Has the Time Come For Ed to Hang it Up?

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Back in 2018, I wrote a post when Ed Carpenter Racing (ECR) announced that Jordan King would not be returning to the team for the following season. Within that post, I opined for a couple of paragraphs that it might be time for Ed Carpenter to step out of the cockpit for the ovals, in order to focus on two full-time cars. A couple of the comments disagreed with me, but I received an e-mail from a very loyal reader practically chastising me for that opinion. He said he sent me an e-mail because he didn’t want to dress me down in public. I can appreciate that, but he did not hold back on how wrong I was in his e-mail.

I was told I had no right to tell anyone how to run their business, and that Ed was within his right to drive one of his team’s cars wherever and whenever he wanted to. Fair enough. The author of the scathing e-mail has continued to support this site, and is usually in agreement with me (on most things). We will just chalk this one issue up to agreeing to disagree.

Fast forward three years and I am probably going to make more people mad, because I think the time has come for Ed Carpenter to step out of the car except for the Indianapolis 500.

I don’t care for the concept of an oval specialist or  a road and street course specialist. It makes whoever drives the car almost immediately ineligible for the championship. I would think it would be an unattractive arrangement for potential sponsors as well, knowing no matter how good the drivers were – there was no conceivable way that their driver(s) could win the championship. Would it be enticing for them in the unlikely event that the car won the championship between two drivers?

The crew on the No. 20 car has been working with Conor Daly since the first race at Belle Isle. They have built a chemistry working with him for the majority of the past two seasons. Suddenly this past Saturday night, they were working with their team owner in the car, while Daly was in a competitor’s car.

It did not go well for Carpenter, as he qualified twenty-second out of twenty-four cars. Carpenter crashed on Lap 54 in a one-car accident in Turn Four, when he just lost the back-end at the apex between Turns Three and Four and backed it harmlessly into the wall.

The problem is, the consequences of Carpenter’s crash were not so harmless. On the restart after the cleanup, the other ECR car piloted by Rinus VeeKay got into the back of Scott Dixon and started the crash that upended the points race.

No one has asked me my opinion on this, and I think it is highly unlikely that this post is being read by anyone associated with ECR – but if someone were to ask my opinion on this matter, I would tell them that I think Ed would be wise to step out of the cockpit for all of the ovals except for the Indianapolis 500, where he is still getting decent results.

If you go back and look at Ed Carpenter’s results on the ovals since I last raised this question three years ago, it’s a mixed bag at best – if you take out the Indianapolis 500. Since 2018, Carpenter’s record in the Indianapolis 500 is second, sixth, twenty-sixth and fifth, respectively; while starting first, second, sixteenth and fourth in those same years. He is still fully capable of winning the Indianapolis 500 and I think he should pursue that dream as an Indy-only entry. Helio Castroneves won in the first outing for the second car at MSR this season, so it can be done.

On the other ovals, it’s not as pretty. Carpenter has an average finish of 13.7 on ovals that are not the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2008 – and that’s taking into account he finished second at Gateway in 2019. This season, his three non-Indy oval finishes were seventeenth and eleventh at Texas, and twenty-second Saturday night at Gateway for an average finish of 16.6. Is that horrible? We’ve all seen worse, but the trend is not going in the right direction.

Historically, athletes are the last to know when it might be time to hang it up. Carpenter is forty now, with kids that are coming of age. Some will probably say I should have given up blogging years ago and I am well past my prime. That’s probably true. Why do I continue to do this? Probably for the same reason Ed Carpenter does. We both still enjoy what we do.

Having said that, I am hopeful that the age of oval and road course specialists is coming to an end. Most likely, Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean will be full-time next season. I would like to see Carlin have one or possibly two full-time drivers who are committed to racing, and not treat it as a hobby. I would also like to see two full-time cars at ECR with full-time drivers in both of them. For the Indianapolis 500, I’d like to see Ed Carpenter in a third ECR car.

Having Carpenter focus as a driver at one race per year would probably improve the sponsorship situation for the No. 20 car. It would also let him focus on running the team, without the worries of preparing to run all of the other ovals in the season.

Am I off-base here? Am I overstepping my bounds by telling a team-owner how he should run his team, or telling a driver that it’s time to retire? Or does anyone agree with me? I guess I’ll find out when I check my Inbox.

George Phillips

9 Responses to “Has the Time Come For Ed to Hang it Up?”

  1. I have been beating this drum for a few years myself. I mentioned it to my friend at gateway Saturday during the yellow for Ed’s accident. My friend vehemently disagreed with me. I think there will always be specialists and always have been, but it’s Ed’s time to pull back.

  2. Rick Johnson Says:

    I am an Ed Carpenter fan. Nothing would please me more than to see him win the Indy 500. As for the rest of the ovals, I agree with you.

  3. James T Suel Says:

    George I think you are correct. I agree it’s Ed’s team and he can drive or not. But as of late the results are lacking. I don’t believe you can drive only a few races a year and stay sharp. People alway point out Hello, but he stayed sharp in many different race cars. So maybe the 500 each year and focus on the team, otherwise.

  4. Nat Krieger Says:

    Ed’s team, Ed’s (and Tony George’s money with the Sonax sponsorship) so he can do whatever he wants but for the long term Heath of his business it’s time to step away and be a business owner.. There are (too) many deserving young drivers who can fill that car.. if it’s Daly that opens up a seat somewhere else in the paddock.. let Ed run the 500 yearly he’s good there and running an affluent car is something the team has proven they can do..

  5. I’ve been saying for a few years it’s time for Ed to step out of the cockpit and focus on being the boss.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    While I don’t think it is unfair to opine about this, it is not an opinion I really share because the debate is moot. While I don’t expect Ed Carpenter to pull a Marty Roth and shut his team down when he no longer drives, I do respect the fact that Ed (like Roth) started his team with a primary purpose of fielding cars for himself and am fine with him continuing to compete as long as he remains competent (which he has, unlike Roth).

    I do find it interesting that Ed doesn’t race more often in something, anything else, which I think would help him. He seems to rise to the occasion at Indy at least partially because he gets shake off any rust by turning a lot of laps during the week of practice.

    • That is a good point about Ed racing elsewhere to keep up his skills. I think he is amazing at Indy and I’ve always hoped he would win it. He has had some rotten luck at other ovals the last couple of years. I saw Ed win at Fontana and he was excellent.

  7. You’re right on all accounts, but it doesn’t matter. It’s like the debate people had about Michael continuing to field a car for Marco all those years. When you own the team you can do whatever the hell you want. It’s a private business not a public service. Yes it would be a better business decision to put someone in the car full time, but I suppose as long as its called Ed Carpenter Racing then Ed Carpenter can do what he pleases. Hard to argue with that I think.

  8. BackHomeAgain Says:

    Who doesn’t love Ed Carpenter?! But I have long held the opinion that Ed needs to put a full-timer in the 2nd seat, and if he wants to drive ovals, he needs to find additional funding and crew for that car. Splitting the seat has to have a negative effect on the team, and definitely hurts the career of who ever doesn’t get to drive a full season.

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