Carpenter Says There Is No Place Like Kansas

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, April 24 2009

The street course at Long Beach was pretty, but Ed Carpenter had his mind on the oval of Kansas Speedway.

The street course at Long Beach was pretty, but Ed Carpenter had his mind on the oval of Kansas Speedway.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Kansas City, Kan. Ah, Kansas. Ed Carpenter loves it here. The barbeque, the wide-open spaces, the friendly people, the rural sensibilities.  Oh, and the round race track. Most of all, the round – it’s oval-ish, actually, but what the heck – race track.

It was the thought of that last little bit of Kansasnish which put a smile on Carpenter’s face as he sat in the infield at Kansas Speedway Friday afternoon. 

And actually, it was the thought of that that may have led to trouble for Carpenter last weekend during the street race in Long Beach, Calif.

By his own admission, Carpenter is an oval racer in a series in which, like, half the races are run on road and street courses. By his own admission, Carpenter is most comfortable on big, long tracks which have sweeping turns and perhaps a little bit of banking in those turns.

And by his own admission, Carpenter is at his best in terms of performance on ovals.

He doesn’t apologize for it. He sprouted around ovals and his early races were in the oval-crazy USAC series.

“It’s no different than road-racing guys,” Carpenter said with a shrug of the shoulders. “When they race on ovals for a while, they want to get back to road races, which they’re more comfortable doing.”

Carpenter is getting better on the streets and roads of the IndyCar series. His comfort level and lap times are markedly better than they were the first times he took to those kinds of tracks.

But man, was he ready to get to Kansas this weekend.

Sunday’s Road Runner Turbo 300 at Kansas is the third race of the season. But it is the first oval race of the season as the 2009 schedule began on temporary street courses in St. Petersburg, Fla. on April 5 and then Long Beach last weekend.

At St. Pete, Carpenter and his Vision Racing team were doing well – for them at a street race, at least. He had run as high as third and appeared headed for a possible top-10 finish when he made a mistake by spinning cold tires coming out of the pits.

At Long Beach, well, there were problems there. Carpenter went off course a couple times and tangled on track with Vision teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay. That is, he made some embarrassing mistakes as he attempted to make up for a mistake the race before.

But he offered another reason for his trouble in Long Beach, for his 18th-place finish.

Carpenter jokingly blamed Kansas.

Asked if he thought about racing in Kansas as soon as the Long Beach race was over, Carpenter said, “I started thinking about this a little before Long Beach was over. Unfortunately.”

His desire to look ahead to Kansas was understandable.

At Kansas a year ago, Carpenter appeared headed for his best finish ever in IndyCar. He was running third in a very fast car – a car that was the equal of every other car except those of Target Chip Ganassi.

But late in the race, Carpenter headed into the pits for a routine stop only to find another car in his stall. Bummer. Carpenter finished 10th.

While Carpenter has had some problems this year in the first two races, his team has not.

Hunter-Reay finished second at St. Pete, just five days after he signed to drive for Vision. He then finished 11th at Long Beach.

That tells Carpenter one thing – once the team gets to the ovals, he will have fast, competitive race cars under him.

“We are a strong team and we cannot be ignored,” he said. “Are we at the level of a Penske or a Ganassi? No, we don’t have their resources.  There’s no way around that. But we do an excellent job with the resources we have. We maximize what we do have and we’re efficient.”

At St. Pete, Hunter-Reay’s second-place finish gave Vision its best finish ever.

With Sunday’s race being at that wonderful oval settled among the rolling countryside of eastern Kansas, Carpenter just may be able to give Vision a new best-finish ever.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, April 24 2009
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