SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Ed Carpenter, the last IZOD IndyCar Series 500-mile race winner, has had his eyes set on the next 500-mile race since last September.

Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: IndyCar Series

Carpenter, the series’ only team owner/driver, captured the thrilling, last-lap 500-mile season finale at the Auto Club Speedway in California last September and immediately set his sights on winning the 97th running of the world’s biggest auto race, the Indianapolis 500, May 26.

“I think we celebrated the Fontana win a few days and then directed our program to win the next 500-miler,” said Carpenter, who will drive the popular No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet in the 33-car field. “We have been working on Indy for the last seven months and we would love to repeat that California win on May 26.”

Carpenter, who’ll make his tenth Indy 500 start, grew up playing around the hollowed IMS grounds as a child and has dreamt of winning the world’s greatest race. Now, the 32-year-old Butler University graduate believes the 2013 “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is within his grasp.

Last year, the Indianapolis racer came from his 28th starting position to battle for third with just 20 laps remaining the 200-lap classic. Only a broken front wing adjuster slowed Carpenter’s charge to the lead and forced a late-race spin.

“We broke a front wing adjuster in the middle of the race and I was trying to spin out on almost every lap,” Carpenter admits. “But we had a fast car and I was driving it right on the edge at the end. It was a frustrating month of May until race day. Then, everything came together. Our pit stops were very good and the team made the proper adjustments during the race. It was just that wing adjuster that hurt us in the end.”

It was a few long weeks for Carpenter’s team last May as the first-year team attempted to find speed to qualify and then suffered a turn-two crash on Pole Day. But the team rallied over the qualifying weekend to build a new car, qualify the machine and gain a good race setup for the race. The race proved to be a 180-degree turn from the struggles in practice and qualifying.

The Ed Carpenter Racing/Fuzzy’s Vodka team made huge strides with its program as the “rookie” squad developed through the 15-race 2012 campaign. By the season finale at Fontana, Calif., the ECR bunch was ready to fight the big teams such as Penske, Ganassi and Andretti for the coveted 500-mile win.

“That win at Fontana really showed that our team had come together,” he said. “We had a young engineering staff that worked very hard after Indy to prepare a great speedway car. And all we can ask is to be in contention late in the race. If we have a good setup, I think we could win and that’s what happened.”

Carpenter, the only IndyCar driver who came up through the sprint car and midget ranks, has not tested on the famed two-and-a-half Indy oval since last year’s 500, but his ECR team has spent countless hours in off-track testing including wind tunnel and seven-post shaker rig runs as well as track simulation at the Dallara plant in Italy.

“Growing up around the track, this race means a lot to me and the 500 is the reason I got into racing,” he said. “So, for Ed Carpenter Racing and Fuzzy’s Vodka, winning the Indy 500 is the primary goal every year. I know the team has worked extremely hard during the off-season to prepare for this year’s 500. Our team has now won a 500-mile race and I think we are as ready as we can be to be a strong contender for another 500 victory.”

Practice for the Indy 500 begins this Saturday, May 11, at noon.

ECR