INDIANAPOLIS — Hey, it’s Ed Carpenter, driver and owner of the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka/Chevrolet. You may remember that our team won the pole position for the Indianapolis 500 in May, and for winning the 2012 MAVTV 500, the IndyCar season finale at Auto Club Speedway last September.
Well, it’s almost time for the MAVTV 500 again. We have the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader this coming weekend near the huge Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL Houston Texans, and the famed Astrodome. Then we’ll pack up and head west for the popular Auto Club Speedway.
This past Tuesday, 23 IndyCar Series drivers tested at the fast two-mile high-banked oval in Fontana. We were excited to return to Auto Club Speedway to have chance at preparing for the 500-mile, 250-lap race set for Oct. 19.
Last year’s race on Sept. 15 at Fontana was run in very hot conditions for our cars. It was some 106 degrees when the green flag dropped for the 225 mph action.
We were fast early in the race last year but the track conditions changed when the sun went down and the lights come on. We had to make numerous adjustments with our Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy’s suspension and the Firestone tires to get our speed back for the finish. Then the car came alive with 30 laps to go and I passed Dario Franchitti in turn two on the final lap to win. It was a special victory for me since it was the rookie season for Ed Carpenter Racing. To win an IndyCar race in a team’s first year is extremely difficult and it was a thrill for our squad.
So we returned to the scene of the crime this week to seek a repeat performance. The heat wasn’t as bad as last years’ race but the air temperature was nearly 90 degrees and the track surface around 130. We felt we had a better car coming to Fontana this time around.
We ran our first lap at 11:22 a.m. Tuesday and our final lap at 6:25 p.m. The Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy recorded 135 laps in both qualifying and race trim. We really worked hard on our race setup. It is nice to qualify up front for the race, but it’s a 500-mile contest and your starting position is not that important. We want to be fast at the end for another chance at the victory.
Everything went very well plus we met with some media folks during the day and held and question and answer session with about 300 racing fans. That is fun to talk with the fans.
But things changed dramatically for our ECR/Fuzzy’s team after Tuesday’s event.
Our ECR/Fuzzy’s Vodka trailer caught fire early Wednesday morning in Arizona, on I-40 near Flagstaff, Ariz., after Tuesday’s test session. Our truck drivers, Matt Giese and Jeff Hughes, were fine. The No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet race car, the Indy 500 pole-winning car, and some equipment were also okay. But the fire hurt the trailer very badly.
We would like to thank the Andretti Autosport teams and their truck drivers who stopped to assist Matt and Jeff with the incident. One of the Andretti crew packed up our race car and some of the race equipment to bring it back to Indianapolis at our race shop.
We got that stuff back Thursday morning. The race car, the tools boxes and some of the things they were able to get out of the back of our trailer. The race car needs a lot of work. It was pretty smoke damaged. But we are feeling pretty fortunate, all things considered, with the way some of the equipment is looking right now.
We have some of our chassis uprights, engine turbos and wheels that did survive. There is a lot of work to do this weekend and not just cleaning up too. They have evaluating, testing and checking parts as well as some electronic aspects, too. It is a lot of work but I think we have a good plan to forge ahead right now. We’ll be ready for the race in Houston next week.
One of the best things about times like this (event) is that the IndyCar community is always there to help. We have heard from just about everyone in the sport, from the manufacturers in Chevrolet, Firestone and Dallara to teams like KV, Andretti, Sarah Fisher, Penske and others. Many have reached out and are offering help and materials. It’s nice knowing that people are there for you when it is needed.
We currently have three guys in Arizona who have unloaded the damaged trailer with things like the timing stand, the fuel rigs and some others. They have been loading up another rented trailer to get the stuff back to Indy on the weekend. They have given us an idea of what is lost and what we can salvage from the fire. It will be a long weekend but we have a great group of guys, so we’ll be ready to in Houston next weekend and then to Fontana for the season finale.
Our team manager, Tim Broyles, worked out a couple of deals to get a trailer and some additional equipment and we have our race cars being prepared right now. It’s a difficult situation for our team but we have experienced guys who can handle any adversity.