INDIANAPOLIS — Ed Carpenter will return his focus to team ownership during this weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park, but that doesn’t mean he’s entirely happy about it.
Carpenter was left wishing he’d had another shot at the closing laps of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, after a difficult final restart with 14 laps to go dropped him from running third to sixth at the finish.
It was a disappointing result for a team that appeared to have all the momentum in its corner going into race day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Carpenter led 65 laps and finished as the runner-up one year ago, while he led his three-car team as part of a two-three-four qualifying effort this time around.
To make a long story short, Ed Carpenter Racing was poised to pounce in a big way.
Even through the early stages of the race, that optimism appeared well placed, as Carpenter stayed inside the top five and led seven laps with his No. 20 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet.
He looked to be playing the veteran’s game of hiding in the weeds, but a late multi-car accident that led to a lap-187 restart proved pivotal in ending Carpenter’s chances at victory.
As Carpenter attempted to get up to speed at the green flag and give chase to Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi, his car failed to cooperate for the first time all day. He wiggled and tried to catch the machine, which he was able to do, but he lost three positions.
“We were trying to just play the game, but at the end, we just didn’t have anything,” said Carpenter. “I got loose for the first time in the day, which was a little weird. I just didn’t really seem to be running that quick, though. I thought sitting third on that last restart was going to be a good opportunity, but on the start, I just couldn’t get it rolling. It just didn’t have anything.
“I am pretty disappointed for myself and for the team.”
Adding to Carpenter’s disappointment was confusion as to why the handle went away on his car in the first place.
“I thought (the track) gripped up for the most part, as it went on, but the balance kind of changed around,” noted Carpenter. “I really don’t know what to make of it, because we were so bad at the end compared to what we had been. I’m disappointed. I’m happy Chevrolet won with Simon (Pagenaud) and Mr. (Roger) Penske. I didn’t really want to see a Honda win this race.
“I’m happy to see them win, but I didn’t come here for sixth.”
Carpenter’s teammates, Ed Jones and Spencer Pigot, finished 13th and 14th, respectively.
For Carpenter, who only competes on the oval tracks that the NTT IndyCar Series races on during the year, he’ll have another shot to win at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8.
However, he’ll have to endure a long year’s wait before he’ll be able to take another shot at winning his hometown race during next year’s 104th running of the Indianapolis 500.
That’s a race where Carpenter will be eager to erase the bad memories of this year’s frustrating finish.
“We just didn’t have the speed that we’d had (all month) at the end of the day, for some reason,” said Carpenter. “Standing here in pit lane, it’s hard for me to tell anyone why we failed here.
“I’m happy for the month the team had, don’t get me wrong, but sixth is a failure to me.”