CHEVROLET - Ed Carpenter Media Day
CHEVROLET RACING IN THE VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES
102ND RUNNING OF THE INDIANAPOLIS 500
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVYDRIVER TRANSCRIPT – MEDIA DAY
THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2018
ED CARPENTER, NO. 20 FUZZY’S VODKA ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET:
Q. When you were growing up, what was your thought about running an Indianapolis 500 racecar?
ED CARPENTER: I don't know. Beyond race day I think driving for Eddie in my rookie year, he did a lot to help me develop, start developing my mental approach to how you drive a car here, how you mentally prepare to drive a car here, what you should be thinking about with the car, the team. Even though it wasn't all that successful of a month of May, working with guy that was a 500 champion, instilled in me some good habits in me that I've been able to expand on, make my own, refine as the years have gone on.
Q. What did Eddie Cheever teach you?
ED CARPENTER: Just preparation more than mental toughness. It definitely made me tougher with that year we had. Just understanding how to approach this race, this track, the sport in general, it's really helpful as a rookie when you have a guy that's been successful.
Q. Does this time feel any different than the last two times on the pole?
ED CARPENTER: Yes and no. You do all the same stuff. We do all the same stuff end of the day whether you're on the pole or whether you start 33rd. Might just have more people talking to you. Certainly more comfortable, feel like we're in a very good position, feel prepared, feel like the team is prepared. Probably a little more calm and less worried about what's coming.
Q. If you could have a duel at the end, who would it be?
ED CARPENTER: Spencer and Danica. Want all my cars up there.
Q. Question about spotters. How much do you utilize them?
ED CARPENTER: I mean, I would say a lot at this point. We rely on them a lot. Some drivers and teams are probably different than others. We've worked together at some level since 2012. There's a lot of trust there. This is my first time working with Michael, but he's done a great job, earned my trust quickly. There's only so much you can see out there, whether it's in front of you or behind you. I rely on their extra vision a lot.
Q. Do you prefer them to talk a lot, a little?
ED CARPENTER: They can talk as much or as little as they need, so long as it's information that is pertinent to what I need in the car. We have those conversations over the course of the month, leading into the race. Depending on what's going on in the race restart, that can mean talking a lot or other parts of the race not talking much at all.
Q. This is the 500. Is it harder to harness, to hit your marks, settle into a flow?
ED CARPENTER: Leading into it, through all the prerace ceremonies, whatnot, it can be definitely harder to stay focused just because there's a lot of anxiety, a lot of emotions, a whole lot of people here watching.
When you get in the car, especially once the engine is fired, things get back to normal pretty quick. I think my first couple 500s I probably didn't even really take in any of the surroundings. Now I try to use the first parade lap to do a crowd check for Doug Boles, IMS. Once the green flag drops, all the other stuff and the people and the colors disappear. You're focusing on what's in front of you.
Q. Seems like you're busier this year inside the car. To make a pass, you're having to adjust the tools one way. Sometimes once you complete the pass, you have to mentally go back the other way.
ED CARPENTER: I feel like it's been that way for a while. You have to keep your car balanced. Your car definitely changes, it always has from clean to dirty air. That's something you work on and know what your car needs, know how you want to accomplish it over the course of the month.
By this point in the month, all that stuff happens pretty naturally.
Q. Is strategy for the 500 dictated by your starting position at all?
ED CARPENTER: It can certainly change your options a lot. As much as anything, the race, what happens at different points really dictate the strategy. I think everyone has a lot of options open from the start, maybe more so a little bit at the front. It's hard to ever just pick one strategy going into this race, that is going to work out the whole way through. It's a long race. Everyone has to adapt, make quick decisions as the race unfolds.
Q. Compared to the other pole positions you have won, does this feel more confident, different?
ED CARPENTER: They're all different, to be honest. I think in '14 and this one are probably the most similar because we were able to execute. '13 was a little more of a surprise. '14 and this year I felt like we had the speed to do it if we executed well.
