A Chat With Ed & Sarah
I’ve said many times before that I am not a journalist. I am a fan. Journalists train and prepare for years to do what they do. I just randomly type out my thoughts from time to time. I started blogging reluctantly a little more than two years ago and was surprised that anyone really wanted to read what I had to say about the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. I’ve also been shocked that my busiest days on the site are when I go to races and share my experiences throughout the weekend.
When I am at the track, I enjoy talking to drivers. I had a nice long one-on-one chat with Tony Kanaan at Barber in April, but I never wrote about our conversation other than to mention we talked.
This past Sunday evening, Susan and I had a nice conversation with Pippa Mann in the Media Center. We had met her earlier in the day. She and I had a few exchanges on Twitter, when she first got her shot with Conquest. I had sent her a message earlier in the day on Sunday, asking if we could come by. I’m sure she thought it was to be an interview, but I just wanted to meet her. When we saw her again as we were leaving the Media Center Sunday night, she seemed absolutely worn out. She and I just leaned against the counter and shot the breeze. I asked her what she was going to do to celebrate making her first 500. She said she was so tired she just wanted to go home and go to bed. It was just a nice casual conversation that Susan and I enjoyed. I never saw the need to mention it here, until now – just to illustrate that I don’t really do interviews. I just chat.
When I sat down with Randy Bernard just before the race at Barber, it was my first full-fledged interview. It went well for two reasons – first, Randy was very accommodating and patient. Secondly, it flowed well because I didn’t come up with the questions. You did. When I put up a post asking for questions to pose to him, I was inundated with more questions than I could possibly ask him. All I had to do was pick what I thought were the best ones, and read them off to him.
Other than that, I don’t really do interviews. I’m not one that enjoys making drivers uncomfortable with hard-hitting questions and putting them on the spot. Nor do I see the point in asking drivers or other racing personalities some of the same softball questions they’ve answered a thousand times. That’s why I was a little uneasy when Arni Sribhen with INDYCAR asked me to interview Ed Carpenter and Sarah Fisher, when they came to Nashville for their part of Monday’s media blitz.
First, I said that I couldn’t because I had to work. I thought that would get me off the hook. No problem – Arni just said he would give them my cell phone number and they would call me on the way back. Well, I figured that they would be so tired that they would conveniently “forget” to call and it wouldn’t happen.
Before I even left work, my cell phone rang. I felt my eyes widen and my stomach tighten up when I saw the phone number had a 317 area code. I had jotted down a list with a few lame and generic questions on the odd chance that they called, but now that it was actually happening – the list suddenly seemed woefully inadequate. When I answered, I immediately recognized the voice on the other end asking if this was George. For a moment, I thought about saying he was busy and he would have to call you back – but I knew that would only postpone things. When I finally said, “Yes it is”, he said, “Hi George, this is Ed Carpenter”. [Gulp]
Fortunately, there was no voice recorder. Otherwise, there would be an existing record of the sound of me hyperventilating in my own office. Of course, the downside to that is there is no real record of their answers. I have to rely on my own frail memory, which is scary. So anything written here is simply paraphrasing.
I asked the first question on the list which was; “Ed, you’ve made the Fast Nine two years in a row now – last year with Panther and this year with Sarah Fisher Racing. Where has this sudden speed come from?”
It was during his answer that I regained my composure, mostly because I found Ed to be very engaging. He didn’t sound put out that he was having to do a phone interview while driving back to Indianapolis after a full day of dealing with the media. Instead, he did his best to sound like I was the first person he had spoken with in several days and that he had never heard such an interesting question.
He responded by telling me something I didn’t know. He said that his engineer at SFR is the same engineer he had when he was at Panther with the Fuzzy’s Vodka car. Had I been a savvy journalist, I would have interrupted and asked who that was. Instead, I quietly let him talk. He explained that this was to be his eighth 500, and he has simply found a comfort zone over the years.
I went to softball question No. 2, which was “You are starting in the middle of the third row for the second year in a row. What did you learn last year that will help you get to the front?” Predictably, he said that you can’t really make plans like that since you don’t know what’s going to happen. He described himself as an instinctual driver that just has to wait and see what happens and use split-second judgment as to which way you’ll go.
I made the mistake of bringing up Ed’s gaffe on a local radio interview four or five years ago during a promo for the Nashville IndyCar race. He made it clear that he did not want to talk about it. When I tried to laugh it off, he calmly repeated that he didn’t feel he should comment on that. The awkward feeling I felt at that moment reminded me why I don’t do interviews.
After a couple of other meaningless questions on my part that Ed patiently dealt with, I asked if Sarah was in the car. He gladly passed the phone to her so that I could now waste her time instead of his. Sarah was just as patient with me as Ed was. You could almost hear her smiling over the phone as I explained that Ed was my very first driver interview and she was to be my first car owner interview.
The first question for her was not very original – I asked if she would encourage her child to be a driver one day – a question I’m sure she’s heard a few hundred times since she announced she was expecting. But Sarah was very cordial in her response. She said if her daughter wanted to drive she would support her in that. If she wanted to be a ballerina, Sarah said she would have to learn how to dance.
My second question wasn’t even a question. It was more of a statement, but it really got Sarah to talking. I said that even though Ed and Sarah Fisher Racing hadn’t even run a race together, it really seemed as if there was already some great chemistry between Ed and the team. She agreed wholeheartedly and emphasized that their team was really more like family. She and Ed had known each other for a long time and she considered Ed’s family an extension of her own.
I felt like somewhat of a suck-up when I started complimenting the way she had built her team slowly and carefully and had done everything the right way. She seemed embarrassed at the compliment, but said “thank you”. If she knew me, she would know how seldom I throw out compliments. When someone that knows me hears me pay a compliment, they know that I mean it.
So what I had feared might be a somewhat awkward interview, turned out to be anything but. Instead, it was a nice friendly exchange between a neophyte and two professionals that were extremely patient. They took the time to answer each question as if it was the first time they had ever heard it.
I would like to thank Arni Sribhen with INDYCAR for setting this up, and a huge thanks for Sarah and Ed for taking time out of an already tiring day to give one more interview to a local blogger. Their friendly demeanor helped put me at ease and reaffirmed why I am such a fan of this sport.