in turn two on the high side of the track. When Takuma Sato spun on the final lap, the yellow came out immediately and Carpenter received the checkered flag at the start/finish line.

The ECR/Fuzzy’s crew, led by Bret Schmitt, was brilliant Saturday with its pit stops and race strategy through the night including picking up positions in each of the first three stops. Carpenter continued to lead the Fontana event at 100th lap but, following the stop on lap 110, the Fuzzy’s Vodka/BevMo Chevy didn’t handle as well as previously.

Carpenter dropped back to fifth in the middle of the race as engineers Matt Barnes and Brent Harvey worked to retain the ECR machine’s early advantage with front wing and tire pressure adjustments. But, by the pit stop on lap 184, Carpenter was pleased with his mount and took the lead on lap 196.

He then battled Alex Tagliani and Sato for the lead. Tagliani forced a yellow flag on lap 229 when his engine expired and Carpenter regained the point. But Franchitti was lurking and passed Ed on lap 236. Carpenter chased Franchitti when the race was stopped due to a Tony Kanaan crash.

With IndyCar officials looking for a green flag finish, the entire field was halted in the pit lane as Kanaan’s car was cleared from the track. It then became a seven-lap trophy dash to the finish, something Carpenter had experienced many times in his midget and sprint car background.

On the restart, Franchitti held the low line with Carpenter running high. Ed inched his way towards Ganassi driver when the white flag flew on lap 249. Carpenter aggressively threw his Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy up near the outside wall in turn one and made a sensational slingshot move around Franchitti for the lead. The yellow flag appeared right after that when Sato spun.

After the checkered flag, Carpenter performed doughnuts on the front straight and celebrated in the Fuzzy’s 19th Hole Victory Lane with his crew, family, friends, sponsors and even the legendary golfer Fuzzy Zoeller, the founder of Fuzzy’s Vodka.

The race was a superb climax for the “rookie” team who struggled at times during the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series. But Ed and his squad had set their sights on the Fontana oval as far back as June and the previous oval in Iowa. There, Carpenter was one of the fastest cars on the track but only eighth place was recorded that night.

Hard work by the engineering staff and mechanics paid off Saturday with the team’s first IndyCar Series in spectacular fashion. Carpenter stood at the top of the podium in the Fuzzy’s 19th Hole Victory Lane with former series champions and Indy 500 winner, Franchitti and Scott Dixon.

The two Ganassi driver saluted Carpenter for his impressive performance and his second career victory.

"This feels great for a brand new team that just started in November," said Carpenter. “I feel this team stuck together through the ups and downs of the first year and this win is a tribute to their hard work. "I probably should have won Indy (coming from 28th to third by lap 180 before he spun) but I kind of messed up a little bit. We have been trying to win ovals all year and finally got it done tonight. It’s a good way to end the year.

In the final restart, I got a good start. I thought that maybe that was going to be my last chance to get by him. He just kept protecting the bottom and I started working the top where I would run all night through one and two. I kept building momentum and building momentum and finally got close enough to get a draft. I got a run around him on the front stretch and pass him in turn two. Then the yellow came out and I knew I had won."

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