(This is the next in a series of stories tracing the roots of Verizon IndyCar Series drivers through their own words. We’ll look at where they grew up and what first sparked their interest in racing. Today’s subject: Ed Carpenter.)
Ed Carpenter, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ only owner driver, chats with IndyCar.com’s Phillip B. Wilson about his earliest childhood memories.
Wilson: What’s your first memory of anything as a kid?
Carpenter: I remember playing outside at my parents’ original house that I came home to after being born in Clark Center, Illinois. Nothing ultra-vivid, just probably running around in my diaper, but my earliest childhood memories are at that property. I only lived there for a couple of years.
Wilson: You remember anything about racing?
Carpenter: I remembered my first races and, slightly before that, we ran our quarter midgets when we first got ‘em built in the parking lot. My brother and I did that. I think the reason I remember it is just because it was something that I connected with immediately and loved doing from the first opportunity I got to do it. Ultimately, I think that’s what made me continue down this crazy life of being a race car driver and team owner. It’s all basically a ton of fun and rewarding at times, but it’s also extremely challenging and stressful most of the time just because it’s such a volatile industry and sport to try to be a professional athlete in. It’s definitely something that you have to love doing and I think that passion for me started in the very beginning.
Wilson: Do you remember moving to Indianapolis?
Carpenter: Oh yeah, I actually remember the first time I came over for a weekend when my mom and Tony (George) were dating. I remember the first time I met my brother Tony (George Jr.), he was asleep on the couch. He had a house up at Lake Morse in Cicero. When I got there, little Tony was sleeping on the couch with an arm in a cast because he had broken it jumping off a stool. I think I actually woke him up because I was so excited to meet him. That was the first trip leading into us moving here. Before that, my only trips to Indy were coming to the airport to pick up cousins.
Wilson: What did you think of Indianapolis initially? Was it a rapid departure from what you were used to?
Carpenter: Yeah, I came from a super-small town and kind of a country lifestyle to moving to Pike Township (in Indianapolis) and I started in Pike Schools. It was a pretty big culture shock. I was pretty shy because it was such a big change for me in environment. I obviously grew to love it. It’s been home.
Wilson: Anybody who has covered you, they make the mistake of calling you an Indy native. But you do feel like Indy is your hometown even though you weren’t born here? You embraced Indianapolis and it became your home?
Carpenter: Part of me being perceived as an Indy native is because I like that. This has been my home and where I really grew up and became who I am. I do feel like a native to here. My birthplace is somewhere else, but Indy always has been and always will be home.
Wilson: Do you remember your first Indy 500?
Carpenter: I do.
Wilson: How old were you?
Carpenter: I was 8. That was my first actual race in 1989.
Wilson: Who won? Emerson Fittipaldi?
Carpenter: I don’t know. I mainly just remember watching from over in the Turn 2 suites. I remember qualifying more than the race, actually.
Wilson: Yeah, Emerson Fittipaldi won. Your thoughts about the race? Did it blow your mind?
Carpenter: I think I was almost a little too young to full grasp how big it was. I hadn’t been anywhere else, so I don’t think I really had a concept for how big it was at that point. More than anything, I was just taken aback by the cars more so than the crowd.
(Read previous Racing Roots entries on Marco Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon.)