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Carpenter's Great Drive From 28th to 3rd Spoiled By Late Race Indy 500 Spin
Author: Tom Blattler
But Sunday, the 31-year-old Indianapolis driver showed the potential of his new team when he came from inside of the 10th row to battle for the lead late in the 96th running of the 500-Mile Race.
Charging through the field with the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet machine, Carpenter ran as high as third on lap 178 before a spin between turns one and two on lap 180 kept the Butler graduate from a chance at winning Sunday’s race.
Carpenter vaulted from 11th to third in 24 laps and challenged leaders Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon as he slipped by Tony Kanaan and Takuma Sato for a contender’s spot. The massive crowd stood on their feet cheering their local driver. All day Carpenter fought a Dallara car with a broken front wing fitting but even the ill-handling car didn’t discourage him.
The results say Carpenter finished 21st Sunday but anyone who witnessed the 200-lap contest Sunday knows that Ed deserved a better fate.
Ed moved up well at the start of the race, as he took the Fuzzy’s car from 28th to 19th by lap 20, and 12th by lap 63. Contact with rookie Rubens Barrichello bent Carpenter’s car’s front wing and caused his machine to handle poorly. After a pit stop, he fought his way from 25th to 14th by the halfway point of the race. He barely avoided collecting Ana Beatriz when the lady driver spun on lap 88.
The front wing damage to Carpenter’s mount had Ed driving like his old sprint car days with the car’s rear end wanting to swap ends at every turn. After the team made an adjustment to the wings, Carpenter charged from 14th to fifth by lap 121. Another slight change to the front of the car on the lap 124 pit stop gave the car a little more stability and he continued his vault to the lead pack. He was eighth by lap 163 and clipped off positions seven, six, five and four on successive laps.
Carpenter drove underneath Sato for third but spun three laps later. The tremendous drive for Carpenter ended for the day as he pitted and returned to competition where he placed 21st. Franchitti won the event over Dixon and Kanaan.
The ECR Fuzzy’s Vodka team now travels to Milwaukee Tuesday for a day of testing and prepares for next weekend’s (June 1-3) Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix in the streets of Belle Isle. “It was a weird day for us,” said Carpenter. “Rubens blocked me one time and I hit him and bent our front wing. We had to change the wing and then we had to go back to the original wing at the end. The front wing failed all day for us. We kept trimming out rear wing because we weren’t able to adjust the front wing. I had nearly spun out a couple of times before I finally do it. It was fun to go from 11th to third there. But I was racing for a win and I just spun out.
“I feel badly for our Fuzzy’s crew but they worked hard last week to get a car prepared in a day for qualifying. If the Dallara part had worked, I think we had a real chance to win the race. The washer on the wing failed early in the race and we just couldn’t get it to work. I felt like I was in the battle to win the race. It was where I thought I should be late in the race. We had a great effort from the team all month. They rallied to get us back in the race after the qualifying crash and they had great stops today. It was nice to get the car upfront for Fuzzy’s and everyone involved in the car. I thought we had a real chance today. When I got to the front, I just put my foot in it to try to win the 500. But it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Fuzzy Zoeller, former Masters and U.S. Open golf champion, was on hand Sunday at the Indy 500 and was yelling along with the huge crowd for Carpenter.
“People just don’t understand what Ed (Carpenter) went through today to get to the front of the field,” said Zoeller, founder of Carpenter’s primary sponsor, Fuzzy’s Vodka. “We, at Fuzzy’s Vodka, are so proud of Ed and the Ed Carpenter team today. They put on a hell of a performance in the race. We didn’t get the finish we wanted today. He really had a shot at winning the Indy 500. Coming from 28th and running third late in the race is just a tremendous showing. It’s like being at Augusta and you may only have one chance to win the event. So you have to step on the pedal and go all out. So he slipped today. But he showed that he can come back and win that trophy here.”
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