Thursday, July 21, 2005
Carpenter comfortable driving family car
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
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
"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
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."