The story for the past two weeks has been Ed Carpenter. His stepfather is Tony George, former president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and founder of the Indy Racing League. He qualified for the pole for the second year in a row, and he had been fast all month.
Carpenter grew up in Indianapolis, and he is a Butler University graduate. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and his wife both named Carpenter as their favorite to win the race a few hours before the field took the green flag.
Canadian James Hinchcliffe took the lead going into the first turn, and he held it for the first nine circuits. Carpenter took the point on Lap 10, and he stayed in the hunt for the lead for the first 176 circuits. In route to the Lap 176 shunt that ended his day, Carpenter led 38 circuits.
Carpenter and Hinchcliffe were racing for position when Townsend Bell took them three wide in Turn 1. It seemed all three drivers agreed Carpenter was the innocent victim in the incident.
Following the crash, Carpenter said, “Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) tried to make three wide in Turn 1 with 25 laps to go. Not a smart move. It wrecked both of our races. I told him if he didn’t have a concussion last week that I would have punched him in the face. It wasn’t a green-white-checkered situation. Of all of the guys out there, I wouldn’t have thought it would be Hinch. I am pretty good friends with him and those guys at Andretti. I think he just didn’t use his head right then.
“I totally believe we were right in the mix with Ryan (Hunter-Reay), Helio (Castroneves) and Marco (Andretti). I was running with Ryan right then, and we swapped the lead a few times. We got a little fortunate in the middle of the race when we blistered a right rear tire and had to pit earlier than we wanted. We were able to hold off the leaders then when the yellow came out, I was back up front, and the car felt good. We were just trying to figure out how to set a guy up for the last lap of the race. It just stinks.”
Of course, Hinchcliff had a different perspective on the situation — sort of. He said, “You know, it could have been the last restart, and you have to go for it. Ed gave me the room initially. I honestly don’t think Townsend knew we were three wide. I haven’t seen the replay yet, but from what I saw Townsend came down into Ed, who came down into me. I was the last guy there, so I have to take a portion of the blame for sure. I feel bad for Ed. I knew Townsend had popped out, but I honestly didn’t think he’d hold the outside. You just can’t do that here. Partially my fault. Partially Townsend fault. One-hundred percent not Ed’s fault.”
Bell was able to escape the shunt with Carpenter and Hinchcliffe, but he was collected by debris on Lap 191 and crashed hard.
From the medical center, Bell said, “I got hit in that three wide on the left rear and earlier in the race with (Tony) Kanaan when I was inside of him and he was squeezing me, I clipped the wall with the left rear. It just knocked it too much out of toe. It was loose all race and then, in the end, I was just trying to go for it to see if we could get to the front. You don’t get those chances very often, but unfortunately the left rear just took too much pounding during the day to make it work and it got away from me. I hate to end that way. That was a pretty good hit. I’ll be pretty sore.”
About the three wide restart with Hinchcliffe and Carpenter, Bell commented, “I thought I was side by side with just Ed in turn one. I didn’t realize someone else, I think it was Hinch maybe, had forced three-wide, which is pretty optimistic. I haven’t seen the replay but I would guess Ed didn’t have anywhere to go.
I was giving him room for one car, I didn’t know there was a third one that had ducked in. Nonetheless, I thought we would just hang on there in the top five. We really didn’t have anything to charge to the front, given the way the toe was knocked out.”
Aside from Carpenter’s misfortune the race was one of the best in years. The first 149 laps were run under the green, and only 21 laps were run under the yellow. In spite of the large number of green flag laps, there were eleven different leaders.
The crowd was appreciative when the red flag was displayed on Lap 193 following a hard crash by Bell. As track repair would have necessitated a finish under the yellow. The red lasted 10 minutes and 27 seconds. A yellow flag finish would have deprived the fans of one of the best finishes ever.
Although Marco Andretti threatened leaders Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves, his car was just a little short. Hunter-Reay and Castronevese, on the other hand, were evenly matched, and either of them could have won. Castroneves was going for his fourth win, while Hunter-Reay was in search of his first. The duel for the win was worthy of of the victor, regardless of who won.
Tim McKinney writes a weekly racing column for The Republic.
He can be reached at 379-5632.