SEBRING, Fla. -- Ed Carpenter pulled off the helmet and used his balaclava as a towel. Call it sweat equity.
Carpenter had just completed his final stint on the 1.67-mile, 11-turn Sebring International Raceway short course – his initial laps as an IZOD IndyCar Series team owner/driver. Over the two-day Open Test, he totaled 108 laps in the Chevrolet-powered No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka car.
Team general manager Derrick Walker greeted Carpenter with a handshake and broad smile – tokens of congratulations for the completed on-track tasks and just getting the new Dallara-Chevy package/team on the track in short order.
There’s a lot more to be accomplished before the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 25. To that end, the Ed Carpenter Racing crew will continue its development March 13-14 at Barber Motorsports Park, which is the second stop on the series’ schedule April 1. Fifteen others also are scheduled to get in more laps on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course.
Carpenter might not have been satisfied with all the lap times at Sebring, but then again the four sessions totaling 14 hours weren’t all about overall speed. The 31-year-old manager, who says he’s “not a control freak,” recognizes the program is being built for the long term.
“We just started the team in November so really we have accomplished quite a lot and come a long ways just in a short amount of time,” said Carpenter, who made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in 2003. “It has been a very busy off-season -- having some more responsibilities other than just getting myself ready to drive -- but it has been a lot of fun. It’s been a learning process and there have been stressful times, but for the most part it has really been enjoyable.
“You worry about the fact that there are a bunch of people you are responsible for, but at the same time I think I have always held myself to a higher standard than a lot of people have anyway. I don’t have to worry about someone else yelling at me. It’s more me disappointing myself even more.
"That is why me knowing that I was still going to be driving and owning the team I felt it necessary to bring someone in like Derek Walker. Derek has owned his own team, he has been a manager and he has done everything. It allows me to be comfortable to not worry about all the stuff that is going on behind the scenes because I know Derek is on top of it.
“It’s not like things are going to be slipping through the cracks over the course of the weekend when I’m driving.”
Carpenter says the timing was right to venture into team ownership, which will evolve into vacating the driver’s seat ala Sarah Fisher when again the time is right. Since Vision Racing (co-owned by his mother and stepfather, Laura and Tony George, and Patrick Dempsey) closed after the 2009 season, he cobbled a journeyman’s program. Most recently, he was coming off a 10-race season with Sarah Fisher Racing – winning the October race at Kentucky Speedway.
“It’s different but similar to when we had Vision,” said Carpenter, who has 113 IZOD IndyCar Series starts. “At Vision, I didn’t have any actual ownership or make any final decisions but I was there all the time and I did have a voice. It was a lot different when I went from driving for Vision to when I was running for Panther and Sarah (Fisher). It’s not like this is going to be a totally new scenario for me. It’s different than it was with Vision but some of it is the same.
“We had some strong support from sponsors that were encouraging us to go down this road. To be honest, toward the end of last year I was just trying to find a way to stay apart of Sarah Fisher’s race team. I enjoyed racing there, but when we started talking and thinking about it -- me thinking long term and future opportunities for myself and my family -- it just seemed like an opportunity that didn’t make sense to pass up on.
“You don’t get opportunities like this very often. Hopefully, we will make the most of it and Ed Carpenter Racing will be around for a lot longer than my driving career.”
The Fuzzy’s car will be among 11 powered by Chevy on the 26-car starting grid for the eighth St. Pete race on the challenging 1.8-mile temporary street circuit. Ed Carpenter Racing wasn’t among the on-track developers of the 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engine through the autumn/winter, but through the manufacturer’s information-sharing concept isn’t left behind.
“Even though we came late to the table we have still been able to benefit from some things that they have already done,” he said. “With that said, we are still behind. We will definitely have some starting points and we won’t be starting totally at square one.”
Also scheduled to participate March 13-14 at Barber Motorsports Park
No. 2 Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske)
No. 3 Helio Castroneves (Team Penske)
No. 4 JR Hildebrand (Panther Racing)
No. 5 E.J. Viso (KV Racing Technology)
No. 8 Rubens Barrichello (KV Racing Technology)
No. 11 Tony Kanaan (KV Racing Technology)
No. 12 Will Power (Team Penske)
No. 26 Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport)
No. 27 James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport)
No. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport)
No. 18 Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing)
No. 19 James Jakes (Dale Coyne Racing)
No. 38 Graham Rahal (Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing*
No. 67 Josef Newgarden (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing)
No. 83 Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing)*
Rahal and Kimball will be on the circuit March 13 only. Also, Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon will be testing on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course March 14.