INDIANAPOLIS – Ed Carpenter waited a whole year to see his Indianapolis 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.
But on 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.”
There was one other way Carpenter could have avoided the disastrous finish. When the leaders pitted on lap 170, eventual winner Ryan Hunter-Reay beat Carpenter onto the track by about 0.5 seconds. Had Carpenter been first out, he would have been safely in front of the melee and perhaps on his way to Victory Lane.
Instead, Carpenter went from second to 27th, Hinchcliffe dropped from fourth to 28th and Bell went from third to 25th after a crash on lap 191 brought out the red flag.