ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Ed Carpenter looked a little worn out when he climbed from his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet machine Sunday after the 110-lap Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the season opener for the 19-race IZOD IndyCar Series.
And there was a good reason, a broken front wing on his open-wheel car.
Carpenter fought a tough handling car most of the race at the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit when a broken front wing caused the Ed Carpenter Racing owner/driver to battle the steering wheel as well as his on-track competition.
On the 84th lap restart, Carpenter moved past former St. Pete event winner Sebastien Bourdais for tenth and battled the likes of Takuma Sato, Bourdais, Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball.
Unfortunately, a valiant effort fell short when the red Firestone tires ran well past their usual stint (38 laps) and the Fuzzy’s Vodka car couldn’t hold its normal line.
At the checkered flag, Carpenter crossed the finish line in 14th after starting 23rd Sunday.
It was a solid opening performance for the second-year team which captured the 2012 season finale, the MAVTV 500, last September in Fontana, Calif.
The St. Petersburg event was a Team Chevy sweep Sunday with popular Canadian James Hinchcliffe taking his first IndyCar victory over Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti. Will Power also won the pole for Chevy.
The ECR/Fuzzy’s Vodka squad travels straight to Texas Motor Speedway for an oval track test Wednesday. Then the team heads back to its Indianapolis headquarters to prepare the Fuzzy’s Vodka car for the next IZOD IndyCar Series event set for April 5-7 at Barber Motorsport Park in Alabama.
“It was a survival today,” said Carpenter after the 14th place finish. “We had a busted front wing and it took us awhile to figure it out. So we ran most of the race with a broken front flat (of the wing).
It was tough to hang onto. When we replaced the front wing late in the race, the Fuzzy’s Chevrolet was much better. I think we got up to tenth at one point.
But our red Firestones were pretty worn out by then. In fact, we ran many more laps with them than we would in a normal stint. However, the race was an improvement for our ECR/Fuzzy’s team.
It was not pretty but we survived to the finish. Way better than last year here when we finished a couple of laps down due to some contact.
It was a great day for Team Chevy and to have (James) Hinch (cliffe) get his first IndyCar win. Team Chevy swept the podium and the weekend and that is very cool.”
Ed Carpenter Racing