Even Michael Jordan couldn’t win a championship without Scottie Pippen.
I think most of us understand that Ed Carpenter is never going to win an IndyCar championship as a driver. That’s not meant to be a knock on Ed. He’s not a road and street course specialist, and it’s highly unlikely that he can consistently beat the other 25 drivers in the series over the course of an entire season. If the majority of the events were oval races, maybe he could — but this is not the IRL. Of the 19 events on the 2013 schedule, only six of them are on ovals. Next year’s schedule won’t be much different.
The key question for Ed Carpenter and his team is this: is Ed willing to commit to driving just the oval races and letting someone else get behind the wheel of his car for the road and street course races?
If Ed wants to concentrate more on the ownership side of his team, this just might work.
Think about this scenario: Carpenter drives the Fuzzy’s Chevrolet on the ovals, and Mike Conway drives it on the road and street circuits. While neither driver would win the driver’s championship, it would give Ed his best chance of winning a title: the owner’s championship. With these two talented drivers doing what they do best in a car that clearly has the muscle to hang with (and beat) the big boys of the sport, they could be competing for wins every race weekend.
Since the 2010 Indianapolis 500, Carpenter has competed in 37 races. Of those, 18 were on ovals, and 19 were non-ovals. His average finishing position for the ovals over that span is 11th, while his average for the non-ovals is 20th. He’s won at Kentucky and Fontana and grabbed the pole for this year’s Indy 500. He’s finished in the top 10 in five of the last six oval races.
Conway is obviously a guy who will be in high demand next year, as well as for the rest of this season, due to his brilliant performances in Detroit this month. He has driven for RLL and Dale Coyne this year resulting in a win, a pole, and two podium finishes at Belle Isle. On top of that, he had the fastest laps of both races in Detroit and led the most laps in both races.
There are a lot of drivers looking for work next year in IndyCar, including veterans like JR Hildebrand, Ryan Briscoe, and Oriol Servia. For Conway, though, a shared seat with Ed Carpenter is the perfect situation for him. Most drivers are looking for a full-time ride, or at least a seat for Indianapolis. For Mike, though, having publicly said he is done racing on ovals and would love a part-time ride doing just the road and street courses, this opportunity couldn’t possibly be better for him should it arise.
None of this can happen unless Ed decides that he is ready to focus more on the ownership side of his team and let someone else take over for the majority of the races. They say the toughest thing for a driver to do is watch someone else drive his race car. It might be difficult at first, but if the expectations match the results, it would have to make Ed feel a lot better — and the sponsors would enjoy it just as much, if not more.
It’s a win-win for everyone involved. Ed still gets to race in the Indy 500 and contend for wins in the other oval races. Mike gets to drive 11 or 12 races with the same team all year. Fuzzy Zoeller and others get to see their names on a car that can contend for a win every week. It also makes the ultimate goal — a championship for Ed Carpenter Racing — a legitimate possibility.
It just might be a match made in IndyCar.