Ed Carpenter Racing is the only team in the Verizon IndyCar Series run by an owner/driver, and the eponymous Ed is the acknowledged oval specialist, so ECR’s four key point-men – Carpenter, ECR strategist Tim Broyles, engineer Matt Barnes and spotter Lee Bentham – were the perfect candidates to explain the art, science and improvisational skills necessary to master the speedways in for THE INSIDER ISSUE of RACER magazine, on sale now. This excerpt includes some of Carpenter’s insights from the article.
In his team’s third season of IndyCar racing, Ed Carpenter has seen the benefits of standing down from road and street course racing to concentrate on the speedways. Not only has his road-course ringer, Mike Conway, won twice this year, but Ed himself appears to be an even more accomplished oval racer as he focuses on a skill set developed and honed over two decades of left-turn competition.
“Part of becoming a better driver is to try and learn something every time you have the chance to be in a racecar – every test, every session, every race. There’ll always be some knowledge to take away regarding the track, the car, the tires, or maybe just the way a race plays out.
“Milwaukee’s a good example because, historically, it hasn’t been one of my better tracks, but I recognized that and realized I had to work on my craft to be better there and, sure enough, we’re much stronger there these days.
“Some of this improvement comes from maturity and experience, which means you can take a logical and rational approach to issues. And, of course, some of it comes from having a good group of people around me for support, but also to push me at the same time.
“Adapting your technique to a totally new car is one of those times where you’re learning a lot all at once, because going from the old car to the DW12 in 2012 was a big adaptation on the ovals. But the way the DW12 behaves on ovals is a good example of the smaller adaptations a driver has to make all the time. With much less downforce, the DW12 is moving around a lot more, so you’re looking at ways to keep the tires under you for a whole stint, yet still go faster than anyone else.
“I think my background in sprint cars and dirt cars helped with that learning process because, in those cars, you’re always looking for a better place to be on the track, and the conditions are changing all the time – literally lap by lap – so you’ve always got to be comfortable with the idea of checking out a different line to find the grip you need. So I had that experience and technique, but it was from a long time ago, meaning I had to tune myself back into that way of thinking to start exploring the limits of the DW12.
“There’s another thing I think my background of dirt cars helped with, and that’s bumpy tracks. Generally I’ve always gone well at Iowa and Fontana, and also at Kentucky and Chicago, which were bumpy in the last couple of years we ran there. It’s harder at those tracks to get the right combination of damping, springs and ride height in order to maximize grip. You have to find compromises with the car that still allow you to be quick, but also manage the grip, because the more the car’s moving around, the more variables there are…”
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