Ed Carpenter, owner and driver of the Ed Carpenter Racing #20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Dallara-Chevrolet, had a comfortable lead erased by a late-race caution, then held off a charging Will Power to win the IndyCar Firestone 600 by half a second Saturday night.
“I knew we had a good car. We had a good test here a while ago. I felt like we didn’t do all we were capable of in qualifying but it made me extra motivated for tonight,” the victorious Carpenter told NBCSN from Victory Circle.
“The first two stints weren’t great, I had one bad stint, but the guys just made great adjustments all night. The Fuzzy’s car was hooked up by the end. I think we were the car to beat at the end.”
“I was a little worried about that last yellow. I knew guys were going to come in [for tires.] We talked about what to do in that situation and it was kind of undecided but Tim [team manager Tim Broyles] and the boys made the right call. Awesome night.”
“I’ve loved this racetrack for a long time but had a lot of bad luck here and really always wanted to win here so I’m super excited.”
Ed Carpenter is unique in IndyCar—the series’ only owner/operator, he runs the team and also drives the car—on ovals. He shares his #20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Dallara-Chevrolet with Mike Conway, who drives only road courses.
Texas Motor Speedway is also unique in IndyCar, a high-banked (24 degrees) high-speed 1.5 mile oval. “I’ve loved this racetrack for a long time but had a lot of bad luck here and really always wanted to win here so I’m super excited,” Carpenter said after the race.
Carpenter drives only ovals because he is very good at it—as is proven by his two consecutive Indianapolis 500 poles, and his strong run in last month’s Indy 500.
Carpenter got caught up in an accident not of his making at the 500; he had a good chance to win the race, but instead ended up in the wall.
The Indianapolis native made up for that loss, at least partially, with a dominating win in Saturday night’s Verizon IndyCar Firestone 600 at Texas motor Speedway. Carpenter qualified fifth, ran near the front most of the race, and took the lead in lap 182 of the 248-lap race.
Carpenter stretched his slowly lead to a comfortable margin, getting better life out of his tires and thus more speed out of his car than any of his competitors save Penske’s Will power, who led most of the race.
The final fifty laps looked to be an even duel between Carpenter and Power, until Power got a stop-and-go penalty for speeding on pit lane on lap 213. The penalty dropped Power to sixth, leaving Carpenter well ahead of the rest of the field—but the race was not over.
On lap 241, with the Fuzzy’s Vodka car enjoying a 16-second lead, the engine in Takuma Sato’s car burst into flames, the third Honda motor to blow up in the course of the race. This brought out a yellow flag, erasing Carpenter’s lead and setting up a three-lap shootout for the win.
Carpenter’s team laid out tires in pit lane, as if he were about to pit, but this was a bluff. Carpenter wasn’t going to give up track position for fresh rubber. Carpetrer’s tires has 33 laps on them—they had perhaps another ten laps of life in them, but already their performance had fallen off noticeably. Still he only had to get another three fast laps out of them to take the win.
For Will Power, however, the situation was different. The Penske driver was sixth, the last car on the lead lap, and if he pitted he wouldn’t lose a position, while having new tires for the final few laps might give him a winning edge.
It was a gamble—the new tires would be cold and wouldn’t have maximum grip, but they would still be a lot better than what the rest of the field was running.
The green flag flew on lap 246, and Carpenter shot ahead, opening a small gap on his pursuers. Behind him, Will Power rocketed past Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, and Tony Kanaan. When the white flag waved, signaling the final alp, power was in third and lapping three miles per hour faster than the rest of the field.
Power passed teammate Juan Montoya and closed to within half a second of Carpenter but ran out of track. Ed Carpenter crossed the finish line still in first place, earning his first win of the season.
For will Power, the last-lap dash didn’t quite make up for the pain of having gotten the penalty, but it did preserve his lead in championship points, a situation which was aided by the retirements of two of his main rivals Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti both of Andretti Autosport, the other two drivers to be stricken by Honda fireballs.
“What an awesome call by my team to get tires,” Power told NBCSN after the race. “I got another drive-through. That’s four drive-throughs in five races; it’s not good enough.”
Power said he wasn’t sure he could have won the race even without the penalty. “I don’t know; it’s hard to say. Ed was awfully strong he’s an awesome driver. It would have been a good battle there at the end, my car was good at the end of stints, but I just feel happy to come in second.”
Juan Montoya held on for third, ahead of Simon Pagenaud, whose fourth place finish gained him important points. The Schmidt-Peterson Racing driver lies fourth in the standings, now much closer to Ryan Hunter-Reay in third, who retired on lap 137, and comfortably ahead of Marco Andretti, whose engine exploded on lap 4.
Interestingly Pagenaud also opted to take tires during the last caution period. He pitted and rejoined in fifth, but with new tires was able to pass Target-Ganassi’s Scott Dixon on the start. Dixon’s crew also laid out tires, but decided against pitting.
IndyCar takes a couple of weeks off before its next two races, the doubleheader Shell Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, June 28 and 29. Visit GrandPrixofHouston.com for tickets.