A Chat With Ed & Sarah

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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.

George Phillips

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16 Responses to “A Chat With Ed & Sarah”

  1. I have always liked Sarah and I have always liked Ed. Nobody works harder than Sarah and her determination, atitude and spirit have always made it easy for me to get behind her. I knew that, as an owner, she would develop a top INDYCAR team and it is exciting seeing it happen. Ed works hard as well and has put in a lot of time to earn this shot and I couldn’t be happier for him either. I predict that the Dollar General team will put together a fantastic day and that when they win in the near future, it won’t be a surprise. For Indy, I predict a top-10 finish.

  2. JHall14 Says:

    Ed has blossomed as a driver in the last 2 years.Sarah has meticuously placed together a great team.This team has chemistry.This team has a tremendous fan following, as witnessed on Pole Day.The only thing left is if this team gets just a little bit of luck on Sunday,watch out.To say I am a little bit stoked for this race,is an understatement.This may be “the greatest story ever told” on Race Day in Indianapolis.God Speedm Ed & SFR.

  3. tcfisch Says:

    “You could almost hear her smiling over the phone….”. That’s painting a picture with words right there George. Good post!

  4. The Lapper Says:

    Count me in as a long-time fan. I liked Sarah’s grit and determination from the moment she started her qualifying run in 2000. I have also found that there aren’t any nicer people in the garage area than the folks at Sarah Fisher Racing. Ed fits right in with this bunch, too, and I am very happy about the May at Indianapolis that they are putting together. Their hard work and determination shows. Now, where can I get a Sarah Fisher Racing polo to wear?!

  5. Simona Fan Says:

    George this is why I love your blog. I love your perspective, your good-naturedness (if that’s a word) and the quality of your writing. You freaking out as Ed Carpenter called is just like I would be if he called me. Love the story.

    Granted, in 2 or 3 years if you’re still hyperventilating when drivers call for interviews, I’ll call shenanigans. But for now, hearing you go from fan to media is fantastic. Keep it up, and thanks.

  6. Thanks, George. Such a pleasure to visit your blog during coffee break, lunch break, or after work to read something entertaining &/or informative about IndyCar.
    Thanks to Mr. Sribhen, Mr. Bernard, Mr. Kanaan, Mr. Carpenter, and Ms. Fisher for engaging you.

  7. “…it was a nice friendly exchange between a neophyte and two professionals…”

    Oh, stop that stuff George. You’re either the master of false modesty or you truly don’t see that you’re in that top 10% of bloggers who could so seamlessly pull of on impromptu interview with a couple of IndyCar’s top personalities. This is why people read you. Well, that and the constant slaps at Hobbson. By the way, any idea if he’s going to be around for the rest of the week or is he in the Speedway pokey by now? Will we be able to stop by his holding cell under the Hulman Suites and feed him pieces of Track Dogs through the bars, petting zoo-style?

    • Oilpressure Says:

      Andy, I tend to have a self-deprecating sense of humor. I know I have a lot of strengths and I also know that interviewing famous people is not one of them. Thanks for the kind words, though. – GP

      • George,
        Self-deprecation or not, you’re dodging the greater question: you know where Roy is, don’t you? I can only assume he got hauled off within seconds after that picture of you, him and Pressdog was taken, I imagine because he was probably trying to steal paintings off the suite walls to put them on eBay, or to sell them out of his trunk on Georgetown Road on the night before the 500. Only problem is, his rap sheet is too long to allow him to just be dealt with by the Yellow Shirt Brigade. In that case, I fear that the FBI may now be involved, and a possible deportation may cause him to miss the race, which would be, in the words of Ryan Hunter-Reay, “not ideal”. How much of this is true, approximately? 40%? 90%? 120%?

  8. billytheskink Says:

    I don’t like to throw a “me-too” on a pile of compliments, but I’m gonna have to on this post.

    Posts like this are why I read Oilpressure first, and the other blogs off your blogroll.

  9. Thank you, George. This is why Oilpressure is the very first INDYCAR blog I read and why it’s the one I like the most. There’s no artifice, no pretention. I never feel as though I’m reading something, but rather having a conversation with you.

    I’ve been a fan of Sarah Fisher since she made it to INDYCAR and I’m even more of one now for the way she handles herself on and off-track. I admit I wasn’t a huge Ed Carpenter fan-based primarily on his background and the belief that the only reason he got his ride was nepotism-but I have gained a great deal of respect for him in the last two years. Here’s hoping that Ed and SFR do extremely well this week.

    One last comment. You mentioned at the start of your post that you are not a journalist, just a fan. That, to me, is a GREAT thing. Your points of view are not the talking points and spin of a PR department being regurgitated like some other bloggers, but are the views and opinions of a person who loves INDYCAR racing just as much as much as your readers do. If there were such a thing as a Pulitzer Prize for bloggers, I believe you would win one.

  10. Ron Ford Says:

    Color me old and old fashioned, for I am both, but I really dislike the word “blog”. So I will refer to this as your column. George you consistantly do a very fine job here which is why so many of us click on Oil Pressure first.

    What is not to like about Ed and Sarah? I wish them all the best of luck. Their story along with Tags, Simona, and others this May has put the excitement building for Sunday’s race at a fever pitch. I hope and pray that none of these fine teams will have their hard work, dedication, and skill diminished or destroyed by some accident or random incident.

    Happy landings for your future bytes George.

  11. Jim Gallo Says:

    Thanks again George for this great post and all those over the past weekend. SRF and Ed are on my wish list for the win this year.

  12. carburetor Says:

    George, I greatly appreciate your posts and insights–especially those on race weekend. I also greatly appreciated Susan’s post last weekend as your posts allow me to greatly get a sense of what it must be like to attend qualifications, practice and the race in “person.” I have followed the Indy 500 every year but one, on either the radio or television (usually both at the same time!) since I was a young boy in 1960. However, I have never attended a race there in person. After 47 years, I was able to visit the race track one day while in Indianapolis on business several years ago. It was a moving experience for me to say the least.

    When I saw Susan’s photos, I could roughly get a sense of the day’s activities and the fun you all must have had. Thank you very much for that, as most bloggers would not bother. I married not long ago, and my wife had never paid much attention to Indy car racing. However, I am steadily making her a convert–and the photos you all posted last weekend were very interesting to her as well.

    I agree with many of the preceding posts–you may not consider yourself a journalist, but I far would prefer reading your column, and greatly value your insights into my beloved sport. Thank you for your blog and keep up the great ‘work.’

  13. Great stuff, GP! I literally LOL’d several times at your sense of self-deprecating humor!

    You hit the nail on the head about Ed Carpenter. I had the joy of flying back from St. Pete with Ed and his family. Ed probably knew my name from times we had talked in the past, but if I’d have walked up to him to start a conversation without introducing myself, he wouldn’t have know me from Adam. However, I had sent a tweet prior to getting on board saying that I was apparently on the flight with them. I guess that jogged a memory in his mind because he appeared to recognize me as his family boarded and sat right behind me. I kid you not, it was like carrying on a conversation with an old high school buddy. Ed and Heather are two of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met in racing and if there is such a thing as a “workin’ man’s driver” IndyCar, there is no doubt that Ed is that guy. There isn’t a bone of pretension in that man and I really respect him for that.

    Anyway, that’s my stupid Ed Carpenter story. Great stuff again. And thanks for coming on our podcast this week. I hope that being the interviewee was easier for you than being the interviewer. :-)

  14. More me-too, here, but I like your perspective of “one of us” meeting and speaking with the sport’s personalities. I like hearing that others still get excited about meeting their heroes.

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