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AS OVALS RETURN ON INDYCAR SCHEDULE, SO DOES CARPENTER
INDYCAR’S Ed Carpenter can finally look for his driver's suit.
It’s time for the defending Firestone 600 champion at Texas Motor Speedway and co-owner of CFH Racing to get back behind the wheel of his car as the Verizon IndyCar Series shifts to ovals and the Indianapolis 500.
Luca Filippi has handled driving duties in the No. 20 Chevy for road and street courses, leaving the oval tracks for the veteran Carpenter. So for the first five races this year, he had to sit back as an owner and supporter.
With the Grand Prix of Indianapolis behind him, the CFH Racing co-owner is getting back into his car, testing the new oval kit and feeling out the track he knows all too well. As preparation for the Indianapolis 500 as well as the rest of the season’s oval races begins in earnest, it's difficult to find anyone more enthusiastic than Carpenter.
"From the time we move in here (Indianapolis)," Carpenter said, "even though we're on the road course we're still thinking about the 500. That's what we're here for."
When his team arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Grand Prix earlier this month, Carpenter's teammates J.R. Hildebrand and Josef Newgarden were starting to sense it.
"He's a pretty cool customer," Hildebrand said. "You don't see it that much. But you definitely see the excitement start to build in his eyes once May starts to roll around. He's definitely getting amped to get back in the car."
That renewed energy from Carpenter might stem from the fact there's nostalgia in returning to Indiana for the Indianapolis native who has won the pole for the last two Indy 500s.
With just 26 laps to go in last year’s Indianapolis 500, Carpenter was in second place behind eventual winner Ryan Hunter-Reay when disaster struck. He was in the middle of a three-wide situation going into Turn 1 when he was clipped by Townsend Bell and ended up in the wall. Another instance of bad luck in the Indy 500 that has led to him not owning a top-five finish in this event since 2008.
With Carpenter's transition to co-owner and part-time driver – as well as a merger that brought Newgarden onto the team – it hasn't all been about getting on the track.
"He's really embraced the role of team ownership and I think over the last couple of years has really figured out where his place in that is and how he can, as a driver, add value to what the team is doing," Hildebrand said. "But you've got to think for sure there's nothing like driving."
Carpenter realizes you can't be a driver disguised as an owner because you have to worry the cars in ways beyond controlling them.
"You have to switch your mindset," Carpenter said. "(Driving is) not really something you think about."
The new aero kits have given Carpenter a fast Chevrolet in the garage that he starts to really get to know this week as practice begins in earnest for the Indy 500. He also believes this aero kit will improve the series’ racing, which includes his defense of his Firestone 600 victory from a year ago.
“I know there will be some more downforce and we will be in a position to get two full lanes going again, if not a third lane, to get the field a little tighter,” he said as he looks ahead to the June 6 night race at Texas Motor Speedway.
In the meantime, Carpenter just needs to remember where he put his driver’s suit.