Q. (No microphone.)
ED CARPENTER: I think all three of us have great cars. I have confidence in all of our crews to the point that I feel like they're interchangeable. It's hard to ever put a number on it. I think we've got as good a shot as anybody here
Q. You think about this place every day?
ED CARPENTER: Pretty much. Maybe not every day depending exactly what is going on. Yeah, there's not many days that go by where I don't think about this race at some point in May, whether it's previous race memories or just looking ahead. It's definitely a motivating factor.
Q. Helmet a throwback?
ED CARPENTER: Yeah. I started it last year. It was a design my brother and I kind of started with when we started in quarter midgets way back when. It was a copy of our dad's helmet when he was running cars for Foyt. My brother and I were in my garage one night a couple summers ago drinking some beer. There's a picture of that magazine cover on the wall. He's like, How come you never painted your helmet like that ever again? I only had it the first year I raced. Good question, I'll bring it back.
I brought it back last year, sticking with it now. You can actually see it from the outside. So many of the helmets now there's so much detail. When you step away, it just looks like a bunch of colors, you don't really see anything. When we were growing up, everyone's helmets were much more simplistic, solid colors with lines. That's kind of what I was going back to.
Q. Starting on the pole, ending up back a little bit after shuffling, how difficult is it to understand where you are in the race inside the car?
ED CARPENTER: I think it's definitely a mental exercise. You have to be prepared going into it that you're going to get shuffled back at some point. It's hard to ever run this race without having some adversity that you're going to have to overcome. It's a little easier to do the more laps there are left in the race to not let it affect you.
That's one of the hardest parts about this track, is how mentally demanding it is. When you get in those situations, it is important to just stay focused and not get rattled. I've been around here long enough to see all sorts of different things happen. You're never out of it till you're actually out of it.
Q. Does that focus come out of a conversation?
ED CARPENTER: I think sometimes you're able to do it on your own. Other times it may come from the timing stand, a little talking and coaching to get your mind centered again.
It's definitely something I think as you get older, more experienced, you know yourself better, are able to recognize when you're drifting a little bit from what you should be focused on. Definitely something I've gotten better at over the years.
Q. Do you think experience will be a really big plus here Sunday?
ED CARPENTER: I think so. I think all you have to do is talk to drivers' comments over the month, people are still searching a little bit for what they want in race trim. It's going to be a struggle at times for everybody, especially if it's a hot day. I think that does favor the experienced guys at a certain level. At the end of the day it doesn't guarantee you anything either.
Q. Do you like hot, slick tracks?
ED CARPENTER: I do. I think especially when you have a good car, it can be advantageous just because those conditions will make everyone's car worse. If you have a good car, it may make yours less worse than someone that has an average car. I think it has the potential to maybe take some people out of it that may otherwise be a factor on a really cool day.
Just being the older guy that I am, having more different types of experiences, 2011 is really the last hot 500 I remember, having been through races like that, I think it makes it easier to manage and adapt. It's a talented field. The young guys have shown they can adapt quickly, too. It doesn't necessarily guarantee me better odds.
Q. (Question about Takuma.)
ED CARPENTER: I really love Takuma. He's a great guy. I raced against him since 2008. He's a fierce competitor, but also a really nice person off the track.
Q. What does the Indy 500 mean?
ED CARPENTER: It's obviously the biggest race for all of us. The majority of us here, the reason we want to be in the IndyCar Series is for this race. I've only ever talked to one person who said they would prefer a championship over the Indy 500. It wasn't even a driver, it was an engineer. So for all of us, it's the most important race of the year. It's something I've been chasing my whole career, and will continue to do so.
Q. (Question regarding the weather.)
ED CARPENTER: It doesn't hurt. It's no secret around here the higher the track temperature goes, the less grip we have, the more challenging it gets. With this new car, it will make it that much harder to manage traffic and everything else.
Certainly if you can be at the front, it's going to make your life a little easier. The real challenge is staying there all day just because there's so many different things that can go wrong, pit stops, pit sequences, yellows, you name it. You're going to get stuck in it middle of it somewhere over the course of the day, I'm sure.
