INDIANAPOLIS — The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series has come to a close and now I can reflect on some of the good and the bad things that happened for myself and our Ed Carpenter Racing/Fuzzy’s Vodka team.
We were definitely scrambling last year in the “rookie” season of the ECR/Fuzzy’s program. We really didn’t get all of the pieces in place until the Indy 500 as we played catch up with the crew, parts, the new Dallara chassis and the all-new Chevrolet V-6 twin turbo engine.
We were still hiring guys when the 2012 season began at St. Petersburg and we had a very difficult month of May that included crashing a car during qualifying. The Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevy came alive in the race and we moved from 28th to third before we had a wing adjuster problem with 20 laps remaining.
I will admit that it is a difficult proposition for a new, single-car organization to battle the likes of Ganassi, Penske, Andretti and other established teams. But at the end, we put together an outstanding plan for Fontana and won the season finale.
It was a great way to round out our team’s initial campaign.
So, for 2013, we felt we had a great game plan to improve the team and our performance on the track. Fuzzy’s continued to be a forerunner in the sponsorship side by recreating the famed “Fuzzy’s Triple Crown” with long-distance races at Indy, Pocono and Fontana. They posted the impressive prize of $1 million to a driver to win all three races and $250,000 if someone captured two of the three big events.
You have to give golf great Fuzzy Zoeller and his staff a lot of credit for jumping in and helping to promote IndyCar racing the past two seasons. It’s fantastic to have a primary sponsor as aggressive as Fuzzy’s on your side.
In the 2013 offseason, we did a lot of testing of parts and various equipment including running in the wind tunnel, the seven-post shaker rig, the gearbox dyno as well as some on-track testing. Our team was much more prepared and organized for 2013. We kept our entire crew and actually added another person, which is rare in motorsports these days.
We had a solid platform set up by our team manager Tim Broyles, lead engineer Matt Barnes (and his staff) and crew chief Bret Schmitt. The offseason was busy for me, too. My wife Heather and I had another child in December and, with the three kids (Makenna, Ryder and Cruz), it was a little crazy at times. But we managed to get through it and even moved into a new home in June.
Now, I’ll also admit that we know the competitive nature of the IndyCar Series. It’s never easy to make the podium or even run in the top five. But those were our goals and we hoped to improve on the one victory we had in 2012.