Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Carpenter On The Twisties

I’ve been having some pretty lively correspondence as of late in regards to Ed Carpenter and his team’s chances in 2012. Obviously, there’s a lot of pieces still missing; although they’ve impressively lined up Derrick Walker as team manager and Michael Cannon in engineering, they continue to hire personnel as they prepare for the season. Still, many questions remain as INDYCAR’s newest team gets ready for its inaugural season.

Of course, the knock against Ed Carpenter has always been that he can only succeed on ovals. Certainly he’s proven himself as an oval assassin over the years, especially in his shorter tenures with both Panther Racing and Sarah Fisher’s team. But can 2011’s Kentucky Indy 300 winner find the same sort of success on the road and street courses?

More questions await Carpenter for 2012.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)

I think it’s important to remember that Carpenter has not traditionally been with teams known for their engineering acumen when it comes to the twisty circuits. Neither Vision Racing, Panther, or SFR have a great deal of renown when it comes to that particular skill, however successful they’ve been on ovals. So when you see Carpenter and his team hire a quality setup engineer in Cannon, you definitely get the sense they want a better performance across the board, and not just in a single racing discipline.

Detractors will say Ed managed only a couple road/street Top 10s in six full-time seasons in INDYCAR between 2004-2009. Maybe so. But it was a different series back then, predominantly oval in nature. And everything about how they’re putting this team together right now suggests they’re serious about building a contender to compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series, circa 2012 and beyond.

That still leaves the driver factor. I’ll admit, I’m pulling for Carpenter to pull it off. While I think it’s unreasonable to expect him to jet to the front of the field at St. Pete, if he’s finishing at least respectably mid-pack early in the season, that will demonstrate some progress over last year’s results at SFR (finishing P20 or lower in the 3 road/street circuits that team contested). Perhaps the 30 year-old driver is behind the curve, but he and his team seem dedicated to the task, and have the experience to know what needs to happen. There’s time yet for him to learn.

So how will Ed Carpenter Racing have fared on the road/street side of the schedule when all is said and done for 2012? I wish them the best, but ultimately none of us know until the results go into the record books. As a fan of Ed Carpenter, dedication, and proving naysayers wrong, I’ll be pulling for them to improve every day. Whether you’re a cynic or an optimist when it comes to the issue, I’m glad we get to watch it all play out next season.

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