INDIANAPOLIS – Ed Carpenter waited a whole year to see his Indy 500 dream come crashing down yet again.
Then he let everyone know how he angry he was about it.
The Indianapolis native and pole-sitter shouted at James Hinchcliffe on the track, chided him on national television for making an “amateur move” and then said he considered punching Hinchcliffe in the face after a late crash involving Townsend Bell took out both drivers Sunday.
“Not a smart move. It wrecked both of our races,” Carpenter said. “I told him if he didn’t have a concussion last week that I would have punched him in the face.”
The tense ride to the infield medical center stood in stark contrast to the playful digs the two drivers tossed around at a news conference when Hinchcliffe was finally cleared to drive May 15. Hinchcliffe was injured during the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis when a piece of debris hit him in the head May 10. After qualifying first and second May 18, they celebrated together on the podium, too.
Sunday, the usually subdued Carpenter was irate even as Hinchcliffe acknowledged he was at least partly to blame.
“Probably my fault, probably Townsend’s fault and certainly not Ed’s fault,” Hinchcliffe said.
That was little solace to Carpenter, who had become Indy’s first back-to-back pole winner since Helio Castroneves in 2009 and 2010. Last year, Carpenter’s car didn’t perform as well as he’d hoped and he wound up 10th. He came back this year with a car he thought was better.
Carpenter led 26 laps and consistently ran in the top five most of the day – until Hinchcliffe hit him from the inside and sent both cars hard into the SAFER barrier.
“You’ve got to go for it,” Hinchcliffe explained. “I actually don’t think Townsend knew it was three wide. Like I said, I was the last guy there, so I’ve got to accept some of the blame.”
While Kurt Busch’s sixth-place finish was the best of the seven rookies, Sage Karam was the most impressive. The 19-year-old started 31st on the 33-car grid and placed ninth – the day’s biggest mover.
“It’s a good feeling. I was content with that. I was sitting in the pits and 12th on the red flag and I wanted to be top-10. I knew top-15 was OK, but I wanted to be top-10. We had an awesome restart, picked off a few cars and got there.”
Graham Rahal tried to turn his bad luck around at Indy. Instead, he just ran into more trouble. The American who hadn’t finished better than 13th this season was the first driver out of the race because of electrical problems. It’s the second time in seven Indy starts Rahal has finished last.
Roger Penske has been the most successful team owner in Indy history with 15 wins. But The Captain’s last one came in 2009, a drought spanning an almost inexplicable five years. The last time Penske went that long without winning the 500 was from 1994-2000, though his team only competed once at Indy during that span because of the open-wheel split.