This may come as a shock, I know, but for all his good qualities, Ed Carpenter is not a street and road course ace.
On the other hand, Mike Conway has amply proved that he is.
That's why Friday's announcement of Ed Carpenter stepping aside for Mike Conway for the twisty weekends makes an abundant amount of sense. Here, we have two drivers who are the mirror images of one another when it comes to IndyCar. Just as Carpenter has shown he can win and grab the pole on an oval, Mike Conway can be counted on to do the same in the concrete canyons.
That's precisely why so many fans have talked about such a move for a while now. This makes as much sense as any decision we've seen in the past year. Carpenter should again be a threat on the ovals (including the Indy 500), while it will be fantastic to see Conway compete during weekends such as Long Beach and Belle Isle.
That's not to say Ed Carpenter couldn't have stayed on for the street and road courses. It's worth noting that Carpenter worked very hard with driving coach Lee Bentham on improving his craft over the past year, and while he still didn't set the world on fire or manage a street course Top 10, he was still much better than in years past. I admire his dedication just as much as I admire his willingness to do the right thing for Ed Carpenter Racing when it's all said and done. After all, Mike Conway in for the road and street courses should mean more TV exposure for Fuzzy's Vodka. Carpenter did what he could, and when it was time, made the even smarter play.
This is also a perfect situation for Conway, who decided he was finished with ovals before the 2012 season finale. He fits into a team where his skills will be of immense value, and will work to make the team a competitor just about every weekend. Better yet, the team should see no drop-off when it comes to the weekends when Conway isn't in the car. Mike Conway is as calm as they come, and one would think that would go well with the very even-keel Ed Carpenter. They just might be the calmest duo in the paddock. You could have the two suspended over a live volcano by their toes, wearing belts full of nitroglycerin, and you might get a combined heart rate from the two of ten, maybe eleven beats per minute.
There will come a day when Ed Carpenter is finished driving an IndyCar, and focuses all of his attention on Ed Carpenter Racing. While I'm hoping he has many great oval races in front of him, with decisions like this, I'm pretty sure he's going to be an excellent full-time owner when that time comes. Chevy should also be happy--one of their teams is going to be in line for top finishes quite a bit more in the season to come.
Sometimes, there are decisions made that are such no-brainers that they sort of speak for themselves. In 2014, we should see the decision of Ed Carpenter Racing to add Mike Conway speak volumes on the track.