Top 10 IndyCar Driver of the Year 2011:
Indianapolis, Ind. USA
Sarah Fisher Racing
Ed Carpenter has been around IRL and IndyCar since 2003, but after Vision Racing (the team owned by Carpenter's stepfather, former Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George) folded before the start of the 2010 season it seemed that his chance to make it into the top ranks of the sport had passed him by.
Carpenter was able to make only four race appearances last year with Panther Racing, but then put together a deal with Sarah Fisher Racing for a ten-race partial season in 2011 concentrating on the ovals which started with the Indianapolis 500 - and culminated at Kentucky Speedway.
For some reason, Kentucky simply adores Ed Carpenter. In 2009 he recorded his then-best series result with second place there; the following year, he claimed his first IndyCar career pole position and went on to take second place again in the race. And finally in 2011 the big breakthrough he'd been waiting so long for happened - his first series victory. It just had to come at Kentucky.
It was by no means an easy win, and his late-race battle with Dario Franchitti was one of the closest and most tense pieces of on-track action we saw all season. The smart money would have been on Franchitti - the multiple series champion in top-of-the-line Ganassi equipment - to take the chequered flag, but instead it was Carpenter who put in a flawless display and pushed the SFR car for all it was worth and then some, outracing Franchitti on merit to claim not just his but also the Sarah Fisher Racing team's first-ever IndyCar win.
Whether this moment turns out to be the high watermark of his career or is simply the first of many successes as he becomes a team owner-driver in 2012 remains to be seen, but the way that he drove in those final few minutes in Kentucky would be a genuine credit to any driver in any series.
Top 10 IndyCar Driver of the Year 2011 results so far:
10. JR Hildebrand