Carpenter returns to Baltimore as owner-driver

Years ago, a rising basketball coach at a little school in the suburbs outside New York used to introduce himself, "Jim Valvano, Iona College." In return, the coach who later gained national fame at North Carolina State said he would often hear, "Son, you're too young to own a college."

Ed Carpenter could get the same reaction the Indy Car Series circuit. At 31, Carpenter is the owner — and driver — of the racing team that bears his name. There have times this year — the team's first — when it also might bare his soul.


An IndyCar series driver for the past eight years, Carpenter left Sarah Fisher Racing after getting his and the team's first victory last season at Kentucky, to start his own team. Carpenter is the only driver, and his the only team, to finish all 13 races this season.

"It's something that for a new team, I think is a good thing," Carpenter said Friday, sitting in the paddock area at the Convention Center before going out for practice in preparation of Sunday's Grand Prix of Baltimore main event. "There are races where I would have liked to have much better results. At the same time, the guys have put out a very good product and have done good work all year."


Carpenter's decision to venture out on his own grew out of a conversation he had with his main sponsor, Fuzzy's Vodka, the Indiana-based liquor company owned by professional golfer Fuzzy Zoeller. The company had sponsored Carpenter when he was with his previous team.

"Going into the offseason, we were talking about our options," Carpenter said. "We started kicking around the idea of having a team. At first I wasn't so sure about it, but then it seemed to be an opportunity you don't get every day. Potentially it can be a future for me beyond my racing career."

Carpenter, who has a marketing degree from Butler University in Indianapolis, said that the financial investment has been one of the biggest challenges.

"It's been an expensive year, it was a hard year to really build a reliable, predictable budget going into it because there were so many unknowns," Carpenter said. "It's been kind of been a learning experience as we've gone along, but we knew it was going to be an expensive venture."

The son of former Indy Car president Tony George, Carpenter said that he has been able to play the dual roles of owner-driver with the help of his 18-person team, led by general manager Derrick Walker. Despite finishing every race, Carpenter is currently 22nd overall out of 25 full-time drivers.

"It's going to take a long time to catch up with the knowledge and the experience he [Walker} has, but having a guy like him on board makes it a lot easier for me to step away from the ownership managerial thought process and concentrate on the things I need to do as a driver," Carpenter said.

Carpenter is hoping to do better this year in Baltimore than he did last year, when he finished 20th out of 28 who completed the race. He has two top 10 finishes this year — a pair of back-to-back eighths in Iowa and Toronto — and has started no better than 19th.

"In Indianapolis, we were running third with 20 laps to go and ended up spinning out [and finishing 21st]," Carpenter said. "We've had races like in Iowa where we had chances to win and there've been races where we haven't done well at all. That's the biggest thing, getting more consistency and me getting better and the team getting better on roads and street courses."


Slide back 10 places

Four IndyCar drivers were penalized Friday for unapproved engine changes made at the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma last Sunday.

Mike Conway, Takuma Sato, Bruno Junquiera and Simona de Silvestro all were issued a 10-spot grid penalty in the IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Baltimore for not complying with Rule 15.1.4, which stipulates penalties for drivers who use more than five fresh engines in a year.

Conway and Junqueira will be fitting their sixth engine this weekend. De Silvestro is fitting her eventh engine, while Sato is already on his seventh. Fourteen of the 25 drivers set to compete are on their fifth engine.

All will participate in the qualifying race today, with the grid penalties being assessed to Sunday's starting lineup.

Some get their work in


If it did anything besides frustrate and annoy, Friday's delay-riddled racing helped delineate a clear distinction between the day's haves and have-nots.

After a spate of red flags and a break for chicane construction, the Grand Prix of Baltimore's more popular draws — those in the American Le Mans Series — were afforded both a practice and qualifying round.

Those in the lesser-known Star Mazda and USF2000 championships were not. Drivers got two practices, but qualifying was settled by series points standing after delays shook up the day's itinerary.

In the ALMS P1 series, Lucas Luhr took the pole with an ALMS-best 1:25.174 qualifying time in his final lap.

"I think this is the best city course I have driven. It is very nice," Luhr said. "I think the chicane is the safest thing even though I wish they had come up with something better from the year before."

Christophe Bouchut secured first place for the start of today's P2 race with a 1:27.119 time, while Bruno Junqueira took the pole in the PC series after capping his qualifying effort with a 1:27.464 time.


Oliver Gavin (1:29.945) and Damien Faulkner (1:35.493) claimed pole position in the GT and GTC series, respectively.

Jack Hawksworth will start out in front for the Star Mazda Championship. Petri Suvanto, who will start seventh based off points, had the fastest lap in the day's first practice session (1:29.045). Connor De Phillippi, who will start fourth, was the fastest in the second (1:29.650).

For the USF2000 Championship, Matthew Brabham will start in the pole position. Spencer Pigot led the first practice session Friday (1:33.883) while Brabham, the current points leader, topped the field in the final go-around (1:34.156).