Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
September 16, 2003
K. Johnson: We would like to welcome everyone to the Indy Racing League teleconference for this week, Tuesday, Sept. 16. Today we will visit with driver Ed Carpenter, who is competing in both the Menards Infiniti Pro Series as well as the IndyCar Series this weekend in California, as well as take a look at the IndyCar Series points chase with drivers Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon.
Our first guest is Ed Carpenter who drives the No. 14 Futuba Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone for A.J. Foyt Racing in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. Ed also made his IndyCar Series debut Sept. 7 at Chicagoland in the No. 18 PDM Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone where he finished 13th in the IndyCar Series race and second in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series Chicago 100. In doing so he became the first driver to compete in both Indy Racing League series on the same weekend. Ed, good morning and thanks for joining us today.
E. Carpenter: Good morning.
K. Johnson: Your background is primarily on the USAC circuits where it is commonplace to jump from a car in one division into a car competing in another division. Now, you have become the first person to do that in the Indy Racing League. Tell us about your Chicago weekend, running in both the IndyCar Series, as well as the Infiniti Pro Series.
E. Carpenter: It was a lot of fun. I mean, anytime I can run more than one race in a weekend, it is going to be a fun weekend. I mean, the IRL is still organizing the schedule. The schedule is pretty open with the three-day weekend, so it was not as hectic as I thought it was going to be, and we had real nice and smooth weekends in both cars, so it made it pretty easy.
K. Johnson: Your debut in the IndyCar Series was very positive and you actually worked your way up into the top ten. You have spent much of the season running at the front of the pack in the Infiniti Pro Series. So, in what ways has the Pro Series prepared you for what you encountered when you stepped into the IndyCar Series machine?
E. Carpenter: Well, I mean, everywhere we go in the Pro Series it is pretty much two-wide wheel-to-wheel racing, especially at the mile-and-a-half tracks like we are going to be running the next two events like Chicago was. The Pro Series is good about getting a comfort level of doing that type of racing, racing that close all the time, where you have to keep your concentration at 100 percent for the whole race. So, the only difference was the race it is a lot longer. The mechanics of the two cars are very similar, so as far as the mechanics goes, the Pro Series helped a lot, too. The only difference is the horsepower, obviously.
K. Johnson: Now what difficulties did you encounter going back and forth between the two machines?
E. Carpenter: I mean, none really. The hardest part is just having to split your time between two teams and make both teams feel like they are getting all your attention, because obviously when you are in and out of one car, especially during a practice session, I do not really have as much time to debrief. So, it is just one of those things where you have to really, really schedule out the time and figure out when we are going to talk about what car. But, as far as I go, you kind of have to switch a switch in your brain and just say, "Okay, I am getting in a Pro Series car, and now I am in the Indy car." So, you just have to realize where you are at and what you are doing.
Q: When the race started you looked like you went from 16th to fifth. You were passing cars on the outside. Were you trying to take it easy at the start and be conservative or did things just happen so fast and it felt so good you just kept going?
E. Carpenter: Yes, I mean going into the race, I mean, my first laps I wanted to be patient and just kind of -- The first goal was to finish the race. But, I mean the green flag dropped, and I am a race car driver and sprint car races and everything you go from the start. I was just running my own pace. The car felt really good, and it was handling really good. The PDM guys did a really good job, and the car felt good, so, I mean, I just started picking off cars, and I did not feel like I was overdriving. It was just kind of coming to me, so, I just ran the race, and we ended up there in the front pack for a while.
Q: Davey Hamilton said once, Ed, that, you know, all the super modifieds and everything that he drove did not prepare him for Indy cars, but you got a feeling that all your experience at Winchester and Salem and Eldora and the Silver Crown cars and things really have been pretty much a good stepping stone for this deal?
E. Carpenter: I disagree with Davey a little bit on that, because when you are racing sprint cars or midgets or kind of whatever it is from the time the green flag drops till the checkered flag it is just a non-stop battle. You have to drive as hard as you can the whole time, and the competition has been good in USAC lately that it has been just really a close race. I mean, if you let up for a second, someone is going to go by you and that is the way I feel it is in Indy cars right now. I mean, the mentality you have to have is to run in front the same in both series. The biggest difference is just the difference in rear engine to front engine, aerodynamics and no aerodynamics.
K. Johnson: Ed, if you had the opportunity, such as what we had, say out in Nazareth, where the USAC guys were running with the Indy Racing League, would it be a temptation and could you pull it off running the Silver Crown as well as the Pro Series and the IndyCar Series.
E. Carpenter: It definitely would be a temptation. I know last week in Chicago the sprint cars were running at the Route 66 Speedway just across the street, and I was tempted to do that. But, I mean, I think my brain has been getting the better of me and not allowing me to do it. Indy cars are too important to me, and that is where I want to be. I mean it is a big enough risk running the Pro Series right now, just doing double-duty. I love to race, and anytime I can race more I would like to, but once you get to a certain point, especially in the IndyCar Series, you have to start just focusing on that and cutting back on everything else. I mean, the main reason we are running both right now is just to fulfill the obligations I have with Futuba and Delphi, A.J. Foyt and just finishing out the season.
Q: In percentage factors, Ed, the difference between running Infiniti Pro Series and the IndyCar Series; how big a percentage is the focus of the race is longer and more intense?
E. Carpenter: Oh I think it is about the same amount of focus. The main thing is, like you said, it is just a longer distance. That is what I have been preparing myself for, so I knew going in that was going to be a much longer race both physically and mentally. It is not that bad. I mean, I think the Pro Series are long enough races where it really strains you a little bit, but the Indy car races are just another big step from that.
Q: How do you prepare for that?
