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Thursday, July 21, 2005
Carpenter comfortable driving family car

Associated Press

Ed Carpenter
Carpenter
GLADEVILLE, Tenn. -- Anyone with a job knows the pressure of trying to make the boss happy. Now, what if he's also your stepfather? And the head of the entire company where you work?

Ed Carpenter drives for the new Vision Racing team, which is owned by his parents, Tony and Laura George. Tony George also is chief executive officer of the IndyCar Series, in which Carpenter races.

How Carpenter deals with this situation is the question people ask more than any other. But to the 23-year-old Carpenter, it's all in the family.

"I think the fact that he is my father makes it that much easier. Early in my career, early in everyone's career, you pretty much race for your parents," Carpenter said. "I've raced more years with Tony and my mom owning my cars than I have not."

Tony and Laura George paid for Carpenter to start racing quarter midgets when he was 8, and they picked up the tab as he raced his way through three-quarter midgets, full midgets and then sprint cars through 2001.

So what's the big deal now?

"If I was running for the CEO of the series and I wasn't related to him, I think the pressure would be greater," Carpenter said. "But we're so comfortable with one another and what we're going to do with this team, it really doesn't affect me at all."

Racing always seemed destined for a guy whose hometown is Speedway, Ind. Carpenter tested his first IndyCar Series car in 2001, moved up to its entry-level series in 2002 and finished third in the points race with six top-five finishes in seven races. He completed 454 of a possible 455 laps and was the only driver to finish each event.

He ran three IndyCar Series races in 2003 for PDM Racing while finishing third on the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. He also made history at Chicago by becoming the first driver to run in both series on the same weekend.

In 2004, he finished 16th in the IndyCar Series for Red Bull Cheever Racing with three top-10 finishes, including a career-best seventh at Kentucky.

Carpenter had been testing with Panther Racing, expecting to run the Indianapolis 500 and a handful of races this year. Then George told him in January that he had decided to buy all the assets of Kelley Racing.

"My first reaction was, 'What're you doing that for?' He's like, 'I don't want a bunch of teams to come in and pick the place to pieces, then lose a team. It's a great facility. All the equipment's there,'" Carpenter recalled.

Once he learned his parents weren't buying the team to give him a job, but because George wanted a deeper investment in the IndyCar Series, then Carpenter wanted to be their driver.

"I thought it would be a fun adventure. I have a college degree [in marketing], so I could get involved in the team in a lot more ways than driving," he said. "Then I could look for his interests. He's a busy guy. He's not able to be around all the time. I can be there and make sure things are going the way he wants them to go."

Carpenter is in the race shop most days, compared to other drivers who hook up with their teams and crews at test sessions or races. With nobody handling public relations, Carpenter even pitches in -- and has been helping empty out desks of items left behind by the last team.

George, who handed off his title as president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway to Joie Chitwood, stops by the race shop a couple of days each week.

Carpenter's parents never miss a race. Boss and driver enjoy their own shorthand when talking about the car, because George used to race midgets with Carpenter.

Carpenter is coming off his best result this year, a 10th at the Nashville Superspeedway -- his third top-12 finish.

"We've been getting better every weekend," Carpenter said of Vision Racing. "It wasn't the best car that we've had lately, but we hung in there, tried working with it and ended up getting a decent finish."

When Carpenter isn't helping with the team, he can be found on a lake waterskiing. He calls it quite a workout, especially on a ski course, and he plans to buy his own ski boat soon.

Recently engaged, he'll be getting married in November in St. Thomas. His professional plans are no different from any other driver -- win the Indianapolis 500, then a series championship.

And it would be all relative if he accomplished those goals for Vision Racing.

"The most pressure I get from anywhere is from myself. In some other situations and other teams, the owners really put a lot of pressure on you," Carpenter said. "I don't think that's always the best thing for performance."