There’s no such thing as a quiet day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, especially not when Danica Patrick is on track.
As the lightning rod for publicity hopped into her neon green No. 13 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing at Tuesday’s refresher test, cameras converged in a familiar media blitz on pit road. It was kind of like when she arrived in 2005, she would say later. It was as if nothing had changed.
That’s just part of the reason why Ed Carpenter saw the benefit to adding Patrick in a third car for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. The Verizon IndyCar Series’ only owner/driver, in wearing his owner’s hat, recognized the opportunity to boost the profile of his team.
But Carpenter considers frenzied media publicity the added benefit to teaming up with a driver who has a great IMS track record and has a legitimate chance to win the race.
“There may be more attention, but there’s not going to be more pressure,” Carpenter said. “It’s an opportunity for us to continue to make a statement for what type of team we are. That’s how I see it. It’s an opportunity for us to do a great job with this program like we do with our other two full-time programs.”
Carpenter grew up in the shadow of IMS and is quite candid each May about winning the “500” as his No. 1 goal. He’s won the pole twice and been quick enough to accomplish that life-long pursuit. If he succeeded as an owner, how would that be different?
“Anybody that’s fortunate enough to win the Indy 500, you’re benefiting in all ways,” he said. “It’s hard to really know how it all affects you until it happens to you. The purse is large. The value that you get as a driver and a team owner as having that being a part of your history and legacy, it’s hard to put a number on that value because it’s something that doesn’t go away once you become part of that club. You’re able to capitalize on that for as long as you’re in the business.
“It would be good for everybody.”
Patrick, 36, announced last fall to end her racing career with the “Danica Double” — a final start in NASCAR’s Daytona 500 and then the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Indy 500. In her unforgettable 2005 debut, she led the “500” late before finishing fourth. Even Carpenter is well read on her history, which includes six of seven top-10 finishes in the “500” with a best of third in 2009.
“She’s proven that she’s capable of being fast and contending for the race,” Carpenter said. “That’s always the biggest and most important factor in my mind. Whenever we’ve run an additional car, we’ve always felt like we had someone on the team that was adding value to the team and the group effort. I feel like that’s the case for sure.”
Carpenter likes how Patrick balances aggression with patience, two attributes vitally important when racing at IMS.
“Sometimes people are just well-suited for Indianapolis,” he said. “That’s probably how I would classify her. She got comfortable early.”
Now Patrick is trying to get comfortable in an Indy car again, the first time she’s driven one since 2011. After completing the two phases of her refresher program on Tuesday, she spoke of how much she enjoyed working with ECR, which includes being reunited with engineer Matt Barnes.
“It’s been great, really great,” she said. “(Ed) has been super helpful. Everybody at the team has been helpful.
“I wanted a fun May. I’m glad that they are fun and easy to work with. I think that’s also part of the deal coming together with them, is that it was very easy. I think that’s a good sign of a good group.”
That’s what Carpenter likes to hear.
“Make it a positive for Ed Carpenter Racing and make it a positive for Danica in how she’s ending her career,” he said. “If all goes well, it should be a fun storyline to be a part of for all of us.