Indianapolis 500 qualifying stars Ed Carpenter and Graham Rahal say they are trying not to think about the career boosts they could get from a good result in IndyCar's most famous race and are just focusing on being as competitive as possible.
Both Americans are without full-time drives this year after their 2009 teams ran short of funding. Carpenter's Vision Racing squad had to pull out of the IZOD IndyCar Series altogether, but has brought him back into the fray for Indy in partnership with Panther Racing. Rahal lost his Newman/Haas drive over the winter, had a brief period with Sarah Fisher's team, and then missed out on a potential return to Newman/Haas at Indy when a possible funding deal fell through. He has ended up contesting Indy with his father Bobby's Rahal Letterman Racing team – which was itself making an IndyCar comeback after its own lack of sponsorship ended its full-time program at the end of 2008.
The duo qualified seventh and eighth, Rahal in front of Carpenter, on Saturday but currently expect to be back on the sidelines after the 500. While they acknowledged that a great Indy result might help them find the funding that could keep them in the field or impress a team with an existing budget, both said they did not see the race as a career-defining one.
"I'm here to try to win the Indy 500, first and foremost," said Carpenter. "I'm not here to try to get a ride for the rest of the year or make a statement to anybody. We have a sponsor [for Indy] this year. I want to win the race for them and me. I think that's priority number one.
"As drivers, you believe in yourself and you know what you're capable of. I learned a long time ago to not worry about what everyone else thinks about me. That is what it is. I'm here to try to win the Indy 500."
Rahal agreed that he just wanted to get the best possible Indy result and would only then think about what opportunities had been created.
"I think it's probably somewhat similar to Ed," he said. "Where we kind of sit right now is we've got to make the best of the situation that we've been put in. So, for me, I think it's not necessarily trying to prove yourself, but I think that the most important thing is for us, for this team, for myself, for our sponsor...who knows what can come of anything.
"We just need to focus on right here, right now, make the best of it, and we'll see what happens. As far as beyond Indy, who knows..."