E. Carpenter: Just a lot of time in the gym and a lot of mental focus and just thinking about things and knowing what to expect, watching races, listen to other people how they run the race on the scanner and just -- Really when you have a good car like we had at Chicago, and you are focusing and things are going well, the race goes by pretty quick, it is a lot of fun, and you do not really think about it.
Q: What are you looking at for next year at this point? What do you consider your options and do you feel that you have a shot with one of the Panther rides?
E. Carpenter: First of all, I want to be in the Indy Racing League. If I could end up with a team like Panther, that would be perfect. I think I have a shot at one of the rides. I think I will be getting in touch with them, at least. So, just trying to do everything I can these last two races with PDM to show my value, and then get a test and hope I have a good test and impress somebody.
Q: I talked about the fact that we all understand preparing physically and in the gym and what have you, but the mental factor of preparing for the IndyCar Series; how do you mentally train?
E. Carpenter: The main thing for me is just staying relaxed and knowing what you have to do and just -- It is mostly confidence. You just have to believe in yourself and believe in the car and the team you are with and just go out and do it. I think you are either mentally tough, or you are not. There are certain things you can do to help, but the main thing is just staying relaxed and understanding what you have to do.
Q: Ed, this is your first experience in Chicago with pit stops; have you and the team done any practicing since that time?
E. Carpenter: No, we have not had any testing or anything since the race in Chicago, so have not had any practice. We practiced some pit stops before the Chicago race, but there is really no way to stimulate what you encounter in the race. I learned a lot, and I know some things that I have to improve for this coming race, so, as long as we continue to make improvements to each race, I feel good about that.
Q: What do you feel that you need to do to execute a better pit stop?
E. Carpenter: The biggest thing is just on my in lap, just getting in once I get onto the flats on the pit end, just maintaining more speed up to where I have to be down at 60 mph speed limit and then -- We did a pretty job of hitting the marks and everything, so it is just getting off the track at speed and carrying the speed as long as I can before I have to get down to the speed limit.
Q: What are you ultimate goals as a racing car driver?
E. Carpenter: I want to race Indy cars for the rest of my career. I want to win the Indy Racing Championship and hopefully multiple 500s.
Q: You and how many other people?
E. Carpenter: Exactly.
K. Johnson: Ed, in your most recent Infiniti Pro Series Race at Chicagoland Speedway you were involved along with Mark Taylor in the closest finish to this point in Pro Series history. How do you see this weekend's California 100 shaping up?
E. Carpenter: I think we will have a chance at breaking that record again. Hopefully I will just come out on the other end of it. It is going to be the same type of race that we had at Chicago. There is going to be a lot of side-by-side racing and battling for the lead the whole time, so hopefully we can put myself in position to come across the checkers first this time.
K. Johnson: Now going back a minute to what one of our previous callers asked you about when you were talking about pit stops and stuff; was Sunday the first time you had made a pit stop in competition?
E. Carpenter: Yes, the first time in competition. That is one thing that we do not get to practice in the Pro Series, or that I ever encountered. So, going into the race, I was probably more nervous for that aspect of it than anything else.
K. Johnson: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a professional race driver?
E. Carpenter: I started racing quarter midgets when I was 8, and that was all kind of hobby, and then, once I got about the age of 16, I started racing midgets and that is really when I had to sit down and make the decision if I wanted to focus 100 percent on pursuing a racing career, or if I wanted to put more effort into my studying and try to get a job. But, I decided back way when I was 16 that this was really what I wanted to do, and I have been working at it ever since.
Q: Ed, as far as the guys that you idolized when you were a kid; who were the drivers that you looked to? We have heard Sam Hornish Jr., you and Sam are only a couple of years apart, we have heard Sam talk about how much an idol Rick Mears was to him. Who was the driver that you looked to and did you tell your folks, for example, "I want to be like him," or would you sit there and have his picture on your wall, that sort of thing.
E. Carpenter: I always looked up to Al (Unser) Jr. He was always a good family friend. He was the best man in my parents' wedding, and I always kind of liked the way he raced. He was not the best qualifier, but when the green flag dropped, he was on a mission to go to the front. He was kind of who I always rooted for when I was little and it was pretty neat to actually be able to race against him last weekend in my first start.
Q: After the driver introductions were over, and you guys were heading back to your cars there at Chicagoland, Al said something to you right before the race. What did he say?
E. Carpenter: He was walking in front of me, I ran up and caught up to him and I said, "Hey, I figure you will probably be going a lot quicker than me in the start of this thing." I said, "I am going to try to follow you and see if I can learn something from you." And he goes, "I do not know." He goes, "I am probably going to be following you most of the day." It turned out that I never actually followed him, so it was just kind of fun. I just wanted to let him know that I respected him, and I was going to try to learn something from him during the race if I could, but it did not work out that way.
K. Johnson: Ed, looking at your experience in the IndyCar Series and comparing it to what you have undergone in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series the past two years, obviously, the speeds are quicker. Inside the cockpit do things happen faster?
E. Carpenter: Yes. That is the biggest adjustment I had to make, especially when we first started testing. I mean, everything just happened so much faster. It is amazing what a 30 mph difference feels like. Once I got my comfort level in the car, everything slowed down and that feels like a normal pace, so it just makes the Infiniti Pro cars feel a little bit slower. But, that is by the far the biggest difference, just the rate of speed that everything happens. Like in the race, for instance, Kenny Brack's tire went down on him right in front of me and by the time I saw that he was spinning, he was already out of the picture and in the Pro Series you really have a lot more time to see what is going on. But, when a crash happens in Indy cars it is gone before you even realize what happened.
K. Johnson: Well Ed, we certainly appreciate your joining us today and wish you the best of luck in both of your races this weekend in California.
E. Carpenter: Thank you.