Nobody led more laps, his pit stops were top shelf and he was the only driver that Team Penske really had to worry about for most of Sunday afternoon.
But as strong as Ed Carpenter was in the 102nd Indianapolis 500, he fell three seconds shy of pulling into Victory Lane.
Will Power drank the milk, and Carpenter had to settle for a swig of bittersweet.
“I’ll feel pretty good about this in a couple days, I think,” said the 37-year-old veteran from Indianapolis after finishing a best-ever second in his favorite race. “The team really did a great job all month long, all day long really. Pit stops were really good.
“You never know how these races are going to unfold. I thought for the most part the team executed well. I thought there are only a couple little things that I can reflect on in the short-term right now that maybe could have made a difference.
“All in all, I thought Will won the race and we ended up second, and we’ll be happy with that.”
Starting from the pole position, Carpenter led 63 of the first 92 laps and had a nice little duel with Tony Kanaan for the top spot before a flat tire took the 2013 Indy 500 winner out of the mix.
But it was the third pit stop of the day that changed this race’s completion. Power pitted two laps later than Carpenter, got ahead of him and stayed there.
“It was almost like being out front early probably hurt us a little bit just because guys started saving fuel a little earlier,” said the only driver/owner in the Verizon IndyCar Series. “We got behind on the fuel save. Whatever segment Will got by us, went a couple laps further, my out lap we had traffic. One of those exchanges.
“Track position was everything we thought it was going to be coming into the day. You heard the drivers talk all week. Just couldn’t quite get it back from him.”
Carpenter led a race-high 65 laps to Power’s 59 but only two in the final 100 laps as he fluctuated from one to five seconds behind the Aussie.
“I thought we were both pretty good and I think consistently we were probably the best two cars, it seemed like,” said Carpenter. “I think if the roles were reversed, he (Power) would have probably not been able to get by me either outside of a restart. It was just really tough to pass another strong competitor today without having lap traffic in the pit or something else that was a mistake. Track position was hugely important.
“He maybe seemed to get a little better than us. I would probably say we were a little stronger early in the day. My car seemed to pick up a little more understeer as the day went on. We couldn’t seem to make enough adjustments to overcome that.
“He came out on top.”
Considering the size of his budget compared to the Big Three, it was a magnificent month for Ed Carpenter Racing. All three of his cars qualified in the Fast 9 and Spencer Pigot was running in the front until a pit speeding penalty ruined his day.
And it was Ed’s finest performance in his 15th start at IMS.
“At the end of the day we had a chance to go fight one of the best teams and drivers for the 500,” he said. “It’s something I’m proud of. Like I said, I’ll probably feel better about it in a couple days.”