Ed Carpenter's win at Kentucky on Sunday was monumental in more ways than one. The 0.0098sec finish line edge over Dario Franchitti confirmed him as the first full-season Firestone Indy Lights Series graduate to win an IZOD IndyCar Series race.
Carpenter's short track roots led him into the Indy Lights ranks for its first season in 2002, and in 2003, he captured the victory in the first Freedom 100 at Indianapolis. He made his IndyCar debut later in 2003 with PDM Racing.
His strongest type of circuits since entering IndyCar have always been 1.5-mile ovals, with the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway a challenge to master on its own.
“Especially on the superspeedways and high-speed ovals, there's so much race craft that goes into it,” Carpenter said. “Knowing how to position your car around other people, racing clean and respecting other guys at those speeds – Indy Lights does a great job at preparing guys for that if you're looking to transition.”
For the season-ending IZOD IndyCar World Championships, a stout number of Indy Lights graduates will be in the field. That number includes: Carpenter, JR Hildebrand, Jay Howard, Wade Cunningham, Alex Lloyd, Ana Beatriz, Pippa Mann, Sebastian Saavedra or Dillon Battistini, Charlie Kimball and James Hinchcliffe. Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal both ran partial Indy Lights seasons.