I probably am not worried about the conditions as much maybe I would have some years just because I'm pretty confident in the car that we have, what we've been able to do in all different conditions over the past week and a half. Feeling prepared.
Q. Is it possible to have a car running away?
ED CARPENTER: I don't know if it's possible for anyone to outright run away. The last person I think, Wheldon kind of checked out one year, didn't win. I don't know if you'll see that. It could possibly happen. I certainly see it spreading out a little more than what it has the past couple years.
Q. With passing being so difficult, do you expect some of the younger guys to take some risks?
ED CARPENTER: Certainly on restarts and things like that. You might see some moves here and there. At the same time as the race goes on, on practice day, you have guys out there on new tires, guys out on old tires. In a race situation where we're all running more equal tires, you'll see some guys start to struggle more which will probably create some more passes as guys are struggling, especially in traffic.
I think some of the passing will come back to us as we actually get into the real race scenarios. Hopefully it doesn't get too crazy.
Q. You mentioned restarts. Do you anticipate that being any different with the new cars?
ED CARPENTER: I mean, that's one thing we don't really know. We don't practice restarts. The car definitely drafts up quick. That's one thing I'm curious to see, is what type of advantage or disadvantage the leader might have on a restart. Really don't get to do that during the month. You come out of the pits together sometimes, but it's different when you're taking a restart at 90, 120 miles an hour.
Q. Chevy having eight of the top ten cars. Tony thought more of the advantage was in qualifying. Do you agree with that?
ED CARPENTER: Definitely seemed like the separation was largest at that point. There's so many more variables when you're race running, managing traffic. I still have a lot of confidence in Chevrolet. Seems like things even out a little bit more when you have traffic and everything else. I still think Chevy is where you want to be. That doesn't mean that a Honda isn't capable of winning this race by any means.
Q. Is this ring racing related?
ED CARPENTER: A good family friend of ours had a brain aneurysm in 2004, 2005. Gave one to everyone in our family. Haven't taken it off.
Q. Do you reflect on being the pole before? Do you do things differently?
ED CARPENTER: You're not necessarily trying to replicate anything, because neither of those races ended the way that I wanted. I think going through the process and everything a little extra that comes with being on the pole just helps you be prepared for how to manage that, what your emotions are, staying focused on the things that I need to stay focused on.
It definitely gets easier, not harder Hopefully that will be a good thing and we're successful on Sunday.
Q. What does it take to translate that to success?
ED CARPENTER: In 2014 I felt like we ran a really good race, positioned ourself in third with under 30 laps. When I reflect on that race, I feel like we did pretty much everything right up until the point we got into an accident on that last restart. That was a good learning experience. Can't say I would change much from that other than not knowing how this race is going to be different.
I feel prepared. I feel like the team has all the tools to go out and win. I feel like I have what it takes. The hardest part is just executing that efficiently for 500 miles.
Q. You have the owner hat and driver hat. How do you describe this team dynamic that you have?
ED CARPENTER: It's been always a driver point of view really. I haven't had to have any team owner talks with either of our drivers. It's been a lot of fun. Spencer and I are obviously close. This is our third year working together. Danica and I raced together for a long time. It's been really fun having her as part of the team.
I think didn't really know fully what to expect. Obviously everyone asked if we were ready for this with her coming in. It's been great. She's really worked hard, worked hard to be a part of the team, contribute to what we're doing. She has. I think it's been rewarding for her. It's been rewarding for us as a team to give her that opportunity. I'm just hoping that we all have successful days, we all leave here satisfied with the results.
Q. As a hometown Indianapolis guy, what would it mean to you to do this on this track?
ED CARPENTER: Like I said, it's hard to know what it would mean until you do this. I don't think you know how you'll react. I do know being able to share it with our local community and all the friends and family we have here will certainly make it that much sweeter.
Q. Leading into this month, has simulation been an important asset to you and your team?
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, I mean, for sure as a team, any team here now, simulation is a key part of what we do, not just from a gaming perspective but just from an engineering side. Simulation of all types is something that we use daily really in our engineering office to prepare, to be ready for multiple scenarios, whether it's weather, driving, you name it. It's an integral part what we do.
