CARPENTER: A Season Of Improvement
We worked hard for the Indianapolis 500. That race is the biggest in the world and it is our Super Bowl. We didn’t leave any stone unturned in our strategy for month of May.
“Let’s go win the pole and the race,” was our motto. We worked on our road racing setups, too, and we even had the defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, jump in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Chevy at Sonoma in February to see if we were headed in the right direction. Ryan liked some of our settings and used them later for his DHL car.
The competition is so tough in the IndyCar Series and we were hoping to have some good runs early on the street and road circuits. We had a couple of better ones, but it didn’t show at the finishes.
Coming to the Indy 500, we felt good about our strategy and we played our hand a little close to the vest. We didn’t really want to show our speed during practice. We did a lot of race setup throughout the practice days and we worked on the qualifying settings late in the week.
When it came time for qualifying, we wanted speed and consistency. Of course, the weather threw a wrench into some of the plans on Pole Day as things were moved back in the day because of rain. We felt good about the car. However, I didn’t know if I had pole car or a 10th-place car. We ran fifth in the first qualifying session and we were up against five Andretti cars and three Penske cars for the top-nine Pole Shootout.
Of course, the media and announcers built us up as ‘David versus Goliath” with the local one-car team against the ‘Super” squads. Matt Barnes and our engineering staff played it cool again just like during the week. And we didn’t change much on the car. That paid off. I think the Penske and Andretti boys reduced downforce.
Winning the pole for the Indy 500 is really bigger than winning any of the other races on the circuit. I was so proud of the team and it gave Fuzzy’s and all of our sponsors a great week of promotion.
For the race, I was confident we could run fast and win. Early in the race, we led or ran right at the front. Unfortunately, we got caught up in the middle of the field at one point and I couldn’t get back to the lead pack. In my decade of racing at Indianapolis, I would have to say that this year’s race was the most competitive I have faced.