While Verizon IndyCar Series frontrunners keep talking about how important this weekend's double points Pocono 500 could be in the title chase, Ed Carpenter is quietly preparing to play the role of spoiler in Pennsylvania.
The only owner/driver in the IndyCar Series isn't a championship contender, but he has already shown that he can make it tough on the boys in the battle. In Carpenter's first two of six oval races he'll run in 2014, he has claimed one pole – at the Indy 500 - and one win – in Texas – at the wheel of the #20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet, and expects to be a factor at 'The Tricky Triangle'.
“I think we actually had a good chance at only both races at the ovals this year,” said Carpenter, who finished ninth last year at Pocono, “We were in position to challenge Ryan [Hunter-Reay] at Indy, but the incident on lap 175 cost us that possibility. Now I really want to go after that Pocono win.”
The incident involving Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe with 25 laps to go at Indy was a tough pill to swallow for the Butler University marketing graduate, but the Texas victory softened the blow somewhat.
Carpenter's first racing appearance at Pocono had a similar twist, running in the top five in last year's race before a late pit-stop hurt his challenge for a podium finish. Now, the 33-year-old father of three wants to continue his team's winning ways this Sunday in the 500-mile classic.
“I really love racing at Pocono,” he admits, “It is so unique and challenging. I'm not sure there is another corner in our IndyCar Series like turn one at Pocono. It's flat out on the throttle and very tricky - just like the track's nickname applies.
“The race is 100 miles longer than last year, and that could create more opportunities for the teams and their strategies. I feel like our ECR/Fuzzy's team has a good foundation for the ovals right now, and we will need that during the long race at Pocono, as conditions will change throughout the race.”
Carpenter's decision to concentrate only in oval racing this year has made off in the first half of the 2014 campaign. Having decided to put road racing veteran Mike Conway in the Fuzzy's Vodka Chevy for the twelve street and road courses races was rewarded when the Briton won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April and Carpenter captured the Firestone 600K at Texas in June.
“It was a decision that I felt would be good for the team from a business standpoint,” the team boss explains, “I wanted to give our team and our partners a chance to run up front at all of the 18 races this year. This series is so competitive that we needed an opportunity to race for wins every weekend.”
A highly-competitive series in 2014 might be an understatement right now. Seven different drivers have won in the first nine races with five different teams, but the shocking point so far is that the defending series champions Target Chip Ganassi and 2013 Pocono winner Scott Dixon have not won yet.
“Believe me, I wouldn't count out the Scott and the entire Ganassi team just yet,” Carpenter said, “They haven't won this year, but they could string several wins together quickly. The Pocono 500 will be another sensational race, with many drivers right there at the end of the 200 laps. I just want to be the one in front at the chequered flag again.”