Q. How often have you been in the simulator preparing for the 500?
ED CARPENTER: I don't do as much for oval racing as what I had for road racing. I haven't been in a driving simulator in over a year.
Q. Mears was the last guy to be the head and shoulder of the superspeedway.
ED CARPENTER: I don't want to call myself that. Certainly there are a lot more people that have won definitely more than I have, but I'm definitely comfortable at these types of tracks.
Q. Do you have a special feel to go to superspeedways? Do you ever miss turning right?
ED CARPENTER: There's certainly days that I do. I think for me and the team it's focusing on my strength, where I can really make the team better. I didn't race the road race until I got in an IndyCar. I was behind in that area. But for sure when it comes to speedways, I definitely love the speed of it. It's invigorating, something I truly enjoy.
Q. 10 years since the merger between IRL and Champ Car. Is it at the same level?
ED CARPENTER: I think we're way ahead of where we were before, during and after the merger. There's been a lot of momentum in this series, with this race, the series as a whole. Looking ahead to next year with the TV deal. I think there's a lot of momentum, probably more so than any motorsports property in the world. I think IndyCar is going in a great direction.
Q. The whole month of May seem to have gone really well for you. Were you expecting for all three of you to do what you did?
ED CARPENTER: You always hope that you're going to come here and be prepared and have fast cars. That is the expectation. It's hard to actually have that happen.
I am extremely happy and feel fortunate to have the team behind me and the sponsors, Fuzzy's, Go Daddy, all the people that have helped make it happen, helped us be prepared. But it definitely makes the month more enjoyable and a lot less stressful when you have fast cars.
Q. Literally you were born into this place. You've had a few front row starts, yet to win it. How far are you? Do you think you can do it this time?
ED CARPENTER: I do. I felt like I've been capable of winning the race for a long time. I feel like we have the right package right now at Ed Carpenter Racing with Chevrolet, all the people we have involved. I feel as confident as I ever have going into this race. Certainly that doesn't guarantee us anything, but I feel like we have a really good chance to go out and perform well, hopefully be there come the last fuel stint, see if we can't close.
Q. You're trying to manage the team. How does it work? Do you have a radio system?
ED CARPENTER: I mean, when I'm in the car, we've got a great team, and everyone has their jobs to do. It makes me just be able to focus on mine. I don't worry about what's going on with my teammates. Hopefully I'll be able to see them all. Hopefully we'll all be at the front together. It will be one less thing to have to worry about.
Q. You've been thinking you have had a chance every time you've been in this. What is it going to take?
ED CARPENTER: I think more than anything, you have to execute well and not make mistakes, not give anything away, take advantage of every opportunity that you get. Clearly you have to run a clean race, at the same time be able to overcome whatever adversities are in your way. 500 mile races, you're going to adversities somewhere along the line, whether it's a bad pit stop, lap traffic, pitting out of sequence, whatever it may be. You're going to have to overcome something. Be mentally prepared for that.
Q. (No microphone.)
ED CARPENTER: We can't run as much downforce as we used to. We can get close to it. Especially for a hot day, we can't keep adding, so we're limited on what we can do. The front wing seems to be a little less effective in dirty air compared to the other one.
Q. We heard that the Indy 500 is winning the 40 or 50 last laps. Do you think this year you have to be in the lead from the beginning because it might be more difficult to regain?
ED CARPENTER: Certainly if you can stay at the front the whole time, it would make for an easier day. That's an extremely hard thing to do. Probably if that's your expectation, it's a little unrealistic. But certainly you don't have to be there. It's about being there at the right time, at the end. There's a lot of good drivers and cars starting all throughout this field, so it's definitely one of the hardest races in the world to predict what's going to happen.
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Dave Chess has been writing for RIS since the late 1980s during the CompuServe days. His work has also appeared in Auto Week magazine, Chicago Gearhead News newspaper, ATA airlines in-flight magazine, National Speed Sport News and on many websites.