INDIANAPOLIS — Well, we made it through the Indianapolis 500 and the team is still enthused to go racing on the IZOD IndyCar Series. Many times everybody is pretty beat up and ready for a break in the schedule. But there are four consecutive weeks after Indy for racing.
Placing 10th in the 97th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race was a little disappointing to be honest. We were looking for the win or a top five at the least.
But I’ve looked back at the entire Indy 500 experience and I have a smile on my face. As a driver, I was little mad at our race day performance. Starting from the pole was just a great experience and very thrilling for everyone at Ed Carpenter Racing and Fuzzy’s Vodka.
I thought we had a good car for the race, too. We led 37 laps that day, the most of any driver. But the ending wasn’t what I wanted.
As a team owner, the overall showing of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet was very solid and we were contenders for the pole and the race and that is all a team owner can ask for at Indy. It’s such a crapshoot at IMS on race day. You need to be lucky as well as good.
Our ECR team had worked so hard over the winter to get everything ready for the start of the month. We ran the first five days in race setups, just trying to get the car to work well in all types of weather conditions. Finally, on Friday before Pole Day, we started trimming the car aerodynamically and trying to gain more speed.
Being a one-car team, there isn’t the opportunity to share information like with the bigger multi-car operations. So we had some ups and downs during the week. We’d find something that worked well and then we would go the wrong way, too.
Our engineering staff of Matt Barnes, Brent Harvey, Ben Siegel, Joe Howard and Ed Delporte formed an excellent game plan to work through all of the settings we wanted to try. As usual, our crew chief, Bret Schmitt, and his crew were outstanding the entire month with having the Fuzzy’s Chevy ready to go each day.
We were flying “under the radar” during the first week and stayed right on schedule with our plans. While some of the bigger teams were gaining the headlines, we were making progress toward qualifying. Then, on Pole Day, we thought we had a good car.
We didn’t get the best draw for the first round of qualifying but the car felt good and we posted the fifth fastest speed at 227.952 mph in some warmer conditions. Due to the earlier rain delay, the top-nine shootout didn’t begin until 6:30 p.m. that Saturday, May 18. The track is always trick at Indy. You have to watch the wind, the sun, the clouds and make an educated guess for your setup.
When we went out around 6:45 or so, we thought our previous setup might still be good with the cooler conditions. Other teams (Andretti and Penske) thought less downforce might be faster. Well, as it turned out, it wasn’t. Our car was fast and I could feel it immediately. The first lap was 229.347 followed by a 228.976, 228.774 and a slower 227.955 for an overall 228.762. The car got a little loose on the last lap.
But when I saw A.J. Allmendinger’s run, I thought we had a chance for the front row and even the pole. The Penske cars weren’t the same as earlier and the Andretti five cars weren’t the same, either. It was thrilling to hear the crowd yelling when we took the pole.