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Ed Carpenter's 2013 Season-End Blog

Open Wheel Racing

Ed Carpenter's 2013 Season-End Blog

Ed Carpenter
Ed Carpenter Racing
November 6, 2013

Ed CarpenterIt was a thrill for Ed to be greeted by legend Parnelli Jones after winning the Indy 500 Pole.
November 6th 2013 - The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series has come to a close and now I can reflect on some of the good and the bad for myself and our Ed Carpenter Racing/Fuzzy’s Vodka team.

You know, we were definitely scrambling last year in the "rookie” season of the ECR/Fuzzy’s program. We really didn’t get all of the pieces in place until the Indy 500 as we played catch up with the crew, the parts, the new Dallara chassis and the all-new Chevrolet V-6 Twin Turbo engine.

We were still hiring guys when the 2012 season got underway at St. Petersburg and then we had a very tough month of May that included crashing a car in qualifying. The Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevy came alive in the race and we moved from 28th to third before we had a wing adjuster problem with 20 laps remaining.

I will admit that it is a tough proposition for a new, single-car organization to battle the likes of Ganassi, Penske, Andretti and other established teams. But at the end, we put together an outstanding plan for Fontana and won the season finale. It was a great way to round out our team’s initial campaign.

So, for the 2013 season, we felt we had a great game plan to improve the team and our performance on the track. Fuzzy’s continued to be a forerunner in the sponsorship side by recreating the famed "Fuzzy’s Triple Crown” with long distance races at Indy, Pocono and Fontana. They posted the impressive prize of $1 million to a driver to win all three races and $250,000 if someone captured two of the three big events.

You have to give golf great Fuzzy Zoeller and his staff a lot of credit for jumping in and help promote IndyCar racing in the past two seasons. It’s fantastic to have a primary sponsor as aggressive as Fuzzy’s on your side.

In the 2013 off-season, we did a lot of testing of parts and various equipment including running in the wind tunnel, the 7-post shaker rig, the gearbox dyno as well as some on-track testing. Our team was much more prepared and organized for 2013. We kept our entire crew and actually added another person. That is rare in motorsports these days.

We had a solid platform set up by our team manager Tim Broyles, lead engineer Matt Barnes (and his staff) and crew chief Bret Schmitt. The off-season was busy for me too. My wife Heather and I had another child in December and, with the three kids (Makenna, Ryder and Cruz), it was a little crazy at times. But we managed to get through it and even move into a new home in June.

Now, I’ll also admit that we know the competitive nature of the IndyCar Series. It’s never easy to make the podium or even run in the top-five. But those were our goals and we hoped to improve on the one victory we had in 2012.

We worked hard on the Indy 500 too. That race is the biggest in the world and it is our Super Bowl. We didn’t leave any stone unturned in our strategy for month of May. "Let’s go win the pole and the race” was our motto from the start of the 2013 season. We worked on our road racing setups too and we even had the defending series champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay, jump in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Chevy at Sonoma in February to see if we were headed in the right direction. Actually, Ryan liked some of our settings and used them later for his DHL car.

The competition level is so tough in the IndyCar Series and we were hoping to have some good runs early on the street and road circuits. We had a couple of better ones but it didn’t show at the finishes.

Coming to the Indy 500, we felt good about our strategy and we played our hand a little close to the vest. We didn’t really want to show our speed during practice. We did a lot of race setup throughout the practice days and then we worked on the qualifying settings late in the week. When it came time for qualifying, we wanted speed and consistency. Of course, the weather threw a wrench into some of the plans on Pole Day as things were moved back in the day.

We felt good about the car. However, I didn’t know if I had a pole car or a tenth place car. We ran fifth in the first qualifying session, and then we were up against five Andretti cars and three Penske cars for the top-nine Pole Shootout. Of course, the media and announcers built us up as ‘David versus Goliath” with the local one-car team against the ‘Super” squads. Matt Barnes and our engineering staff played it cool again just like during the week. And we didn’t change much on the car. That paid off. I think the Penske and Andretti boys took off downforce.

Winning the pole at the Indy 500 is really bigger than winning any of the other races on the circuit. I was so proud of the team and it gave Fuzzy’s and all of our sponsors a great week of promotion. For the race, I was confident we could run fast and win. Early in the race, we led or ran right at the front. Unfortunately, we got caught up in the middle of the field at one point and I couldn’t get back to the lead pack. In my decade of racing at Indy, I would have to say that this year’s race was the most competitive I have faced. There were so many good cars and drivers throughout the whole 200 laps. And you also had to adjust to the conditions. We were so close to being right there too. We finished tenth and it was very disappointing for me. But overall it was a great month of May for the team.

The middle of the season we showed that we could run up front including the Texas and Iowa races. I thought we had a car to win those events. We had to take fourth at both. I was so excited to race at Pocono too. I wanted to win there badly. The car was wasn’t bad but we didn’t really have the machine to win that day.

We were getting better at the road and street courses too. I was a little upset with myself at a couple of those events as I needed to be more aggressive in qualifying and the races.

Coming to Fontana, we had a good test in September there and I was confident again. But we had a trailer fire in Arizona right after the test and the crew was in a tough position to clean up everything and work quickly for Houston. Houston was a rough weekend. We hit a stalled Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) in the first race and we had our first mechanical DNF of the team in two years in the second race with a clutch problem. So we had to regroup for Fontana.

At Fontana, we did some cool and exciting things as the defending champion and I thank the Auto Club Speedway folks for their hospitality. In practice, I was very upset because the car was not right. Luckily we found the problem and qualified okay (7th). In the race, our car was good. But, with the temps being 20 degrees less than 2012, other teams had good cars too. The ECR/Fuzzy’s crew was excellent again on our pit stops and I was in position to battle for the lead at the end. The car was good on long runs and I was hoping for a good 20 to 25-lap stint at the final run. But, the yellow came out late (just eight laps left) and Will Power was able to grab a good start and I didn’t have enough time to track him down. Had we had another 10 to 15 laps and I might have pulled it off again.

Overall, I could really see our team continuing to make excellent progress throughout the year. We have a great group of people in our team and a superb sponsor in Fuzzy;s Vodka. We are working to make the team even better. Even though we didn’t get a win this year, the pole at Indy and the second at Fontana proved that our team has made great strides in just two years of operation. We’ll work hard again to prepare for the 2014 season in this off-season and plan to get back to the top of the podium.

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