By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Ed Carpenter got the opportunity to fly with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds earlier this week as they get ready to perform the flyover for Sunday’s 104th running of the Indianapolis 500.
When the esteemed flight demonstration team soars over Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Carpenter will be preparing to strap into his own fighter jet on four wheels, looking to pilot his Chevrolet into Victory Lane at his home track for the first time in his career.
The Indianapolis native has come close over the years, with three pole starts to his name, along with one podium finish and four top-10 finishes in 16 starts. In just the past two years, Carpenter has finished second and sixth, showing he knows his way around the 2.5-mile track.
Carrying sponsorship from the newest branch of the United States military, the United States Space Force, Carpenter will have his work cut out for his 17th try at capturing the Borg-Warner Trophy, starting 16th on the inside of Row 6 – his worst starting position since 2016.
Despite the mid-pack start, Carpenter remains confident that he can pull off his own moonshot and be in the mix when it matters most on Sunday.
“It’s finally here. It’s time to race,” Carpenter said. “We definitely have some work cut out for us with where we are starting. It’s going to take a lot of hard work with a balance of aggression and patience. Passing is a possibility, but it is a lot harder than in the past. We’re going to have to be opportunities.
“I am still confident that we’ll find out way to the front, but it’s going to be a battle out there. I am looking forward to the drop of the green, getting everyone on equal footing, on the same tires and running full stints. We’ll see where we are in the U.S. Space Force Chevrolet.”
As the hometown team, Carpenter added that he has been proud of how well his team has run over the years, but he won’t truly be satisfied until he or one of his teammates, Conor Daly and Rinus VeeKay, are able to pull an Ed Carpenter Racing car into Victory Lane at Indianapolis.
“I’m proud of our efforts,” Carpenter said. “I’m proud of the consistency that we’ve been able to show here at least in qualifying, but I also feel like we’re consistently putting cars at the front of the race as well.
“I was proud to be the only Chevrolet in the Fast Nine. You know, I felt like we let them down a little bit by not having myself and Conor up there as well. I thought we had the speed in our cars. We just didn’t quite execute with four laps and the balance for qualifying.
“I’m definitely proud of the team, but, you know, until we can win this race with myself or a team car, you know, I’m not going to be satisfied until we accomplish that.”
While he and the remainder of the 33 starters in Sunday’s field will be all business once behind the wheel and their helmet visor goes down, the perennial fan favorite at Indianapolis noted that this year’s edition of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing will certainly have a different feel to it without fans in attendance to generate that electric atmosphere that all of them have grown accustomed to throughout their careers at the track.
“It’s definitely different around here,” Carpenter said. “You know, it’s quiet. It’s a little sad. There’s no doubt we’re missing the excitement and the energy that the fans bring to this place.
“It’s still amazing to be here. It’s always special to drive, drive through the gates, drive on the track, everything, but, you know, it’s just different without fans. I can’t say that enough and can’t wait for them to be back with us as soon as possible.”